Why Shouldn't I give In To Climate Crisis Doom?
Updated: Aug 29, 2021
Today the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its sixth report of the current state of climate change, and what that means for the existence of humanity and other species. The report cites that due exclusively to human dependence on fossil fuels, and our expenditure of methane and carbon dioxide byproducts, among other behaviors, we have now passed a threshold at which the existence of many ecosystems will be unquestionably challenged.
This means that inaction on climate protection initiatives by corporations and governments, including inadequate, insufficient, or untimely plans currently in motion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, plastic waste, and other fossil fuel pollution, has not been enough. Climate scientists and world governments realize that the projected collapse of the global ecosystem is happening right now. The changes we have seen in recent years, including unmanageable and extended wildfire, flooding, hurricane seasons, global pandemics, lethal heat waves, and droughts, are now part of our new normal.
There are two important things to note here. The first is that these outcomes of climate deterioration are happening worldwide, and right now. The other is that the current effects we see of our behavior on climate change are a reaction to the fossil fuels expended decades ago. What this means is that even if humans ceased to exist today, the worst is yet to come, environmentally speaking.
But like all of the problems that our excessively wasteful, entitled, and patriarchal systems have created, we can address this.
We can't address it without you. Your active participation in saving what may be left of the ecosystem balance for other, more resilient species, and potentially future generations of humans depends on your actions today.
What the Latest Science Tells Us
The IPCC is an international body working to understand and publish research and data about climate change patterns and climate impacts to better predict our outcomes, implications, and mitigation options. It is a non-government entity that does not do its own research. Rather, hundreds of scientists worldwide volunteer their time and efforts to understand and present this data to the global population. They use the most current climate models and technology to evaluate physical science data, adaptability options, vulnerabilities, and potential mitigation efforts through policy change. They intend to provide information to governing bodies, organizations, and citizens about the destructive risks of our current behavior, in hopes that we can reverse it and preserve the global ecosystem.
The IPCC has committed to releasing eight reports between 2015 and 2023 addressing our activities, the state of global, regional, and local ecosystems, and whether there are policy changes we can make to effectively address the damage we continue to do. The IPCC does not suggest policy to any governing body. They only provide the information needed for each body to take its own actions against climate change.
You can check out a 3-minute summary video from the IPCC here.
You can read the contents of today’s report here.
Climate change is happening more violently and decades faster than scientists predicted only a few years ago. Because all systems are connected within the ecosystem, we see chain-reactions of climate emergencies causing an expedited global breakdown of ecosystems at a rate we previously thought impossible.
In short, climate science predicts that climate change and its effects are an existential threat to humanity. More importantly, they are an existential threat to most of life on Earth, an outcome that was once wholly avoidable but is becoming increasingly less so.
What Does Humanity's Future Look Like?
Even if humanity discontinues its centuries-old dependence on consumerism, capitalism, and therefore fossil fuels today, we are quickly approaching the 1.5 degree Celsius mark in increased global temperature.
This means that our future will now, irreversibly, look significantly different than it does today. It is my humble opinion that the alarming rate at which we will be forced to confront climate disasters will quickly deplete global resources. I estimate that the beginnings of societal breakdown are becoming increasingly likely within the next 50 years, and almost undeniable in the next century if we continue on our current trajectory of slow and reluctant change.
It is my belief that we, as a species, are overestimating our own resiliency as we underestimate the power of global climate conditions on human vitality. We too often consider ourselves as something separate from nature, but we will witness the collapse of the globe's most "superior" species as quickly as we witness the collapse of the system within which we exist. I strongly believe that we are headed rapidly toward a climate apocalypse, and are so comfortable in our ignorance and denial of it, that a horrific fate awaits us.
Doomsday predictions aside, the world is going to be a much hotter place for your children, and you'll become acutely aware of that over the next decade. Power systems will continue to fail, droughts will become more common, heat will continue to claim human lives, and fires will continue to ravage the landscapes we once felt personally entitled to. You can see the effects of climate change happening almost everywhere, every day.
