“Every degree matters, and the warmer it gets, the worse it gets.” Umair Irfan, a staff writer from Vox who covers climate change, says that might seem like an obvious statement. However, that simple sentence carries enormous weight for the future of millions of people and ecosystems.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on Monday that detailed the drastic impact that climate change will have on humans and the environment if global temperatures continue to rise.
The report stated that the planet is likely to warm to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030. If the temperatures reach 2 degrees Celsius, the effects of the warming will get severely worse.
Although just half a degree may not seem like much, the IPCC cites significant findings that may compel you to think otherwise. Comparing the differences between 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C, the report states lessened impacts such as:
Global sea levels would rise 10 cm lower by 2100.
The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century, instead of at least once per decade.
Coral reefs would decline by 70% to 90% instead of being almost completely wiped out.
Avoiding the most drastic effects of climate change will require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” says the panel. With behavior change at the heart the message of the IPCC report, you may be asking: what can you do?
As stated by Dan Kammen, professor of energy at UC Berkeley, the most critical actions that someone can take includes reducing your own carbon footprint and voting for officials that will take a stand on these pressing issues.
Reduce your carbon footprint
The agricultural industry is a huge contributor to pollution worldwide, and our dairy and meat consumption significantly increases our own carbon and methane footprints. Commenting on ways to practice a low-carbon diet, Dan Kammen states that “for some people, it involves going vegetarian or vegan. But for many others, it involves growing more sustainably harvested, free-range [food].”
Set a goal of lowering your own carbon and methane footprint, and make choices that reflect that commitment.
Vote- especially now
Make your voice heard. Pressure your policymakers. Ensure that climate change is a high-priority issue to your representatives. Environmental leadership by our government officials is necessary to meet the level of changes required for the protection of our planet and people, and it crucial that we act now.
“Every degree matters,” and every vote matters, too.