12 years to change

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial -

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.

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