With Only 12 Years to Address Climate Change, What Can We Do? 

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report is out and friends, it is bleak. But it also gives cause for some hope if we answer the imperative call and act on climate immediately. 

The world has already warmed by 1-degree Celsius and the new report states that we could reach a disastrous 1.5 degrees in a mere 12 years. We need to cap our greenhouse gas emissions in the next 15 months and cut our emissions in half by 2030. If we don’t do this and we reach 1.5 degrees, we will see severe impacts including food shortages, deadlier storms, increased poverty, and several hundred million lives will be at risk.

The timeline is certainly overwhelming, but we can make immense movement in the time we have. The IPCC notes that “limiting temperature increase requires unprecedented changes in society but will have huge benefits.” We are the only ones who can slow climate change and fortunately, we have much of what we need. Solutions exist in energy, transportation, agriculture and many other fields, and now we must push for them to be more widely implemented. We must fundamentally transform our society, which means shifting our daily practices and demanding widespread systemic change through actions like voting (CONFIRM YOUR VOTER REGISTRATION and make sure that your local candidates have a plan to act on climate).

If we are going to cap emissions, sequester greenhouse gases, and mitigate impacts, we need to act from a place of fierce hope and strategic, determined creativity. You can offer your unique skills to push for a vast number of solutions. Below are ways to curb emissions on an individual level and ways we can hold larger emitters accountable, because there is not a moment left to lose.  

Image of icebergs

What You Can Do

As consumers, we need to act individually to reduce our own carbon footprint.  We also must act collectively, to get the largest carbon emitters to rapidly reduce their impacts. 

Energy & Waste 

In the US, only 17% of electricity comes from renewables and only 34% of our solid waste is recycled and composted. We are working to improve that by shifting sectors from relying on fossil fuels and wasteful, virgin materials to using clean energy, waste reduction, and recycled materials.

Hang Up On Fossil Fuels. The telecommunications sector uses enormous amounts of energy – over 3 million MWH of electric power each year, largely powering its networks and data centers with fossil fuels. This year, T-Mobile has committed to 100% clean energy and AT&T has purchased enough wind energy to make up 30% of its use. Verizon still sits at a dismal 2% clean energy, which is why we are asking you to call on Verizon to commit to 100% clean energy. Your voices are what pushed Amazon to get to 50% renewable energy this year, now sign on to get Amazon to adopt 100% renewables by 2020

Skip the Slip. As for wasted resources, production of goods – most of which end up in landfills-- releases a massive amount of emissions worldwide. For example, paper receipts claim 10 million trees and emit 12 billion pounds of CO2 each year in the US. Most thermal receipt paper is coated using BPA (the endocrine disruptor banned from plastic bottles) or BPS (a similar option that studies show is just as damaging), posing health risks to workers and customers and making receipts unfit for recycling. Join us in telling companies like CVS, home of the mile-long receipts, to do better

Divest From Fossil Fuels and Break Up With Your Megabank. The financial system plays a major role in investing in climate change and needs to rapidly increase investment in the transition needed to a clean energy economy instead. Traditional mega-banks have a long history of financing fossil fuel infrastructure. Search our Get a Better Bank database to find community development banks and credit unions that support people and the planet. Our Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign also provides resources for divesting more broadly from fossil fuels, including lists of financial products and service providers who can help create fossil-fuel-free portfolios.

More ways to take action:

Food & Agriculture 

Agriculture is one of the key sectors where the IPCC calls for swift progress in order to meet our climate emissions goals.  Currently, agriculture is a net carbon emitter, but if we change agriculture from the current industrial models that are heavily reliant on chemical inputs, plowing, and monocropping to regenerative practices that actually work with nature, our soils would take in carbon and become a major solution to climate change.  If we can move most of the world’s farming to regenerative practices, we could reduce carbon in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels. 

Re(store) It! And Climate Victory Gardens. Right now, less than 1% of farms in the U.S. are organic or regenerative, but since regenerative farms actually out-compete industrial agriculture in yields and profitability, we can grow that number to 30 percent of land under cultivation by 2030.  Find out more about regenerative practices through our Re(store) It! program, and start your own Climate Victory Garden, to grow healthy foods for your family while capturing carbon and keeping it in the ground where it belongs.

Other essential steps:

Boy standing on giant pile of trash

Labor & Communities

While the effects of climate change are occurring globally, they disproportionately impact vulnerable communities, especially ones with little social or economic mobility. We can already see how climate change has increased challenges facing producers of a variety of commodities. For instance, the International Cocoa Initiative estimates that there are currently over 2 million cocoa farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the two largest producers of cocoa. Estimates show that the average farmer income is currently $0.78 – far below the $2.71 living wage calculated by Fairtrade International. Shifting weather patterns, along with an increase in intensity and frequency of natural disasters, is leading to more unpredictability in cocoa crops. The increasingly adverse effects of climate change will compound the various economic and social challenges farmers already face in the region. 

Another example is cotton, a water-intensive crop grown in regions with increasing water scarcity. The warming of the ocean affects ocean acidity and oxygen levels, reducing the productivity of fisheries. The commodities that we rely on, along the lives and dignity of the people who produce them, are already facing high risks; going beyond the 1.5C threshold will only threaten them more. Take action with Green America’s labor campaigns today to ensure that we are not only fighting climate change, but that we are supporting communities already battling the harsh effects

How to get started today:

  • Limit consumption – to help decrease resources being used, but also to take some burden off of workers.
  • When you must buy something, support companies and brands that empower workers. If a company is doing something to support the workers in its supply chain, it is usually excited to share that information with you!
  • Reach out to companies and ask them about what they are doing to support workers in their supply chain, and let them know that this is an important issue for you.

Moving Forward

We are grateful that you are one of many courageously fighting to curb climate change. Thank you for committing to take action today and every day, individually and collectively, because the upcoming decade will be the most important in our entire history.

Let’s get to work, Green Americans. 

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