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  • Writer's pictureTarannum Khan

Code Red for Humanity: Updates from the UN

Earth is warmer than it’s been in 125,000 years. Human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways, says a UN report.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is stern and blunt in its conclusions: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans, and land,”

The report "is a code red for humanity", says the UN chief.

Here are the key points of the report:

  • The rate of sea level rise is nearly 3 times what it was from 1901-1917

  • In just the past 9 years, global surface temperature was warmer than in the 50 years from 1850-1900

  • The past 5 years have been the hottest on record since 1850

  • Since the 1950s, high-temperature events (e.g. heat waves) have become more frequent and more intense, while low-temperature events have done the opposite.

  • Human influence is the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice

There's no questions that humans are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. We have increased heat stress, waterborne diseases, and poor air quality ahead of us. The IPCC warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, which will result in catastrophic crop failure, burden health and emergency services, and decrease water, energy and transportation resources. In turn, we expect widespread power shortages or blackouts. The anticipated extreme temperatures, droughts, and flooding will also lead to food insecurity and a decreased quality of life.

None of this comes as a surprise. We’ve been warned of this impending consequence many times before. Yet, in just over a decade, we will likely to break a key temperature⏤a milestone which will lock in our fate. So what can we do now? And who’s to blame for all this?

Research suggests it’s not individual people. The Guardian reveals 20 fossil fuel companies whose exploitation is responsible for approximately a third of all the greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, a report by The Carbon Majors finds 100 active fossil fuel producers are linked to 71% of industrial greenhouse gas emission since 1988. It seems that, in the big picture, there’s little we can do as individuals to combat the drastic effects of climate change. After all, most of these consequences arise from the actions of huge companies exploiting resources to expand their market.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Small actions on a large scale can make a difference. Although we cannot individually impact the climate like these companies do, we can collectively avoid causing further harm to our environment. And we can fight for these companies to take action too.

Here are a few ways we can each individually fight to save our planet:

  1. Works towards eliminating your food waste

  2. Make sure to recycle as much as possible

  3. Drive less, walk more, or take public transportation/carpool

  4. Carry your own bag while grocery shopping

  5. Thrift clothes, only buy what you'll actually use

  6. Start using renewables, such as solar panels, and be energy-conscious

  7. Avoid using single use plastic, buy your own replacements

  8. Raise awareness about and lobby against our current climate condition

Of these options, the most important step is to take collective action. If you can, fight for progressive policies that help our environment. Find and join your local activist groups to demand for a greener and better future. Some such groups are: Fridays For Future, Climate Strike Canada, SustainUS, Uplift, Sunrise, and Done Waiting. As a collective, we can make a difference.

We are the last generation who have the opportunity to save our planet from irreversible damage. We have 11 years left to fight climate change. Late is better than never, and any further inaction will cost us our planet.

“Twenty five years ago, people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.” - Desmond Tutu

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