With climate change penetrating the consciousness of our global society, the documentary “A Life on Our Planet” featuring David Attenborough achieves to bring home the central issues of climate change, alongside showing the way into a sustainable future. Even for people without any knowledge about climate change, the documentary explains all the reasons why we should care and take measures to save our planet.
Biodiversity loss, acidifying oceans, rising sea levels, health problems, extreme climate events, soil overuse; we have the means to stop and reverse the trend. And if not for the nature of this planet, we have to do it to save ourselves. We are already estimating with millions of climate refugees, but if we don’t take appropriate action, it will turn into hundreds of millions, possibly even billions. Besides large parts of the world becoming uninhabitable, feedback loops will further accelerate the warming of the earth. Permafrost and ice caps will melt and release stored CO² into the atmosphere, while oceans, which can absorb our emissions, will be overburdened, warm-up, and further accelerate the process.
With extreme climate events and record-breaking weather highs across the planet, we can already see the impacts worldwide. The mid-US turning into a dust bowl and making farming impossible, small island nations having to abandon their homes over the next decades. The show “Years of Living Dangerously” focusses on those already affected by climate change, making it awfully clear that climate change is already here and growing worse the longer we do nothing about it.
The last time earth had similar conditions as today, it was 8 degrees Celsius (46.4 F) warmer and sea levels 20 meters higher. A 20-meter difference will affect every city built near the sea or around rivers and the billions of people living in them.
The most challenging point that is not being mentioned too often is that we have to reach net-zero emissions by 2100 to stabilize the climate. We have to go net-negative to reverse the damages already done by then. We can’t merely rely on others to do the first step, and maybe in a decade or two, follow their lead. Each of us has an individual and collective responsibility to do their best.
The simplest things every one of us can do is to change consumption, travel, and diet.
- Consume less. Be aware of what you need. The more you buy, the worse for the environment.
- Travel less by plane. Commute with trains, public transportation, or electric and emission-free alternatives (bicycle/on foot).
- Center your diet around plants. Beef, lamb, and dairy products have the highest emissions. Substitute them will poultry and plant-based alternatives.
- Stop wasting your food. One-third of the food around the world gets wasted, enough to feed over three billion people.
As we adjust ourselves on an individual level, countries turn to renewables, promote electric cars, tax emission output from products and services, and establish no-fishing zones to recover ecosystems and make fish thrive again. One-third of the oceans need to become no-fishing zones, and we will have more than enough to eat.
The only hurdle left is how fast we can adapt. Too quickly and people lagging behind the trend will revolt, too slow, and long-term damages keep increasing exponentially. The sooner each of us adapts and influences the ones around us, the lower the ultimate price we have to pay.