Climate Change: Why should you care?

It’s the end of the world as we know it. But why should I care? Why should you?

I’ve been participating in a MOOC offered on Coursera and presented by The World Bank. The topic: Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided.

Despite all of the scientific evidence presented by the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), among countless other organizations, the true answer to that question is actually a personal one.

But I should start by making sure you understand what it means to have a “warmer world” because news stories about massive ice storms in the Eastern U.S. might have you confused.

“Climate Change”, which used to often be referred to as “Global Warming”, is the change in our Earth’s climate now specifically due to anthropological influences since the beginning of the industrial age (starting approximately 1800). The global mean temperature is rising due to the “greenhouse effect” of increased CO2 and other gases in our atmosphere. In other words,  – whether it’s a record Winter high of 28°C (83°F) in the San Francisco Bay Area or a record low of -51°C (-60°F ) in Chicago – the average of all of the highs and lows throughout the year is increasing. Ice caps and glaciers are melting. The sea level is rising (due to added water but also heat expansion) while sea water is becoming more acidic.

Orphaned ship in former Aral Sea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea), near Aral, Kazakhstan http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aralship2.jpg Staecker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Staecker) released into the Public Domain

Orphaned ship in former Aral Sea, near Aral, Kazakhstan by Staecker released into the Public Domain

Aral Sea (1989 and 2008) "Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometers (26,300 sq mi)... shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aral_Sea_1989-2008.jpg NASA, derivative work by Zafiroblue05 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Zafiroblue05) in the Public Domain

Aral Sea (1989 and 2008)
“Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometers (26,300 sq mi)… shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects.”
NASA, derivative work by Zafiroblue05 in the Public Domain

I can quote to you about the potential for rise in sea level and the social and economic damage that it will bring with it. How about losses due to pressures of population increase on global food needs exacerbated by climate change, like what has happened to the Aral Sea due to irrigation? I can go on for a long time on the losses in biodiversity occurring even now – with our present global temperature increase of only 0.8°C (0.36°F) above preindustrial temperatures – and how that will only increase seemingly exponentially as we come closer to an increase of 2°C (3.6°F) world-wide, a 4°C (7.2°F) increase, or even warmer.

Or are you the type who likes to read a list of endangered or extinct animals? Do you already believe we’re in the midst of the sixth great extinction in the history of life on Earth? If you don’t already know, the fifth great extinction killed the dinosaurs and the third nearly ended all life on Earth, but both were smaller than what we’re experiencing now. Or follow the news about extreme weather events occurring somewhere far far away from you?

But what does that really mean to you? What does it mean right now in your daily life?

Well, only you can truly answer that question. What is important to you? Do you care only about what is happening right now… in this instant… to you and no one else?

Or do you allow yourself to break from tunnel vision to see a larger picture and to see deeper in time?

If you’re still reading to this point, then I’m going to assume you’re the latter and I’ll proceed with giving you some places to find information. Some ways to understand what is happening, what will happen, and what could potentially happen.

In other words, arm yourself with knowledge and then you can determine what really is important to you… to your family… to your friends… to your larger community… and beyond.

"Escape"  (http://www.flickr.com/photos/37176760@N06/4579611880) Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee (http://jronaldlee.com/) Used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

“Escape” Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee. Used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

In the end – despite the recent news about snow and ice across much of the U.S. or floods in the U.K. or drought in California – climate change is something which is happening over time and is not an immediate event. It’s not like a volcano eruption or an earthquake. It takes time.

That gives you… us… everyone… the opportunity to be the frog in the boiling water  – heated slowly until we cook – or we can take action now and leave something better for our children, grandchildren, and beyond.

You don’t have to move to the woods and live in a grass-covered hut to fight climate change.

Building in Ljungris, Ljungdalen, Berg Municipality, Jämtland County. Ljungris is owned by the Sámi community and used especially for Reindeer calf marking in the summer. By Arild Vågen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Building in Ljungris, Ljungdalen, Berg Municipality, Jämtland County. Ljungris is owned by the Sámi community and used especially for Reindeer calf marking in the summer.
By Arild Vågen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do you want to be remembered as going with the status quo or for taking action at least within your own life?

The choice is yours.

READ THE REPORT: Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided (Full report in PDF)

Additional Online Resources for Knowledge and Change:

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