Should we mock and deride people who lie about climate change? Yes, according to a recent op-ed in the Washington Post. At the very least it’s time to stop listening to people who deny reality. The rationale for denying deniers is that they are legitimate threats to our wellbeing. It’s time we get to improving our world instead of listening to people who are trying to hold us back.
In both the Cold War and the debate over climate change, ideology has won out over empirical reality, and those opposed to spending any time or money on either problem have preferred to wish it away rather than engage in good-faith arguments that entail policy trade-offs. Deniers have disqualified themselves from holding power since willful blindness puts Americans at risk, and their propensity to disregard reality makes one question both their judgment and honesty.
It seems that every month we’re confronted with another study pointing out that climate change is happening faster and worse than projected. This constant news cycle can make people tone it out and ignore the defining issue of our day. Thankfully, we also get tons of suggestions to stop climate change. Today I share with you the simplest way to stop climate change: end fossil fuel use. We have the technology and we have the knowledge. All we need to do to avert a global catastrophe is stop burning dead dinosaur juice.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, used computer models to estimate by how much global temperatures would rise if a fossil fuel infrastructure phaseout began immediately. The lifespan for power plants was set at 40 years, cars an average of 15 years and planes 26 years. The work also assumes a rapid end to beef and dairy consumption, which is responsible for significant global emissions.
In this scenario, the models suggest carbon emissions would decline to zero over the next four decades and there would be a 66% chance of the global temperature rise remaining below 1.5C. If the phaseout does not begin until 2030, the chance is 33%.
With so many reports coming out recently stating that the future of the planet will be decided in the next decade it can feel overwhelming to even try saving the planet. Thankfully there are things you can do right now to save the world from ecological collapse. You can be ambitious or make just tiny changes to your diet: the point is that it all helps and you can start today!
3. Other than that, what’s the best daily action I can take?
One 2017 study co-authored by Lund University’s Nicholas ranked 148 individual actions on climate change according to their impact. Going car-free was the number-one most effective action an individual could take (except not having kids – but more on that on that later). Cars are more polluting compared to other means of transportation like walking, biking or using public transport.
By watching an annual bicycle race researchers found evidence of climate change. The Liège–Bastogne–Liège one day race has been running for decades and filmed since at least the 1980s. Because the route covers much of the same ground every year some researchers figured that they could use it to witness how plants are reacting to our warming climate, so they watched a lot of races but watched the trees not the racers. This sort of research is really neat since it provides another way to visually analyze our planet and share that knowledge.
Co-author Lisa Van Langenhove sifted through more than 200 hours of television data of the race shot between 1981 and 2016. Though the route had changed over the years, the team selected 12 climbs and landmarks where they could pinpoint individual trees. They studied 46 trees in particular. Most of them were not native to the area and included magnolia, hawthorn and forsythia.
The researchers found that in the 1980s, there were virtually no leaves on trees. After 1990, however, many trees were already in full leaf.
The change was significant. When leaves begin to emerge on a tree branch, it’s referred to as flushing. The study found that between 2006 and 2016, 45 per cent of trees had begun to grow leaves. That’s compared to nearly zero in the 1980s.
New York City launched a lawsuit against some of the larger polluters on the planet to cover the costs the city faces due to climate change (projected to be over $20 billion USD). A decade ago this case would likely have been thrown out, today with the effects of climate change so overt this case stands a winning chance. There have also been a lot of other cases brought to courts around the world that have acted on issues surrounding climate change. The New Republic recently ran a great article outlining why courts are caring about the climate and what the law has done about it.
Some of these lawsuits have succeeded in other countries. In 2015, the Dutch government was forced to lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in response to a class action lawsuit from its citizens. A judge in Ireland recently ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to a safe climate and environment. And last month, a climate liability lawsuit against Germany’s largest power company was allowed to move forward. “Judicial decisions around the world show that many courts have the authority, and the willingness, to hold governments to account for climate change,” said Michael Burger, executive director of Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He cited a 2007 lawsuit that forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “Similar litigation all over the world will continue to push governments and corporations to address the most pressing environmental challenge of our times.”