Global Warming and the Green Future

Trigger warning: There’s lots of use of the “P” word

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels.

Politics is a scary topic. Just reading the word may trigger anger, fear, exasperation or even disgust. Whether it’s social media, the news, or our family and friends, we’re bombarded by the war of Democrats vs. Republicans daily. It’s hard to keep up, and it’s exhausting to try. And who has the time? That’s why I want to approach “The ‘P’ Word” differently.

This series will break down the issues we face in politics. No political parties, no bullshit, just the issues explained as simple as possible.

In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, otherwise known as the IPCC, was founded after a series of major natural disasters brought the greenhouse effect to public attention. This branch of the United Nations, comprised of the top scientific minds from around the world, was tasked with studying the causes and effects of climate change in an objective, scientific way. After their studies, they would take these reports and relay to politicians and the public how our changing climate would affect our environment, our politics and most importantly, our way of life.

What’s the significance of 1.5 degrees Celsius?

On October 8, 2018, the IPCC published Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees Celsius, the SR15, which detailed 6,000 scientific references on the causes and effects of global warming labeled by high, medium or low confidence in the findings.

We use the term pre-industrial as a marker for how global temperature is recorded. Since we only have records from around the year 1850, this became the baseline for what the average temperatures around the planet were like. Since then, we’ve seen an exponential increase in average temperature, directly related to our greenhouse gas emissions through industrialization. As fossil fuel use and agricultural shifts towards meat and dairy have increased, so has the temperature.

The report states that on our current greenhouse emission trajectory, we will exceed a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the year 2050, which will be detrimental to human civilization.

Why should you care?

Since the 1980s, we’ve seen an increase in natural disasters, food and water shortages and an influx of refugees. But this increase is exponential, not linear, coinciding with the exponential boom in our industries, fossil fuel consumption and economic growth, which means these disasters will be even more severe as we approach 2030 and beyond. And that’s just if the Earth exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius. We are currently on a path to go well beyond 2 degrees Celsius, which would have devastating results. In the worst areas, such as areas near the equator where sunlight and heat are at its highest, there would be uninhabitable zones, displacing entire countries of people.

But if you decide you don’t care about other people, think about your own future. Economically, this creates a huge strain. Food, utilities, housing and transportation will cost a lot more, which means the gap between rich and poor would grow wider, and the current middle class would see economic downturn. So, unless you somehow end up a multi-millionaire in the next 10 years, prepare for financial hardships.

Or, if money isn’t something you’re worried about, the rise in temperature would also increase the amount of diseases and illness being spread. The SR15 report specifically mentions malaria becoming more common while seasonal illnesses also increase due to more accommodating environments. Then, with the lack of food and nutritional deficits, you can expect many preventable diseases and illnesses to be headed your way.

Is this future preventable?

Somewhat. SR15 states that we must be at zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in order to avoid complete global disaster. But we won’t get there on our current path. This is an uncomfortable truth for many people and politicians, which is why all efforts to address climate change have been put off or avoided entirely. We’ve become accustomed to our way of life because it’s comfortable, and we have luxuries that we’ve become dependent on, but science won’t yield to comfort.

The IPCC report shows that if we’re going to survive, we will have to make sweeping changes to our lives, uprooting everything our modern society has become. This means a complete change to renewable energy like solar and electric–no more fossil fuels. Agriculture will have to completely shift away from the meat and dairy industry into sustainable crop farming. Forests will also need to be rebuilt, as we must put the excessive amounts of carbon in the atmosphere back into the soil.

It’s going to be uncomfortable, and it’s not going to be pretty. With all the industries that will be dismantled as a result of these massive changes, new industries will be created, and that means people need to be trained, and that means our economy must see drastic reform so that people aren’t left jobless.

Needless to say, this is a highly expensive endeavor, but if the SR15 report is anything to go by, the cost of not acting will far outweigh the cost of changing.

Where do we go from here?

The short answer? Vote.

We are at the brink of a very real climate emergency. Political members from all sides address climate change as partisan issue, meaning an issue that political parties are for or against depending on how useful it is to their ideals. But global warming is not a partisan issue; science doesn’t care about politics. We don’t have time to think about how to progress⁠—that ship sailed years ago when politicians continuously made global warming a minor bullet point. We need swift and immediate action, and the 2021 election will make or break our future. It takes time and care to enact political policies that will change the entire infrastructure of our government, but to even start, we need a government and president willing to acknowledge these problems before it’s too late.

The only way to create meaningful change is to make your voice heard and vote for the candidate⁠—regardless of their party⁠, who is willing to act.

Further Reading

If you would like to know more about global warming and the presidential candidates ready to make a change, here are some resources to check out:

IPCC Special Report 15

Causes of Global Warming, Explained

Climate Change First became News 30 Years Ago. Why Haven’t We Fixed It?

Climate Change and the 2020 Presidential Candidates: Where Do They Stand?

Overview of Greenhouse Gases

Text of the Green New Deal