In the beginning of October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report, Global Warming of 1.5°C. This report stated that the world economy needs to transform at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent” in order to avoid the dire consequences of climate change. These consequences include: the food shortages would worsen, coral reefs would die off as soon as 2040, coastlines would be flooded, droughts and poverty would intensify and wildfires would worsen as well. The authors of the report disclosed that if the greenhouse gas emission continue at the current rate, by 2040, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7°F above preindustrial levels. This new report is especially alarming because scientists were under the impression that the consequences that were just listed would occur when the average temperature rose to 3.6°F, not the 2.7°F we have now found.
According to the author, the damages that would occur would cost about $54 trillion; these authors have also stated that the change to the world economy is possible, but is politically unlikely. The political feasibility for these changes is unfortunately low, which is sad since the consequences of continuing like we are will lead to a devastating amount of loss. The report says that heavy taxes or prices, as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100, on carbon dioxide emissions, would be required. Considering the fact that the United States is no longer part of the Paris agreement and we are the second largest emitter of carbon and we have the world’s largest economy, the possibility of implementing that tax or price seems nonexistent.
The report also said that in order to prevent the temperature from warming to 2.7 degrees the following needs to happen: greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, use of coal as an electricity source would need to also be reduced to 1 to 7% from the nearly 40% it is today, renewable energy would have to increase to 67% of the electricity mix rather than the almost 20% it is today. Carbon taxes seem like the best option to make the most effective change in greenhouse gas reduction.
So what should we do?
One of the easiest things that we as consumers can do to help improve our environmental quality is to change which producers we support. This means doing some research and determining which companies have environmentally friendly practices. If you’ve seen Before The Flood, which is a documentary about the state of our climate and environment, you’ll learn that quite a few popular companies have some of the worst practices for our environment. For example, you’ll see that beloved snacks like Doritos are part of the palm oil industry. The palm oil industry cuts and burns down forests in order to get the palm oil and this process is devastating to ecosystems. Protecting the integrity of our nature and stopping industries from carelessly burning down ecosystems as a cheaper method of obtaining certain ingredients is important to taking steps towards a healthier environment.
Consumers also need to accept the taxes and price changes that are necessary to make the economy shift the way it needs to. Although increases in taxes and prices is difficult to want to accept, the consequences of trying to fight back are far worse. We could lose millions of people in other countries because of the state our environment is in. The report stated that some of the countries that run the risk of increased coastal flooding are: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the United States, Egypt, and the Philippines. I’m from the Philippines and I spent some time growing up there, I have family who still live in the Philippines and I have plans to go back and visit. I love the country my family is from, I love the culture and the people and the food. I don’t want to see my home, my parent’s home, the final resting place for both of my Lolos and other family members, wash away because we as consumers can’t bear to pay a little bit more for gas.
As people who have the ability to make a change in our political world, we need to vote for political leaders who will support the necessary changes that need to be made to our economy and to the way we live. I understand that there are drawbacks to carbon taxes; environmental policies are inherently regressive- meaning that they negatively impact lower-income classes more than those who have a higher income. While the effect is unfair and something that we as a society also need to change and take note of, the consequences of not implementing a carbon tax is far more dire. If we can not only create, but actually pass and successfully implement and enforce policies that meet the requirements needed to start reducing our greenhouse gas emissions while also providing resources for those who are negatively impacted by the policy, we can find a balance between the saving our environment and helping others.
Photo courtesy of Keely Krasomil.
If we want to continue to have beautiful scenery like the photo above, we need to listen to what the authors in the report tell us and make the necessary changes.