However, it is vital to remember that climate change is both a local and global issue that will affect different regions and people disproportionately. The poor and vulnerable will be (and already are) the most devastatingly affected by climate change, even though, historically, developing countries have not been big emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.
By addressing climate change and remembering how it fits into the big picture, we can help ensure that people around the world, and our children and grandchildren, are able to enjoy the activities and the life that we have enjoyed up until now.
THE 7 BILLION OTHER PEOPLE ON THE PLANET: There are numerous ways that climate change will negatively affect the daily lives of people in the developed world. But climate change will have an even larger impact on the world's vulnerable, poverty stricken populations. The World Bank recently released a report stating that climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. Another study published in March of this year demonstrates how the Syrian civil war was partially triggered by a severe drought, worsened by climate change. In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded) devastated the island nation of the Philippines, displacing 4.4 million people and leaving more than 6,000 dead. Hurricane Patricia, a tropical hurricane comparable in strength to Haiyan before landfall and the most powerful ever measured in the Western Hemisphere, made landfall in late October 2015 on Mexico's Pacific coast. Fortunately thousands of people evacuated from the region, and the hurricane, which had dramatically weakened once it reached Mexico's rugged terrain, hit a sparsely-populated area, but many were expecting colossal damage. Climate change will also be disastrous to inhabitants of low-lying islands and those that do not have enough capital to adapt. A tremendous loss of biodiversity will also take place with changing climates, giving us yet one more reason to care about climate change.
YOUR CHILDREN, YOUR LEGACY: This is an issue you don't want to be on the wrong side of history about. True, the exact outcome of climate change is unknown. But what isn't unknown is that the earth is warming, the sea is rising, and we are experiencing higher rates of natural disaster than ever recorded in human existence. Even if we experience the lower spectrum of catastrophe climate change will bring, wouldn't the conservative thing to do be to prepare for it? Do we really want to be remembered as the generation heading for the cliff that purposefully pressed the gas? We live in a time where our collective action today will have irreversible effects on several generations to come... now that is food for thought.
INDIVIDUAL ACTIONS MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Although you may think "But really, how big of an impact are my individual actions really having on climate change?" we wish to point out that:
- Individual actions do not go in vain. Try to walk or bike more often and don't leave electronic devices plugged into outlets when they don't need to be. Take more public transportation or find ways to commute more with other drivers. When buying appliances and electronics, look for energy-efficient products. Check out our articles Sustainability for Suburban Sprawl and 15 Ways to be More Sustainable for more ways to reduce our individual carbon footprint.
- Use your voting power. Become familiar with policymakers and presidential candidates to understand what they represent. Unfortunately in the U.S., we still have many politicians that deny climate change or have not made any effort to address it. NPR and Mother Jones both have great graphics demonstrating presidential candidates' views and plans on climate change. Organizations like Citizens Climate Lobby offer ways for citizens to get involved and act. On the Citizens Climate Lobby's website, you can access an outline for a letter to send to your state legislators urging them to act in favor of climate policy. You can also have your business, religious group or organization sign this letter to show support for national legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
- Awareness. If your town already has a community climate change action group, get involved. If not, spread the word and get community discussions going in your area, in discussions with family, and with friends. Make sure that they are receiving correct information regarding climate change and if not, help them out by referring them to sites such as EPA's Global Climate Change Guide so they can learn more.
- Use your buying power. Companies are becoming more socially responsible, but can only continue to reduce their social and environmental impacts if consumers ask for it. By supporting companies and products that are more sustainable, we are assisting in the transition to a new era of capitalism: where companies are rewarded for caring about the environment. Learn about how and where the products you buy are made, and choose products that are organic, fair trade certified, and use minimal or recyclable packaging. Good Guide helps provide information on specific products, but also think twice before you purchase something you may not really need.
We are transitioning to a low-carbon economy, but your support is needed to make sure it is not too late! Thank you for reading our three part series: Why You Should Care About Climate Change.