UN report should encourage more individual action to reduce climate change

The world is at risk.

According to the United Nation’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, the threat is real. Unless preventative action is taken soon, climate change will be irreversible.

“In the next 100 years, we’ll see a significantly warmer planet and a significantly higher sea level,” said Professor of Geology and Earth Sciences Dave Dobson. “Some parts of the world will become uninhabitable, and agricultural practices will have to adapt or fade out.”

Despite this information, climate change skeptics, including many members of Congress, still remain.

“The Obama administration needs to finally abandon their radical climate change agenda that is killing jobs and increasing costs for American families,” said Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise in an August press release.

“This just proves that the president is prepared to pursue his job-killing climate agenda at any cost, which the American people, and House of Representatives, will not stand for.”

However, looking at the long-term effects, reducing greenhouse gas emissions can help the economy.

Climate Policy Initiative is an organization that works on improving policies concerning the environment.

“(CPI’s) analysis shows that many countries, including the United States, can benefit economically from reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said CPI Senior Analyst Julia Zuckerman in an email interview with The Guilfordian.

According to CPI, if the world began using a low-carbon system of electricity, it would save $1.8 trillion between 2015 and 2035.

“Climate change impacts are expected to exacerbate poverty in most developing countries and create new poverty pockets in countries with increasing inequality, in both developed and developing countries,” says the UN report.

In addition to hurting the long-term economy, climate change disrupts ecosystems and reduces biodiversity.

“When we lose ecosystems upon which human populations depend, in many cases we have alternatives for adapting,” said Kyle Dell, co-chair of environmental studies and associate professor of political science. “When non-human species lose critical habitats, for example a rainforest in the Andes, endangered species lack the ability to adapt quickly enough to survive.”

Climate change also causes extreme weather including floods, hurricanes and heat waves, which create disastrous effects for humans. It can increase illness, cause death and disrupt food supply.

“As one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases, the United States has notably failed to display leadership on the issue,” said Sheila Jasanoff, professor of science and technology studies at the Harvard Kennedy School in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “This is an urgent national and a world problem. It does not help our overall standing in the world if we do not step up to the plate.”

Fortunately, individuals can make a big difference in reducing the effects of climate change.

The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that the average American produces 21 tons of carbon annually. If every American reduced their carbon emissions by just 20 percent, it would be equal to shutting down 200 of the world’s 600 carbon plants, according to The Huffington Post.

“Transportation and home electrical use are big sources, so looking for public transportation, ride-sharing or human powered transport is good, and buying efficient electrical products (and avoiding waste) is great in the home,” said Dobson.

But there are many other ways of reducing your carbon footprint, including eating less beef, buying local and switching your light bulbs to CFLs.

“Just about anything we do represents an opportunity to express our support for a smaller carbon footprint,” said Dell. “While larger systemic shifts are needed, related to larger power and transportation systems, individuals can also do this.”