Climate action for a 1.5 Degree world: everything you need to know, and what needs to happen

unprecedented worldwide climate action and positive systemic change

CS Sherin, February 15, 2019, updated 3-26-2019

The Biggest Causes Of Climate Change

In 2010 the UNEP published “Assessing The Environmental Impacts of Consumption & Production”. The report identified that the two biggest problems we face — the two biggest causes of environmental disaster on Earth are due to: the extraction methods and use of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, crude oil, natural gas) and agriculture paired with excess consumption/demand for meat, dairy, and other animal byproducts.

The report states that negative impacts rise with the level of wealth. There is an urgent need to adapt quickly, changing our systems to renewable, sustainable pathways for people of every financial level of means. Those with greater wealth must contribute to the needed changes especially — rejecting corruption, abuse of power, elitism, waste, and consumerism — in favor of pathways to a healthier, equitable, kinder, sustainable future for species, ecosystems, biodiversity, and humanity.

NASA/SuomiNPP, 2012, a composite called "Blue Marble", PD
NASA/SuomiNPP, 2012, a composite called “Blue Marble”, PD

Fossil Fuels

Methods for extracting fossil fuels (strip mining, mountaintop removal, mining, drilling, pipelines, and hydraulic fracturing) are linked to devastating degradation of ecosystems, species, water/air/soil, and human health. Burning of fossil fuels (heating, electricity, transportation, manufacturing, and production) is a major contributor to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Fossil fuel extraction and use is causing climate change.

Petrochemicals (e.g. propylene, vinyl, ethanol, and petroleum), used in countless products (e.g. plastics of all kinds, synthetic clothing/fabrics, medicine, cosmetics, furniture, crayons, candles) is another major branch of fossil fuel use that also has devastating effects on health and environment (e.g. micro-plastic and microfiber pollution, single-use production and waste, and some PBTs and POPs — and their relationship with plastic pollution).

Agriculture, Meat And Dairy

Corporate agriculture and excess consumption of meat, dairy and animal byproducts are a main source and cause of habitat loss, over-fishing/fish endangerment, excessive water use, pollution of air, water, and soil; pollinator and insect endangerment, and climate change. The 2010 UNEP report states:

“Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

2010 UNEP “Assessing The Environmental Impacts Of Consumption & Production”

“Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand, cement, plastics, or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as fossil fuels.”

Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the UNEP 2010 report, “Assessing The Environmental Impacts…”

The 2010 UNEP report explains that we need a global shift to a predominantly plant-based diet in order to prevent irreversible and catastrophic changes. Scientists have estimated that a worldwide shift to a vegetarian-type diet would bring GHG emissions down by about 63% by 2050. A plant-based diet would reduce emissions by about 70%.

Monoculture crops, a major component of mainstream and commercial agriculture, ends up depleting soil, causes erosion, and demands huge amounts of water. A monoculture is weakened by a lack of biodiversity, and so, is vulnerable to pests and blight. Because of this, there is heavy use of pesticides and herbicides, which cause damage to underground water, soil, and runoff. Monoculture crops are dependent on fossil fuels. As mostly commercial crops, operations are vast. Harvesting, machinery, storage, packaging, and transportation are all fossil fuel dependent, causing high cumulative GHG emissions. Other negative effects of corporate monoculture crops include: deforestation, and endangerment or loss of animal, plant, and insect populations via chemicals and habitat loss.

Accountability & The Need For Unprecedented Standards And Restrictions

Corporations that manufacture and produce single-use plastic containers, packaging, and synthetic fibers for clothing and textiles are not limiting or putting a stop to any of it.

Plastic production has increased by 500% since 1980.

A 2018 survey by Greenpeace and an article in the Guardian from this year, give disturbing evidence that the biggest corporations plan to continue increasing their plastic production in the next 10 years.

Major corporations and their manufacturers/producers need to be held accountable for their ongoing destructive impacts upon the environment and collective health, due to their relentless use and production of chemicals, fossil fuels, unethical agriculture, and single-use plastics. Radical change guided by ethical standards and restrictions must be enforced to mitigate and end the damage happening daily due to these unchecked practices, and long-range plans for more of the same.

What Can I Do?

We can do everything we can to divest from fossil fuels, petrochemicals, single use items and packaging, toxins, corporate agriculture, pesticides, herbicides, meat, dairy, and seafood. All of which is needed and important.

Yet, until there are unprecedented restrictions and standards placed upon corporations, manufacturers, and the like — we will not be able to effect the level of change we require now in order to be effective.

