What do American citizens not know about climate change? There are in fact a lot of backburner problems with BIG impacts: Urban heat island in major cities like New York that induce heat strokes, air pollution, and increased risk for heart attacks; ocean acidification that recently killed large swaths of the Great Barrier Reef and only induces more climate change; record-breaking El Nino seasons that generate devastating drought, landslides, wildfires, and in many cases widespread famine. Need I say more? But there still seems to be a lingering denial about the existence of climate change, and whether it’s a man-made problem. But climate change is real, it impacts Americans now, and the science behind the issue is crystal clear.
Climate change has been a hot topic in recent years. Countless news items detail the developing threats from climate change with natural disasters and sea level rise chief among them in the public consciousness. The majority of Americans believe climate change is happening and want the government to address it, while half attribute human activities to causing the problem. This is old news. In the 5th IPCC Assessment Report, published back in 2013, the consensus was stated clearly: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of green-house gases are the highest in history. […] Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.” American’s should know by now that over 97% of climate scientists and scientific articles agree that global warming is real and caused by human activity. The hoax phobia of our current president aside, American institutions of all kinds recognize the threat of climate change. Organizations like the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group have been working to foster international cooperation in progressing climate leadership goals despite federal and private roadblocks. The Climate Mayors agreement – in which 350 mayors of American cities chose to stay in the Paris climate accord – happened because it simply makes sense. You know, from a survival of the human race perspective. But again, this is old news.
Fellow citizens, we have the solutions to address this crisis – many of them behavioral – and they don’t all come from Elon Musk. Renewable energy – NOT COAL – to power our cities and towns. Increased use of mass transit, biking, and carpooling to get us around without the emissions of single occupancy car use. A reduced reliance on air transport for business trips and vacations. Switching to diets with a greater proportion of fruits, vegetables, and non-meat protein. And finally, the political and social will to prioritize the plight of the global ecosystem over our own behaviors. Every person has small and big actions available to them! The best advice might be to do them all!
Photo Credit: NOAA/CIRA