This is How Long We Have to Get Serious About Climate Change

We hear all this talk about climate change and the urgency in decreasing our carbon emissions, but how long do we actually have to start changing our actions before it's too late? According to an article published by Nature, we have until 2020 to act in order to have a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy. After that, we will have to take drastic and desperate action to further prevent climate change, and would make the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement almost impossible to maintain.


According to Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation and a signatory on the Nature article, "2020 is a hard deadline. There's no turning back if we don't bend the emissions curve within three years. There are no jobs on a dead planet."

This is especially problematic since President Trump decided to pull the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, making the US only one of three countries not to participate (Nicaragua didn't participate because the Agreement didn't go far enough). Trump claimed the Agreement put too much "pressure" on the American economy. Unfortunately, this is an incredibly short-sighted decision and refusing to invest in clean energy will leave the United States in the dust if we do not get on board. Coal and fossil fuels are not only incredibly harmful to the environment, they're finite and inefficient. 


"There's no turning back if we don't bend the emissions curve within three years. There are no jobs on a dead planet" -Sharan Burrow


According to Steve Cohen, the Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, "reducing our commitment to the Paris Agreement, reducing our commitment to the transition to renewable energy, is an act of economic suicide for the United States." "What it would end up doing, frankly, is reduce America’s influence in the rest of the world. So, what you'd see is America's getting out of Paris, China’s going to go and sell renewable energy to Africa. I mean now they're selling them coal, soon they'll be selling them renewable energy because there'll be more money in it.”


Further, according to the article by Nature, while U.S. emissions fell by 3% in 2016, the economy continued to grow by 1.6%. Additionally, in China, emissions fell by 1% while the economy continued to expand by 6.7%. 


So what can you do to do your part in minimizing your carbon footprint and combatting climate change? According to Seth Wynes, a researcher in the Geography Department at the University of British Columbia, the four actions you can take to most effectively combat climate change are as follows: 

  1. Having fewer children

  2. Living without a car

  3. Avoiding transatlantic flights

  4. Eating a plant-based (mostly vegetarian) diet


Yes, these steps seem pretty difficult and maybe unattainable for some (living without a car may not be feasible). But it is important to be conscious of these factors, and implement them when we can and even when it's difficult. Start small - make one less meal with meat per week, or take public transport to get around one day a week. Small changes matter, and they're critical in ensuring the prosperity of our future planet. 


In the words of Lester Brown, "We have not inherited the earth from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children."


Words: Jacquelyn Z.

Thumbnail Photo: Reuben Wu