EDITORIAL: Climate change: the horror story that doesn't end in October

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Life is good right now. Really good. At least in America, we have infrastructure that allows us to get clean water, even out here in drought-stricken Arizona. You can drive to McDonald’s and get a meal for one dollar. Streets are clean, they finally finished construction on Grant Road, and it’s getting cold again. 

But that good life is eventually going to kill us. A new study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a slap in the face: We have 12 years until the Earth begins an aggressive purge of life as we know it. 

The problem with climate change is that it is, frankly, terrifying. Why should we change our ways if life is so good? And hey, if ocean levels rise, maybe my house in Arizona will become beachfront property. 

But we can’t ignore what will happen if we reach 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels. We can’t. Listen here: We. Can’t. 

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According to the study, droughts will become more intense, so we might have to ration water in Arizona. 

Extreme weather patterns, like the hurricanes currently trouncing Florida, will be more frequent. Ninety percent of coral reefs will die. The Arctic Ocean will be free of ice in the summers. And global sea levels are going to rise. 

Guilt is an interesting thing, as is magnitude. Human brains struggle to comprehend things in such magnitude, but guilt is the larger enemy here. It is not a good motivator. Rather, it is a deterrent to getting anything done. 

While guilt is uncomfortable, we need to accept that, as the human race, we are killing the planet we live on. It’s OK to feel guilty, worried and scared. The end of the world by our own hand and not by zombies or an asteroid is pretty scary. 

But what’s done is done; we just need to start taking steps to move forward. 

This study should be a wake-up call for society. The earth has already warmed one degree Celsius since the industrial revolution. Carbon dioxide emissions need to be “net zero” by 2050 (meaning we take out as much CO2 as we put into the atmosphere), and fall by 45 percent by 2030. 

To do that, the energy sector needs to stop use of fossil fuels and convert to solar and wind. Trees need to be replanted on a massive scale, in an area equivalent to half Canada’s size.  

In the words of the IPCC, governments around the world must take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” 

However, sometimes governments cannot be trusted. President Donald Trump, leader of the second largest CO2-emitting country on Earth, removed the United States from the Paris Accords, a climate agreement signed by 194 states and the European Union. 

Trump, however, backed off his belief that global warming is a hoax, but he doesn’t know if it’s man-made. In an interview with 60 Minutes Sunday, he said, “I don’t think there’s a hoax. I do think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s man-made.” 

Trump also said he didn’t want to spend trillions of dollars to fix a problem if it will cause job loss.

So, it comes down to us. First, we need to demand change, then vote for people who believe in change.

For example, in a recent debate between Arizona Congressional District 2 candidates, Republican Lea Marquez Peterson answered a question which implied she would not implement policies to address climate change. Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, did the opposite. 

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We need also to stop eating so much meat. Animal agriculture causes 14.5 to 18 percent of all gas emissions in the world. Even substituting just one meal a week, a “meatless Monday” perhaps, helps. Hop over to NRICH instead of Chick-fil-a for example. Get a black-bean patty at Cactus Grill. 

It’s hot in Arizona, but we need to stop relying on air-conditioning so much, too. Drying clothes also takes a lot of energy, so line-dry them when you can. Saving energy will also save you money! 

Walk and ride your bike or take public transportation when you can. Living on campus makes this easy for college students. Tucson is very bike-friendly, and this shouldn’t be hard to implement. Carpool with your roommates and friends wherever possible, and switch out a car commute with a walk or a bike ride. 

Remember, cars, electricity and $1 Big Macs are not inseparable from human existence. Cars and air conditioning were invented a little over 100 years ago. Cell phones were only invented 45 years ago. And McDonald’s was founded 63 years ago. These changes are recent. Humans can live  without them.  

Don’t let fear and guilt and hopelessness stop you from making small changes. We still have time. It’ll take a culture shift, but it is doable. But we can’t just sit around and do nothing. We need to act. Now.


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