Climate change is an issue that affects everyone on the planet, regardless of age, wealth, nationality, or religious affiliation. Unfortunately, it's talked about so much that it's mostly regarded as white noise, so not everyone is truly listening to what is said and being driven to action.
While it can seem like such a big problem that the average person shouldn't bother thinking about it, that's the wrong attitude to have. We all depend on this planet and it is up to every single one of us to do what we can to protect it.
Here are 5 reasons to care about climate change:
1. Climate change is real.
Last Week Tonight host John Oliver has done the most impeccable job of summing up the alleged "controversy" of climate change in response to hearing that 1 in 4 Americans is skeptical about it: "Who gives a shit? You don't need people's opinions on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking, 'Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?' or 'Do owls exist?' or 'Are there hats?' "
Though it's a silly comparison (although how much do we really know about owls?), there is so much evidence to prove the existence of climate change that it shouldn't even be a debate. In the last 100 years, we've seen increases that have led to records in global high temperatures, levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, decreases in polar ice, ocean acidification, snow cover, extreme weather, and more.
2. We need to figure out how to adapt to rising temperatures.
As global temperatures continue to rise, there's no part of the world that won't be affected.
While some areas will experience drought-like conditions, others will see increases in rainfall and extreme weather. This will have a big impact on regions that are responsible for growing food, particularly as our human population continues to grow and need more food. We need to be looking forward to how to solve these problems, either through genetic modification to make crops more resistant to these growing changes or developing new systems of farming entirely.
Areas that rely on ecotourism to boost their economies, such as the beaches of Hawaii or skiing in the mountains in Colorado, will also be faced with challenges as the changing climate makes those destinations less desirable.
These are problems we need to think about now while we still have time.
3. Taking action may prevent the loss of many wildlife species.
Climate change isn't a looming threat that will affect wildlife later on, it's already happening in a number of ways.
As carbon dioxide dissolves in the water, it becomes more acidic and softens the shells of turtles, crabs, and clams, leaving them more vulnerable to predators. Coral reefs have become bleached and threatened.
Warmer temperatures have also interfered with food availability, migrations, camouflage, and even the ratio of males to females in certain species.
It was recently announced that an Australian rat species is the first mammal that has been driven to extinction by climate change. While people might not be brokenhearted over the loss of a rat, there are many other mammals still threatened.
We rely on animals for ecotourism, food, and, most importantly, to keep ecosystems balanced and healthy.
4. We need to protect people living in coastal areas who will be displaced by rising sea levels.
As glaciers melt and decline, all of that water needs to go somewhere. Rising water levels in rivers, lakes, and oceans are expected to displace tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone by the end of the century. Globally, it is expected to top more than 700 million.
While these rising waters will affect those living in big metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C. and New York City, it is also going to affect the government organizations and businesses there as well. While the wealthiest entities in the country might have the means to build walls and minimize damage, not everyone is as fortunate.
All over the world, there are impoverished people who live close to water sources in order to survive. When these areas become flooded, they won't have many options when they have to leave their homes.
Even though presidential candidate Donald Trump has called climate change a "hoax" invented by the Chinese, he still wants to build a wall to protect his golf course in Scotland from becoming damaged by rising water levels, oddly enough.
5. We DO have the power to change things.
There are many people who don't want to act on climate change because it seems like too big of a problem and we can't possibly fix it. We do have the power to make a difference, and we need to use that power sooner rather than later.
We can support candidates who are scientifically literate and listen to experts on how to make policies that best address climate change. We need our leaders to work with the leaders of other countries in order to make big, international decisions that are best for the entire world.
We can buy products that don't harm the environment or displace wildlife. Voting with our wallets and demanding that companies stop using harmful ingredients can and does promote change.
We can become aware of how our seemingly harmless actions affect the environment and encourage others to become more mindful of their habits as well.
We need to move on from arguing the existence of climate change and discuss ways to address it instead.
It's not too late to act on climate change and try to prevent the worst effects of it. Time is a luxury we don't have when it comes to finding solutions, so we need to come together and do what we can while we can.
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