IPCC report gives both hope and despair

Winston Heckt, Staff Writer

When I was a kid, I imagined I would get married and live with my spouse and our four kids in a big house with a massive yard. I’ve gone from wanting four kids to considering it inhumane to bring even one life into a world that could be inhospitable by the end of the century, from wanting my own car to working up the courage to bike all-year-round even as the harsh Minnesota winters — to my dismay — become tamer with each passing year.

  A major influence on my reevaluation came last week with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and its findings that even if global greenhouse gas emissions were stopped today, the planet will still warm another half a degree Celsius, putting us dangerously close to the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit. In order to avoid catastrophic floods, droughts and extreme weather, humans need to make rapid, unprecedented changes in every aspect of our society before 2030. A prognosis like that is enough to make even the most optimistic person despair. Even if we do manage to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, most of the coral reefs are going to die, the polar ice caps will continue to melt, extreme weather will become the new normal and species will continue to go extinct at an alarming rate.

   Last week, I let myself wallow in fatalism, but now that I’ve let that out I’m determined to try my damndest to do something because we still have time and it’s not too late. The bad news is that, individually, we can’t do much to stop greenhouse gas emissions. Going vegan and ditching the car for a bike will surely help, but that alone won’t be enough.

   The good news is that we have a good idea of who’s doing the heavy lifting in killing our planet.

   Last year, the environmental non-profit Carbon Disclosure Project released a report listing the 100 companies responsible for 71% of our total greenhouse gas emissions, most of them being energy companies like Exxon Mobile and BP. Want to do something that will curb emissions before it’s too late? Call on these entities to stop the pursuit of non-renewable energies through boycotts and protests. Call on the banks that are funding fossil fuel companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citi Bank to stop bankrolling the destruction of the planet. If you do bank with them, withdraw your money and move it to a local credit union.

   Don’t sit back and wait for these companies and our elected officials to do something: Take Action.

This article was originally published in the Oct. 19, 2018 issue.