Climate change is here. Remember, we're only seeing the effects now of decades-old greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution. There will continue to be chained climate breakdown events for the next several decades at a minimum. Scientists predict the continued melting of polar ice caps for hundreds or thousands of years, if they do not disappear completely much sooner.
That being said, your kids still live here. And so do you.
What the impacts of climate change look like in the future depends on what you're going to do right now.
Why Existential Dread is the Wrong Approach
While I am almost completely convinced that the downfall and extinction of humankind are imminent, I fight every day to reduce my carbon footprint, change the culture of commodification and consumerism, educate myself, and change the language we so passively use in avoiding climate action. The effects of climate change are now irreversible. But we still have to decide how bad we're willing to let them become.
Assuming we forced global change today, and billions worldwide opted out of the excess and expenditure and reliance on capitalism and fossil fuels alike, we'd still have half a century to grapple with the emissions we've created up until now.
That being said, you get to decide the state and fate of the world for your golden years, which you should obviously not expect to look like your grandparents' do now. You get to decide how much work you leave for your children to do toward combating climate change. Today, with your behavior, you are deciding whether you'll leave the next generation a habitable planet, and if so, at what cost.
We can almost certainly never have again in our lifetimes the climate we inherited as children.
Without the consistent and dedicated efforts of every person on this Earth, you can eliminate "almost" and guarantee that your children will bear the burden of witnessing both societal and ecosystem collapse. If you believe we can't fix it, then we most certainly cannot.
What Would It Take To Reverse Climate Change?
If you're concerned about climate change and wonder what it would take to reverse the dangerous path we're on, you're probably also wondering how much of it can be affected by individual action. The truth is, individuals have a very small impact on the many millions of tons of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere as a species. Small, but not insignificant.
Fossil fuel and other massive production and industrialized agricultural companies are the primary parties with which the onus of climate assault should be charged. Fossil fuel companies, like the IPCC, routinely monitor and invest in data that help inform their growth, as would any savvy company in the business of climate exploitation. The difference is that they use this information to pivot and adapt their products and services, and to misinform the general public (their consumers) about the severity of fossil fuel damage on the environment.
Fossil fuel companies, like local and state governments in the Americas, have begun to prepare for the imminent effects of climate change, including sea-level warming and rises that will likely bury a significant portion of the east coast and burn through hundreds of thousands of acres of dehydrated and thirsty west coastland. Organizations with the authority and power to lead the change in climate are ignoring and manipulating science to unironically fuel their self-interests and excessive greed for amassed wealth and power. Things are looking pretty bleak, and humanity's unsavory and deplorable character and insatiable appetite for consumption are entirely to blame. What’s worse, many climate-deniers have pivoted to climate change acceptance, paired with inactivism. This intentional ignorance and refusal to act will kill us.
The good news is that climate movements and climate preservation organizations continue to pop up worldwide. People have become impatient with the inactions of government and industry and have taken action toward problem-solving as individuals. These groups can be especially effective when working in cooperation with other NGOs and non-profits and continue to demand change at the top of their lungs.
Educating climate deniers is of the utmost importance. Like those that seem somehow blind to, and apart from, the struggles of racism and sexism worldwide, these people still exist. (I personally ended a romantic relationship in 2020 based solely on the fact that my partner was a tried-and-true climate denier and had been hiding that from me for months.)
There are tons of resources now to help educate yourself and others. Climate activism is becoming widespread as Generation Z and others demand we unpack and address the complexities of climate change and rebuild a system of sustainability. Here are some online resources for those few remaining climate deniers you may eventually come in contact with:
How Much Power Does the Individual Have in Fighting Climate Change?
Action on climate change should not be limited or defined by the statistical impact you'd have in changing your everyday behaviors. There's no medal for having the smallest carbon footprint or being the best recycler on your block (trust me, I'd be overly competitive if there were). Those facts aside (again, correct me if these competitions exist, I'm begging you, reader) a recent climate change podcast that I listened to likened the mathematical representation of the individual's climate impact to .0000000001 percent of the overall carbon load.
Dr. Katharine Wilkinson gave this statistic on her podcast How To Save A Planet. During the episode, “Is Your Carbon Footprint BS?” She and her co-host weigh the impacts of individual versus industry behaviors on climate change. I highly recommend checking it out.
