We need action on climate change now

Dramatic changes to greenhouse gas emissions are necessary to avoid consequences of climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confirmed the reality that motivates climate activists around the world: If we don’t dramatically curb greenhouse gas emissions and don’t do so now, we may lose our chance to avert climate change’s worst economic, social and environmental effects.

International governments agree that a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius or more will send Earth’s climate into a catastrophic spiral.

To stay under that limit, we must keep the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration below about 500 parts per million — a limit we cannot stay beneath unless we change our emissions trajectory before 2030.

In the most recently leaked segment of its 2013-14 report, the IPCC’s experts give an economic argument for change.

It will cost much less to stop emitting greenhouse gases now than to respond to high greenhouse gas levels in decades to come.

More critically, the IPCC report concludes that it may be impossible to develop technology to capture and sequester greenhouse gases on the scale required to stabilize the climate if we pass the 500 parts per million threshold.

Last Monday, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for civil and human rights. Climate change is a human rights issue. As sea levels rise and storms grow more severe, vulnerable communities will suffer most.

Action on climate change is necessary to ensure equal opportunity to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is inevitable. By urging the University of Minnesota to divest from the fossil fuel industry, the student group Fossil Free Minnesota is working to ensure that this transition happens before it’s too late.

This column invites all members of the University community to join FFMN in our movement toward a stable climate and environmental justice.