Climate change isn’t about saving the planet: it’s about saving people

The world is literally on fire: Wildfires are ripping through Texas homes, the biggest fire in California this year has forced thousands to evacuate, and Connecticut, Alaska’s wildfires are raging.

This is climate change in America – and that’s just one week of its impact.

Through the haze of global inaction against climate change, we often hear that we must “save the planet” – a call that has gone unheeded. Ultimately, the planet will survive climate change — and it will persist as it has during many geological upheavals. The real danger is whether we are changing the Earth so much that we are making it inhospitable to human life – and whether we are eroding the foundations on which we built our civilizations and our economies.

Indifference is a gamble on our lives: we humans are in danger. The apocalypse of heat and wildfires in the United States has shown us that we are not equipped to face climate change, nor are we in a position to do anything about it. Climate change is a threat to human existence.

Scientists have raised red flags in every way they know how to do – pulling data points, studying atypical weather phenomena, writing reports, cooperating with international governments and the United Nations. However, conversations about climate change revolve around government policy, future innovations, fossil fuels versus renewables, etc. Most people don’t know what they actually mean, let alone if they work.

We have forgotten that it is about us – we are in danger.

The global repercussions of climate change on human lives are clear, and they will continue to multiply. Food resources are at risk. Crops are destroyed by drought – more than half of Europe suffers from drought – and fires, exacerbating global food shortages and raising food prices dramatically. Corn and wheat production is down 80 percent due to the severe weather. Livestock spend thousands of sweltering heat. Under stress, animals produce fewer goods – Italian cows, for example, secrete 10 percent less milk, despite drinking twice as much water to adapt to the heat. Strange and dangerous weather patterns are becoming the norm with higher frequency and in places where they have never occurred before.

As unilateral climate change occurs across the globe – rich and poor countries, cities and rural areas – it will be people in low-income communities and urban areas who feel the worst effects of climate change. These communities tend to be in low-lying coastal areas, which puts them at risk from sea level rise and storm surges, and are located in areas that have little to no clean air and green spaces to absorb carbon and provide shade to regulate temperatures. Climate change is considered a global crisis, but its effects are unfair in their distribution. Those in emerging countries, small island developing states (SIDS) and low-income urban communities continue to bear the brunt of the effects. But this week, we’ve seen how the effects spread to a broader segment of society and more developed nations.

Although Western Europe is touted as a climate leader, taking more stringent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any other region in the world, the intensity and frequency of heat waves are increasing faster in Europe than anywhere else in the world – even faster than anywhere else in the world. United State. The countries, which are expected to set record high temperatures in triple digits, are everywhere from the west, south and east.

At the current rate, two-thirds of the planet is under effective death penalty due to climate change. We face an annual bill of $1 trillion in climate change-related damages over the next 25 to 30 years — such as melting airport runways, increasing erosion, collapsing power grids, and relocating society. This is the law we face now if we do nothing: it doesn’t have to be the future.

Currently, climate patterns are changing faster than our infrastructure can handle. The foundations on which we depend are crumbling and the necessary infrastructure updates will take time. However, there are immediate actions cities can take that are cheaper, faster, and have a significant impact. The NYC Cool Neighborhoods Program in New York City and the Urban Greening Program in Berlin provide a roadmap for initiatives that cities around the world can take to start implementing nature-based solutions.

With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas, change must start with the greening of cities. Nature-based solutions provide large-scale solutions to combating climate change that governments and developers must integrate using the tools that nature itself offers: Nature has the ability to sequester 30 percent of the carbon we produce. Data show that restoring and protecting wetlands, marine forests and coral reefs improve urban heat islands, mitigate coastal flooding as well as protect lives and property from sea-level rise. The city’s green spaces and tree-lined roads absorb carbon emissions. Converting concrete barriers into vital scales—like a recent project in Queens, New York—and protecting wetlands helps cities manage runoff and storm water drainage, while simultaneously providing a welcome respite for residents during heat waves.

Innovative technologies and renewable energy must be part of the solution, but realistically it will take time, as well as political will to develop and implement. Our challenge is to move forward faster than climate change.

To combat climate change, we must adopt a global perspective – every nation and every community must go along with its efforts. Climate change isn’t an abstract scientific concept, and it’s not just about the planet – it’s all about us. It is about the quality of life and survival of each of us, the humanity we show other citizens of the world and the kind of future we offer our children. More talk and pledges will not save us. This is a neutral moment: we have to lose our partisanship and prejudice, and we really should try everything.

Deborah Brosnan, PhD, an environmental scientist and marine resilience specialist, advances science in decision-making that includes ecology, endangered species, energy development, sea-level rise, climate change, and environmental risks. Follow her on Twitter: Tweet embed

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