Venkata: Humans caused climate change, but we can also mitigate it

Although the task of combating climate change seems daunting, there is still something to be done if we start immediately.

by Uma Venkata

Climate scientists’ prognosis for the future is so daunting and demoralizing that it takes uncommon strength to confront the problem head-on. Another saddening outcome is that most people, especially the ones in political and industrial power with the ability to help most, reject this problem altogether and pretend that it’s all drivel anyway. Of all responses to a terrifying problem, that is probably the most dangerous.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body, released a report on Monday, announcing the 1.5-degrees-Celsius limit, which the scientific world has already been aware of for some time now. In fact, I learned about it last semester in the University of Minnesota’s entry-level biogeography class.

Exceeding that limit by raising the global temperature by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, at any point in time, will produce catastrophic, worldwide effects. We’re currently firmly on track for a 3-degrees-Celsius rise. Even if we stay within the 1.50-degrees-Celsius limit, which many consider too little too late, it will be a vast improvement over the universal detriment caused by the 3.0 degrees Celsius increase. An estimated 250,000 people worldwide will lose their lives yearly to climate change by 2050. Depending on where we are, we will be plagued by either too much water or not enough of it.

We are not powerless. Humans caused this, and humans can do something to mitigate it. American economists William Nordhaus and Paul Romer were awarded the Nobel prize for economic sciences, also on Monday. Their work focused on climate-change economics and what governments can do to combat it. The IPCC also agrees that if we — the global we, everyone in this world — take urgent action within the next 12 years to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, untold lives will be saved.

Here is the IPCC’s report. I highly recommend that you read it, and the first two pages may be the most useful. The IPCC expressed clear worry — but also clear hope — that it’s possible to improve our current status regarding climate change. Our governments are the major players that matter, and must take the appropriate measures to protect their people.

The United States unfortunately no longer considers climate change a security threat, and has rejected even the $15/ton carbon tax that would bring the US to the terms of the Paris agreement. I just hope that we don’t need to lose lives to the hurricanes that will follow Hurricane Michael, which made landfall on the Florida yesterday, in order to take action. Climate change matters, and so do we.