The World is on Fire

By: Ryan Bourgart

Glaciers are vanishing, coastal paradises are fading into the swelling ocean surge and wildfires are ravaging the west. Maybe this is our wake up call, the fire that needs to blaze to melt the indecision and fear that freezes us from the progress that needs to happen, that needs to originate from the warmth of compassionate action.

The IPCC released a new report with implications that are like a blaring trumpet on the battlefield, raising an alarm of impending danger. The report, with over 100 contributors from many countries around the world, says that there is a strong chance we have until 2030 to start reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to limit global temperature change to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900).

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Figure 1. Climate policy trajectories

The 1.5 temperature mark surpasses the original goal of 2 degrees Celsius in the Paris Climate Agreement, from which president Trump withdrew. Yet, it seems that climate change still isn’t taken as seriously as it should since the Agreement lacks guidance to reach the target and penalties associated with the failure to reach the goal. In order to move climate policies below their current warming trajectory, passed the Paris Climate pledges, to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius°C (see Figure 1), more concrete guidance is needed. Otherwise, the climatic effects of missing the 1.5°C are likely to be severe with higher regional surface temperatures means and extremes, higher risks of heavy precipitation events, higher risks of drought and water scarcity and overall higher risks to human and natural systems.

Climate effects associated with an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius are more manageable than 2 degrees Celsius. Limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius will likely decrease the impact of extreme hot temperatures, heavy precipitation events, drought and water scarcity, sea level rise and sea ice melt. These impacts reach across the globe, and mitigation will require global cooperation. Yet, according to the report, few regional infrastructures around the world can implement the actions needed to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius objective. Greater transitions need to take place at a larger scale and faster pace in energy efficiency, carbon emissions and land use change. So what more specific changes need to take place?

The report outlines actions that can be taken to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal. Several of these options include investment in low-emission infrastructure, changing agricultural practices (e.g. irrigation efficiency and mixed crop-livestock production) and shifting dietary choices towards food with less emissions and impact on the land. In order to achieve this herculean effort, more than a change in infrastructure is needed. What might need to happen first to motivate a more ecocentric way of living is an inner transformation about how we conceive humanity’s place in nature. That is a conversation we must have as a global society, but more individuals need to reflect on that subject on a more personal level.

The world needs to be on fire, at least the world inside us. The passion that feeds lively action and the compassion towards all living beings need to intensely immolate the frigid isolation of apathy in self-centered ways of leadership and living. The changes that may result from the warming climate are from our neglect. We have not taken responsibility for the power we have to make global changes. We are given such a unique opportunity to seize our amazing power of creativity and compassion to solve difficult problems. Will we seize it or face the possible consequences of our own creation and fade into the annals of nature’s history? That is a decision we must make through action as a global civilization.

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