Nonetheless, these types of astronomical odds and grassroots movements make major changes in human activity over time. It's also these longshot odds that get climate activists elected in highly competitive districts, even when they've never held public office before. Climate anxiety can be productive because it drives us to think and act like we plan to affect change. Like ecosystems within the global ecosystem, changes within one can have unexpected and exponential outcomes in another.
What Can I Do Today To Start Fighting For The Continued Existence of The Ecosystem?
So then the question remains, where to begin in fighting and mitigating the current and future impacts of climate change, respectively? The answer to that depends on you. More specifically, the answers depend on your strengths, aptitudes, interests, ambitions, financial and social platforms, among other factors. The truly uplifting news in all of this is that you get to decide what climate action and climate activism look like for you and your life, and the list of options is extensive.
Here are a few things you can do today, this week, this month, and indefinitely to help protect our global ecosystem and the health of your community:
Drive less. Take the bus. Walk. Rideshare. Reduce personal vehicle use as much as you can.
Waste less food!
Encourage biodiversity by keeping some parts of your yard "wild."
Use only chemical-free cleaning products.
Make your next vehicle purchase an electric vehicle.
Use renewable energy sources for your heating and electricity needs.
Invest in solar energy.
Use organic and chemical-free lawn care.
COEXIST WITH OTHER SPECIES. STOP CENTERING YOURSELF (HUMANS) IN THE NARRATIVE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE.
Invest in companies whose goal is to combat climate change
Vet the brands you interact with; consider their brand values and behaviors.
Educate yourself and vet your sources.
Change the language around climate change by examining your own articulation of it and the way we center ourselves, instead of the global ecosystem, in the conversation.
Write, sing, paint, dance, perform, recite and demonstrate in the name of climate justice.
Investigate the supply chain.
Join or create a climate movement with specific long and short-term goals.
Learn about local recycling policy, and adhere to it.
Upcycle and reuse every material good you can. This requires creativity.
Eat less meat and fewer animal products.
Stop supporting businesses that refuse to act, or act in insignificant ways that protect their bottom line.
Invest in your own physical and mental health.
Spend more time in nature, educate your children this way.
Volunteer for one of the many organizations that fight climate injustice.
Voice your concerns about climate change in the workplace and across other organizations in which you participate, including your social circles.
Vote with your dollar. Support those that support climate.
Start a conversation about climate change whenever you are able and comfortable. Together, we can problem-solve.
Dr. WIlkinson notes that what you choose to do should depend on your abilities, talents, interests, and the needs of the climate movement. She calls this the Climate Action Venn Diagram. Choose activism in the form of something you love. If you're an artist or a creator, use your voice to promote the preservation of our precious planet to the top of your priorities in messaging. If you're a teacher, volunteer as a climate educator or suggest climate activism being part of your curriculum. If you're a treasure hunter, try upcycling the massive amount of discarded products waiting for you in your local CVS dumpster. If you're an influencer, endorse only sustainable brands. Stand for what you believe in, and don't back down.
As some of my readers know, I also work as a Master Fitness Trainer for the Army and as a Certified Personal Trainer and yoga instructor for civilians. I can personally attest that over the last decade or so of training clients, the vast majority of the time, our mentalities are the only thing holding us back from reaching our goals. You always have the power to be the change you want to see. Remember that this ecosystem is part of you, and you are part of it. Give it the love that you deserve. Give yourself love too, and belief in yourself. It's important.
No matter what you choose to do, I will be committed to doing everything I can to create a habitable future for whatever remains on Earth in the next century. So will millions of activists around the globe. Remember that there is no way to opt-out of the climate crisis, as you, your family, your community, and your country are intimately involved with it. Choosing not to act is choosing a violent and unstable future for the remaining years of humanity's existence.
Don't give up, fellow humans. I care deeply about this species and many other do too. No matter what happens, I'll spend every day for the rest of my life becoming a more climate-conscious member of this ecosystem and species. I hope you will too, but neither my persistence nor my conviction will depend on it.