If I could have a big wish about solving a global challenge, it would be to vanquish the problem of climate change.
Over a year ago, a friend suggested I address that subject, but every week, a more pressing story had to come first. Sometimes events below our radar build up momentum until they overtake us by surprise. Climate change is like that. By the time we all perceive major impacts individually, it will be too late to change the cumulative effects. Remember the adage: You can’t unring a bell. That is why we have to avert some of it. I’m hopeful the NATO Summit will have broadened and deepened the responses beyond the G7 meeting in Cornwall.
Ironically, the coronavirus pandemic has been a rehearsal for addressing climate change. Unprecedented global collaboration is the common element in solving both. And solving both requires the skills we develop in strengthening global communication and in coordinating efforts.
Jared Diamond said in "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed": “Globalization makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation, as did Easter Island and the Greenland Norse in the past. Any society in turmoil today, no matter how remote ... can cause trouble for prosperous societies on other continents and is also subject to their influence (whether helpful or destabilizing). For the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline. But we also are the first to enjoy the opportunity of learning quickly from developments in societies anywhere else in the world today, and from what has unfolded in societies at any time in the past.”
Like a global pandemic, global climate change doesn’t stop at geopolitical borders. Catastrophic weather events, temperature changes, rising ocean levels and species extinction threats are not limited to the individuals and nations who’ve made a devil’s bargain to make a quick buck while externalizing the impacts into the global environment.
Just seven wealthy nations contribute a fourth of the carbon emissions clogging the Earth’s sky like a blanket that traps heat from the sun. Readers probably remember what it is like to be in a tent in the middle of the day in the beating sun. This is what greenhouse gasses do to the planet. The extra heat is melting polar caps, warming the oceans, raising sea levels, unleashing extreme weather, and more.
There is a cascade effect from these changes. Carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been in recorded history. Antarctica is losing 127 billion tons of ice per year now. Biological disruptions result: Some species go extinct, while others adapt or move their range. Niche species suffer most. What would it be like to be a mother polar bear raising cubs on a range where the land had turned to water such that food sources were so far away that your cubs could not possibly swim to reach?
We can no longer dump trash into oceans and spew greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere while pretending there are no consequences. We have already fouled our own nest, and we do not have time to nibble at the edges of climate change mitigation if we are to survive as a species.
The G7 nations have committed to achieving carbon neutrality in electricity production by the year 2050. Solar panels, electric vehicles and wind turbines will be part of the shift away from dirty coal and the other fossil fuels clogging up the Earth’s liveable zone. Each nation will adopt strategies for achieving the 29-year goal. China, India and Russia are not G7 nations, but are essential to averting overshoot in a closed system. Cybersecurity and preserving democratic institutions are intrinsically intertwined with climate change as global leaders garner the team players to evolve the economy.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.