Earth Matters: Take a step to save the planet

The Island Now

Every week this column is published. In it, we explain activities and behaviors threatening our earth and our climate.

We provide less damaging alternatives and suggest ways to advocate for solutions and beneficial actions. We are part of a chorus of voices urging individuals to recognize and acknowledge that humanity is on a collision course with environmental Armageddon. And this doomsday is not in the distant future but within many of our lifetimes and certainly our in children’s lifetimes.

Recently the United Nations released its annual emissions gap report. This report explains the gap between where emissions are headed and where they need to be to avoid the worst climate change impacts (resulting from a greater than 1.5 ⁰C/2.7 ⁰F global temperature increase).

According to the report and the conclusions of many other climate science organizations, it is no longer enough to halve our emissions by 2030 to meet the temperature targets of the Paris climate agreement. Because we have delayed taking action to cut our emissions, and have instead increased our emissions, we now have to make greater cuts in our emissions to hold the global temperature increase to 1.5 ⁰C/2.7 ⁰F.

According to this most recent UN analysis, countries need to increase their Nationally Determined Contributions reduction goals fivefold to keep the global temperature increase to 1.5 ⁰C/2.7 ⁰F.

So why are people still buying cases of plastic water bottles? Why do people still sit in idling cars? Why did the President file paperwork to remove the United States from the Paris climate agreement despite the U.S. being the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the only country to back out of this historic global emissions reduction agreement?

How bad do climate conditions need to get for individuals to respond and seek solutions in their daily choices, voting decisions, and purchasing? More flooding from increased precipitation? That’s already happening. Longer, hotter summers with longer periods of drought? That’s already happening. Sea level rise destroying homes and businesses? That’s already happening. More numerous insect outbreaks? That’s already happening.

This is happening here in the United States, in New York, on Long Island. It is happening now and will impact us and our children.

Does it matter if you use reusable bags at the grocery store and say no thank you to plastic straws? Maybe that singular action will not be what saves us from the next Hurricane Sandy, but that singular action accomplishes some very important things. It raises your awareness of climate change and environmental protection. It sets an example for your children, family and associates.

Hopefully, it means you talk to friends, neighbors and others about climate change and the need to address global greenhouse gas emissions and other human-caused environmental degradation and destruction. Now you and all the people you have spoken to may take that knowledge and apply it when making purchasing decisions and election decisions. Those decisions will have a notable impact on addressing global climate change.

Imagine if you and your friends all stopped buying individual portion-sized yogurts that come in non-recyclable plastic containers. Would that be enough to get the company to take notice and convert to a compostable container? What if similar-sized groups of people around the country did the same thing?

That would be enough to change corporate behavior.

Now consider if you and your friends all called Senator Anna Kaplan’s office at (516) 746-5924 and expressed dissatisfaction with her support of a new natural gas pipeline to be built under NY Harbor instead of investing in renewable energy options now.

If individuals around her district called with that message, she certainly will rethink her position. If people around the country called their state legislators with similar messages, state environmental policies would change and in turn federal policies would change.

Sometimes it is more difficult to make them more environmentally-friendly choice. Life shouldn’t be about easy choices though. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, our children to do better.

So, stop buying water in plastic bottles. Take an extra few second to fill a reusable water bottle. Don’t sit in your car with the engine idling just so you can keep the heat on or the radio on.

Take an extra few seconds to put on a hat, a scarf or an extra layer and enjoy a few moments of driveway quiet to think. More importantly, talk to your friends, acquaintances and associates about climate change and environmental protection.

Learn tips and tricks from others about how to make changes in your life that aren’t too disruptive or difficult. Leverage your knowledge when making purchasing decisions and when voting. If you do, we can keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 ⁰C/2.7 ⁰F and you will have done your part.

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