12 years to change
If you’re a parent with children who have left the nest, you know how short a period of time 12 years actually is. One minute you’re taking pictures of them heading out for their first day of kindergarten, the next there’s a cheesy picture of them from their high school graduation on a mantel or a dresser somewhere in the house.
Sure, it’s a long slog when you’re in the middle of it – packing lunches, making sure homework’s getting done, driving them to activities, exam worries – but just like that, you turn around and the time has fled.
And the older you get, the faster time goes. For years now, there have been warnings about climate change. We’ve seen rising temperatures in the ocean, changes in ocean acidity, more frequent and more intense weather events, and have heard that we have to expect more of the same if we don’t find a way to get a handle on greenhouse gas emissions.
But in a lot of ways, the impacts have not been cataclysmic yet – though it may seem that way for those who have suffered as a result. Not only that, but the results have always been talked about as being sufficiently far away that it’s hard for the public to take them seriously. There will be serious implications 50 years from now – or 100 years from now. That’s far, far away.
But now, there’s something close to a last warning about making meaningful changes to our behaviour before it’s too late.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that, in order to limit rising temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, all nations will have to co-operate in an unprecedented way to cut emissions by 45 per cent before 2030, with more reductions by 2050.
The alternatives are dire: millions of people dying in heat waves, and ocean coral reefs disappearing.
“If action is not taken, it will take the planet into an unprecedented climate future,” one of the leaders of the panel, German biologist Hans-Otto Portner, said.
Twelve years is a very short amount of time to do anything, let alone to get all of the world’s nations on board – especially when some of the biggest, like the United States, are championing an increased use of fossil fuels like coal.
Think about it: a child starting grade school now will be facing a much different world by the time they graduate.
Just let that sink in.
The clock is not only ticking, but it’s ticking through an ever-short timeframe.
One small and bitter comfort? Those who take no action now, or who choose to continue to stall what action might be taken, might at least still be alive to experience the results of their own behaviour.
They will reap what they have sown. But so will we all.