Environmental Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Politicians seem to push for a greener world, but their actions don’t say so.

Evan Michaeli for The Gator | May 6, 2022

[Click here to read the article with complete links and images.]

The date is December 12, 2015. World leaders finish their intensive discussions on a preventive measure against human-made global warming at the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. At the end of the summit, the leaders announce their plan, the Paris Climate Accord.

Countries designed the pact to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.” To attain this goal, every country needs to peak its use of fossil fuels as soon as possible. If all went well, we could see what the Accords called a “climate-neutral” world by 2050.

Meanwhile, seven years later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) still warns of a sinister future. In a recent report, the IPCC determined that fossil fuels must peak in three years and halve emissions before 2030. Furthermore, the IPCC cautions that if warming continues at its current pace, the world could see temperatures rise 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Governments appear to miss the mark so far. Politics were to blame in the IPCC report. Shortly after the release, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing—but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.”

Climate Action Tracker, an organization that observes climate pledges from 42 governments, reveals the inaction. The organization ranks none of the countries as “1.5°C Paris Agreement Compatible.” Fifteen countries are marked as “highly insufficient,” and the United States lands in the “insufficient” column. Dr. Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, criticizes the efforts from Australia even more, saying, “It is really an embarrassment, actually.”

Even more, candidates appeal to voters with their environmental policies, but several Congress members dubbed “climate champions” receive donations to their campaigns from lobbyists in the fossil fuel industry. Senator Mark Kelly from Arizona was among six Democratic senators to gather around $330,000 combined in funding.

Also, Politico reported that the fossil fuel industry donated about $770,000 to President Obama’s campaign in April 2012. $770,000 pales to Romney’s donations by April 2012, $1.5 million.

I say to these politicians, which is it? It can’t be both.

While assurances on climate action often receive gratitude and approval, pledges broken leave a pervasive taste.

Humans cannot procrastinate on climate action any further. Research consistently proves that human-caused global warming burdens humanity now and will persist in the future.

Nowadays, the world is sweltering from record heat each year, with the past seven being the warmest on the planet. Several cities in the United States recorded their hottest years ever.

Trends in global average surface temperature between 1990 and 2020 in degrees Fahrenheit per decade. Yellow indicates little to no change, while orange and red show places that warmed, and blue shows places that cooled. NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data from NOAA Centers for Environmental Information.

While cities face heat, so does the ocean. Coral bleaching is an anomaly caused by the rise in ocean temperatures. The sixth mass bleaching event since 1998, happening right now, saw coral become stressed by the heat. Coral then spits out its food supply, starving to death which causes the bleaching. NPR reports that waters near the Great Barrier Reef are warming up to ​​7 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Scientists say that the reef has lost at least half of its coral.

Along with the heat, natural disasters are on the rise.

USA Today reports that U.S. natural disasters amounted to $140 billion in damage, the third-highest. The catastrophes killed over 600 Americans in 2021, the most since 2011. And in March 2022, the United States saw the record for most tornado reports.

Unfortunately, the future looks even grimmer for these three issues.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction determined that by 2030, there will be 560 disasters a year. For comparison, there were 400 in 2015. In addition, the report concluded that the world would see 30% more droughts and three times more heatwaves.

And the coral? At the current rate, we will lose up to 90% of coral by 2050 and all coral by 2100.

Sad to think that we would lose a significant food and income source. Half a billion people and one fourth of marine animals rely on coral for a living.

Climate change should not be a partisan issue. Quite frankly, the debate should be focused on the consequences, not whether the phenomenon exists or not. How bad? Depending on what actions we take.

Luckily, we do not have to wait for governments to take action. Ordinary people can take steps too.

Efforts like reducing plastic, biking and walking more, or even composting seem small but make a tremendous difference.

I interviewed several students and teachers to find what actions they would commit to taking for a greener world. View the slideshow below to see what steps they committed to taking for Earth Day.

Go to Evan’s full article to read the interviews and view the slideshow .

Evan Michaeli is a sophomore at Brimmer and May School, where he is a member of the school’s environmental club. He is also a member of Newton’s Plastics Reduction Working Group.