Part of the holistic effort involves addressing both the personal and the collective needs, best we can. Therefore, holding decision-makers/the elite/corporations accountable in every way possible, and hopefully divesting from their services on a grand scale, is also important and needed.

I don’t want your hope…I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.

Greta Thunberg, 16 year old Swedish climate activist

Greta Thunberg, a teenage climate activist in Sweden addressed some of the people attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on January 24th of this year. She highlighted the fact that it is not true that everyone is to blame for the climate crisis, that in fact, the elite, corporations, and decision-makers are to blame for sacrificing “priceless values” in order “to continue making unimaginable amounts of money”. Greta is holding them responsible, face to face, while making a strong and heartfelt challenge that they “do everything in your power to push your own business and government in line with a 1.5 degree world.”

“The New Abnormal”

According to UN University, at the rate we are currently going, GHG emissions will be up by 80% in 2050.

The past four years have been the hottest on record. Global emissions hit an all time high in 2018, with China, India, US, Canada, and Russia being among the worst offenders.

The natural systems of our Earth are out of balance. This is largely driven by the industrial age and consumerism age legacies. Earth is a marvel of natural cycles and patterns of balance, recycling, and interconnected layers of cooperation, which ensure health and balance. The natural response to imbalance, for the Earth, is to shift and respond with great change until a balance is found again.

Biodiversity is being lost, species and habitats are being lost and endangered. Animals and pollinators aren’t finding enough food and safe places. Migration leads them to poor options — nowhere to go, and garbage and plastic as a remaining food source.

This is the painful, thoughtless legacy of greed, consumerism, materialism, elitism, discrimination, obsessive exploitation, and corruption. It is perpetuated by reckless and excess demand for convenience and creature comforts without conscience or ethical checks.

CS Sherin, author of Recipe For A Green Life

Changing weather patterns, late and early storms, extreme weather (including extreme cold and snow) are all a part of climate change, which is caused by global warming. This, along with the effects and damages from fossil fuel extraction and use, micro-plastic pollution and bio-accumulative toxins; mainstream agricultural practices, and the excess consumption of meat, dairy, and animal byproducts — it all combines together into a recipe for needless disaster. The result is chain reactions of loss and collapse — like loss of pollinators and beneficial insects (for crops, gardens, and food sources for birds and other animals) in various regions of the world.

The Earth can survive without humans, but life on the planet cannot survive without insects.

Fact

Learn more about the animals and plants we cannot live without here.

Healthy human communities are rooted in respect and stewardship for the many kinds of diversity and biodiversity. Healthy human communities are ones that have a respect for commonalities and differences, as well as for ethical practices for all life that uphold health and balance for the long-term. There is time to change this pathway to disaster. And we have to begin acting, adapting, and responding to this crisis now. This is the real emergency.

The Urgent Need To Act On The IPCC Special Report Now

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) special report that came out in October of 2018 detailed that it is of the utmost importance for us to reduce and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2030. The IPCC consists of 100s of the world’s leading scientists, and the report includes over 6,000 references. The report’s key findings include the following:

  • Without a doubt, human activities (e.g. fossil fuel extraction and use, petrochemicals and related consequences, corporate agriculture, etc) have already caused between .8 and 1.2 degrees of warming.
  • Survival of ecosystems, species, and humans with 1.5 degrees of additional warming will still be challenging survival-wise, but 2 degrees of warming would result in catastrophic (likely irreversible) devastation, loss, and mass extinctions.

The report lists the main reasons for concern (RFCs) that we face right now include, in summary:

  • Extreme weather events increasing (“the new abnormal”) — this includes heat waves, heavy rain, drought, wildfires, coastal flooding, extreme storms (snow, rain, hurricanes, etc)
  • “Global loss of ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Increasing threat to biodiversity hot-spots, glaciers, the Arctic and Indigenous people of the Arctic, coral reefs
  • Large scale events that result in irreversible change to systems — like the deteriorating Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets

Dr. James E. Hansen is a professor at Columbia University, a climate change scientist, and former NASA scientist. He is also a part of the climate change lawsuit Juliana v. United States, led by 21 young people between the ages of 10–21 (Our Children’s Trust), that was filed in Oregon in 2015, approved in 2016, and is currently stalled due to endless blocking tactics on the part of the current Trump/Pence administration.

Dr. Hansen has stated, in not so many words, that the Paris Agreement doesn’t do enough, fast enough to make the difference we need in order to survive. He has recommended that the most effective course of action would be a global tax on CO2 emissions, which is not a strategy stated or committed to in the Paris Agreement.

