12 Ways to Fight Inaction on Climate Change

Photo: Kathy Servian/Unsplash

Photo: Kathy Servian/Unsplash

It’s almost certainly too late to save the Monarch butterfly, a powerful symbol of nature’s fragility and endurance (97% of its population is in decline). But as we look ahead, we have to ask how we, as individuals, can help alter the destructive path we are on and save countless other species to make a difference to the future of life on Earth? The answer lies in joining with others to act.  

An estimated 1.8 million students filled the streets of 1,600 towns and cities in 125 countries this past Friday to demand action on climate change and the growing threats to humans and animals on the planet.  Participants in the School Strike 4 Climate are alarmed by the dimming prospects for their future and are showing us the power of a collective voice of hundreds of thousands of individuals. 

But as individuals, many of us are still struggling with how we can make the difference to stave off climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, and we often encounter those who may show concern but who can marshall lots of reasons not to change. Yet, we have an opportunity to bring others along in their thinking and become part of a collective to meet the challenge. 

Vox.com has come up with a compelling list of arguments to counter many of the common excuses for inaction. Checkout “12 Excuses for Climate Inaction and How to Refute Them” https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/5/17/18626825/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-greta-thunberg-climate-change 

Let’s sample some of the arguments: 

1. Isn’t it alarmist to talk about the possible extinction of the human species?  

The evidence is overwhelming that our climate has become dangerously unstable.  UN reports on Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss, the US Government’s Climate Assessment Report have all raised the alarm but are not alarmist. Instead, they are science-based predictions of our future if we do not act.  

Vox.com says, “the status quo is an escalating burden of suffering for billions of humans yet unborn and not only distant descendants, today’s young people will grow up in a climate altered by your choices right now.” Just ask the climate strikers. 

2. I’m just one person in a world of more than 7 billion people.  Do my choices even matter? 

Every individual makes a difference everyday through their choices e.g., what to eat, how to travel or what to buy. And these choices represent opportunities to lighten the load we put on the planet’s resources. And while you can argue one individual will not have much impact, the collective voices and choices of millions will.  

Vox.com says that this question is a misunderstanding of how math works.  “Each optional flight, constant air conditioning or daily portion of meat can arithmetically add up to make a difference.”

Another useful perspective from Canadian climate scientists is that while emission cuts need to be global, “cuts anywhere have an impact on climate everywhere.” 

3. Isn’t it already too late? 

No, there is still time to take action to slow down climate heating and biodiversity loss but it requires collective action and transformative change to how we live on this planet.  Vox.com says that irreversible changes to the biosphere are already under way so every fraction of a degree of additional heating matters.   “Every iota of GHGs we choose to put into the atmosphere adds to the legacy of burdens on future humans and other species.”  

4. Decarbonization will cost too much and hurt the global economy. 

There is a huge opportunity in the transition to a low carbon economy if we invest in green solutions and support the transition of those affected by the changes. 

Vox.com draws on the example of the challenge faced in WWII and the mobilization and scale of change required to defeat a common enemy. And it cites a recent call to arms by 34 central bankers, challenging the financial sector to support the transition to a low carbon economy and to act to avoid the sudden collapse of asset prices.  “The only lasting cultures are those that do not eat their seed corn.” 

These arguments will help you convince others that there is hope, and collectively we can change the future to help sustain life on our planet. The reality is, everything is the result of the cumulative effect of the actions of individuals. That’s what got us here and this is our pathway out.

The remaining responses refuted in the article:

How do I deal with the fact that this situation is so depressing?

Isn’t it impossible to get off fossil fuels? 

Why should I deprive myself of meat and air travel?

Isn’t it mainly a rich and powerful people’s problem? 

What is the one easy thing I can do?

We need new climate change legislation but our political systems are broken.

This isn’t a zero-sum game, my consumption doesn’t limit your consumption, can’t this be a win-win?

Won’t technology deliver us from this problem?

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