We’re in a climate emergency. Here’s why climate change is urgent.
Climate change is a very pressing matter. Greenhouse gases are trapping heat in our atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise and glaciers to melt. Droughts and wildfires are increasing in duration and intensity. Warmer ocean water temperatures are increasing the severity of tropical storms. Both wildlife and humans are reaping the consequences of climate change all over the world.
Yet, many people do not feel the urgency of climate change.
Climate change urgency can be measured on a scale. Some people’s climate scales maxed out a long time ago, as they have been reading the scientific data, paying attention to our world’s climate disasters, and anticipating the consequences that are to come if we don’t drastically change our ways.
On the other end of the scale are the unconcerned people, and unfortunately, it appears this is the majority of humankind. The lack of alarm among the general public is… alarming!
Why don’t people care about climate change?
It’s easy for the environmentally-conscious person to wonder, “why don’t people care about climate change? Why don’t people feel the same sense of emergency about the climate crisis as they do about, say, COVID-19?”
For those who recognize the existential threat posed by climate change, we must first seek to understand before we can evoke change. There are many valid reasons why people aren’t running around screaming for change, and it’s important we understand their views. Here are some common reasons why so many people aren’t promptly changing their ways to save the planet.
We lack educational resources.
Many people lack the resources that educate them about climate change. In most school systems, Climate Change isn’t a class that kids are required to take. This topic is skimmed over briefly, and few kids go home asking their parents about how they can save the polar bears. The lack of education is a key reason people are laid back about the concept of climate change. They simply do not understand what is happening in the world and what is at stake.
Without climate scientists educating our children, many people have a skewed definition of the issue and little idea on how to take action for the planet. If we can put more emphasis on climate change within our education systems, our future generations will be more knowledgeable and better prepared.
Not only are our educational systems lacking on this topic, but scientific data on climate change is hard to understand. People are motivated by digestible information, but this large-scale issue is too complicated and diverse to consist of oodles of clear and insightful data. If it were easy to understand, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.
The lack of alarm among the public isn’t only felt by uneducated people. Some people understand the stakes but are too overwhelmed to face the reality, take action, or raise awareness. Anxiety and depression are additional consequences that come with understanding the climate crisis. The scale of emissions is so enormous and diverse, and the problem is so systemic and complex, that it’s extremely overwhelming to devise a plan that will save our planet and all of its inhabitants.
Some people aren’t taking action because they feel hopeless. They wonder where the heck they should begin and they question if one person could even make a difference. Many of us have passed this overwhelming stage, so we can all lend compassion to those who have not taken action and are in a state of chaotic anxiety. Perhaps the lack of alarm is only what you see on the outside; while on the inside they feel frozen.
It greatly challenges existing systems and beliefs.
When climate scientists and activists go knocking on doors to demand that people make changes and take the climate crisis seriously, many people enter defense mode. They defend their existing systems and beliefs because that is all they’ve ever known. They’ve relied on these old systems for years and years and years.
If everyone could accept the dangerous reality of climate disasters, food scarcity, and CO2 emissions, they would have to accept that we all must change our ways to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.
But change terrifies many people. Those who strongly believe in outdated industrial structures and capitalist systems promoting fossil fuels, overproduction, and ecological destruction, are going to have a tough time giving up their trusty traditions for the greater good. People who are “stuck in their old ways” and “stubborn and closed-minded” are people who fear change and have strong belief systems.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Many people lack urgency because they think we have more time. People don’t believe climate change will affect them in their lifetime or location. Therefore, the issue feels distant. It’s easy to look away from a problem if it doesn’t feel like it’s hitting quite yet. But the truth is, climate change is already jabbing us in the side and we are running out of time to reverse permanent damage to our planet. Scientists agree that as of February 2022, we have about 7.5 years to limit global warming before we reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.
For many, to see is to believe. If climate disasters are out of sight, they’re out of mind. People living amidst the wildfires, droughts, and rising sea waters might have an easier time recognizing the effects of climate change than people who live in areas that aren’t as significantly affected at this moment. Many people are turning their heads away from tangible evidence because it doesn’t directly affect their everyday lives, but consequences are coming for us all no matter where we live.
Politics divide us.
Our government is responsible for authorizing laws that address climate change and divvying appropriate funding for related programs. This is why voting for change is an essential part of combating climate change.
Unfortunately, American politics are divisive and largely consist of two sides with opposing views. Our current state of legislative paralysis is not Republican vs. Democrat, it is in fact caused by the battle between the interests of society and private corporate interests. Climate policies differ greatly from one political affiliation to the next, and the attack and defense game within politics pushes people further in opposite directions. Plutocracy is driven by nearsightedness, and those who strongly identify with the party that is slacking on climate change laws are likely to feel lax about the issue.
Extend compassion to those who lack urgency. We’re all on our own climate crisis journey.
For those who recognize climate change as a dangerous emergency, it’s important to have compassion for others who are not on the same page. As long as we’re acting frustrated and impatient with those who disagree, we’re probably going to have a tough time convincing anyone to find the urgency.
Though it’s hard, it’s important to seek first to understand before you demand to be heard.