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Global Climate Action Day: Is it too late? What can you do?

"The Blue Marble" is a famous photograph of the Earth taken on December 7, 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft en route to the Moon at a distance of about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 statute miles).
"The Blue Marble" is a famous photograph of the Earth taken on December 7, 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft en route to the Moon at a distance of about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 statute miles). (NASA)

(This article first appeared in the Morning Report Newsletter. Sign up for it here!)

It’s your favorite topic -- climate change. It’s really important, so we have to talk about it. It’s just the Earth, no big deal.


Today is a Global Climate Action Day. Many youth groups will be taking to the streets to bring awareness to the dangers of climate change for future generations. These are organized by Fridays for Future, which started calling for school walkouts and other forms of peaceful protest in the last couple of years, spearheaded by the young climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

Let’s face it: Most people don’t want to talk about climate change. I think it’s for a bunch of different reasons, including the overall hopelessness surrounding the issue and the feeling that it’s so far in the future that we’ll deal with it when we get there.

Unfortunately for us humans on Earth, that future feeling is now. A New York Times feature this week quoted leading climate scientists who believe we’re already past the point of return, that we’re “locked into the global ecosystem” on climate change.

We can see the effects in real time. A record amount of California is burning, spurred by a nearly 20-year mega-drought. Fires have destroyed homes in Oregon, a rare occurrence. Last month it hit 130 degrees in Death Valley, the hottest Earth has been in nearly a century. Siberia, famous for its icy climate, hit 100 degrees earlier this year, accompanied by wildfires. Before that Australia and the Amazon were in flames. In Michigan, we’ve seen historically high water levels. Experts believe it’ll keep getting worse.

A Pew Research poll in 2019 found Americans are less likely to be concerned about climate change, with 59% seeing it as a serious threat, yet two-thirds of U.S. adults said the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of global climate change.

In 2015, the U.S. joined the Paris Agreement, the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement that set a framework for limiting global warming and worked to strengthen the world’s ability to deal with its effects. In 2017, President Trump began efforts to withdraw from the agreement. As it stands, the U.S. will exit the agreement on Nov. 4 -- the day after Election Day.

Meanwhile, states are taking climate change action into their own hands. This week, Michigan became the ninth state to set a goal of carbon-neutrality.

In a release, the governor’s office said, “transitioning to carbon neutrality will mitigate the future harms of climate change and enable Michigan to take full advantage of the ongoing global energy transformation from the jobs it will generate for our skilled workforce, to the protections it will provide for natural resources, to the savings it will bring to communities and utility customers.”

That’s a huge point of emphasis -- clean energy jobs. Transforming the way we live can not only help the climate -- it can help keep people working. The European Union, for instance, essentially stole the framework in the “Green New Deal,” a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that never received a vote, and created their own new deal, which includes many of the same economic and environmental goals.

The U.S. as a country does not have a carbon goal, but many other countries do, including Canada, the U.K., Switzerland, Spain, China and the entire European Union.

So what can you do?

The real answer here is -- not much. On a small scale, you can do some things to cut energy usage in your home and in your life. But it’s still only a very, very, small fraction of the world’s carbon footprint.

It really is up to governments and businesses to change the way we do things, from an industry standpoint to transportation, energy and agriculture. About 81 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil. Another 10 percent is methane, which is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.

If you’re looking for some things to do in your life to make a difference, here’s a great list from the NRDC. The biggest one here is Speak Up!

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(This article first appeared in the Morning Report Newsletter. Sign up for it here!)


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