The IPCC report states that the Paris Agreement, followed as submitted, won’t lead to the 1.5 degree limit in warming that we absolutely need. The IPCC special report explains that the 1.5 degree warming limit can only be achieved if we see emissions decline before 2030 (from 2010 levels, not current ones). The lower we can get emissions by 2030, the better our chances are after 2030.

What Needs To Happen Now

A 5-fold increase in climate action

  • A worldwide CO2 emissions tax, or something comparable.
  • A worldwide shift away from fossil fuels to renewable, clean energy sources for electricity, heating, and transportation. The IPCC special report states, “Only 8% of global electricity can be generated by gas, and 0–2% by coal.” Renewable energy (e.g. solar, wind, geothermal, hemp, urine, feces, etc), not any of the fossil fuels, “renewable energy must supply 70–85% of electricity and transportation by 2050”.
  • Bans on the ongoing reckless production amounts of single-use plastics and synthetic fibers.
  • A worldwide shift to a predominantly plant-based diet, with minimal demand for only ethical and organic animal byproducts.
  • Invest (time, energy, resources, money, movement) in Permaculture, food forests, organic, small farms; convert empty lots into community gardens, turn residential and commercial lawns into garden and native landscaping that supports beneficial insects, pollinators, and migrating species.
  • Invest in movements for fair and equal wages, a living wage minimum, workers’ rights, equality and equity/civil rights, and poverty eradication.
  • Invest in movements that are counter-cultural — refusing: consumerism, reckless/mindless waste, harmful toxins, excess consumption, cruelty, discrimination, fossil fuel dependence, corrupt systems and exploitation.
  • Unprecedented mass divestment movements.

Major Change, And It Is Positive

We need to radically change our systems, habits, choices, and approach to our culture, systems, and lifestyles. We need to facilitate and encourage technologies and renewable approaches to become accessible and implemented everywhere.

Will it be expensive? If we don’t do this, we face economic loss and collapse as well as collapse of life. I would put life before economics every time, but for some, perspective has been lost. So, changing everything may be “expensive” but in the long run all of the changes we need to make are ones that are extremely healthy and beneficial for everyone.

Removing our over-investment in weapons/war and for-profit incarceration would be a way clean and clear way to fund many of the needed changes. Changing our general and narrow concept of currency could shift some dynamics as well. This really is a paradigm change we are talking about, and it is necessary. It is important to remember that the changes we need to make are GOOD changes — inclusive, equitable, wise changes for survival and better pathways to future life for all.

What Is Good?

We don’t want to forget all the good that already exists and works.

We already have the ability to employ solar, hydro-, geothermal, and wind power. We may need to adjust some of the techniques and approaches, but it is all solid, as far as being able to generate clean energy.

We already have the ability and knowledge necessary to replace plastics and chemicals with hemp. It needs to be made completely affordable and accessible for everyone now!

We already have the ability to use grey water systems and composting toilets.

We already have the success, wisdom, and efficiency of Permaculture (e.g. organic gardens/farming in small spaces; city community gardens in food deserts, food forests, and restorative companion planting with beneficial “weeds”, insects/pollinators, and animals working together) — we need to employ these proven methods everywhere!

Inventions And Discoveries

There are new discoveries and inventions happening all the time. It has already been discovered that meal worms, some bacteria, and some fungi are able to digest and completely recycle some kinds of plastic into safe biomass. There are countless bans on certain forms of single-use plastics all around the world. There are bans beginning on fossil fuel vehicles in many countries around the world too.

Dealing With The “Tyranny Of The Few”

There are more people in the world who want positive change than those working against it. There are plenty of people around the world who have been aware of our challenges and crises for decades, who work tirelessly to deal with some aspects of it. There are inventions and discoveries still to be found and shared. Right now, it is a matter of consolidating our goals into massive movement, with plans to act now, while realistically pacing ourselves for the long-haul of these next pivotal, priceless 10–12 years.

At the same time, we must address and adapt our personal lifestyles — every aspect of what we are supporting and contributing to via our daily/weekly habits and choices. It is good for us to remember that by supporting and putting loving, restorative energy towards diversity and biodiversity we will automatically be addressing nearly everything.

Holistic Sustainability

We can reuse, fix, re-purpose, make do-it-yourself recipes, share, donate, collaborate, up-cycle, invent, discover, demonstrate, legislate, petition, protest, educate, change laws, policies and ordinances, and make positive shifts in our homes and personal lifestyle. In addition, we need to realize that we are interconnected and diverse — and that our uniqueness and individuality, with respect, makes us stronger.

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