Pollution kills more people than disease in the developing world, killing more than 8.4 million people a year.[i] Climate change especially impacts the poor, as it will slow economic growth, diminish food production, and create new poverty particularly in urban areas, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.[ii] In Ethiopia, Yohannes, a boy, 15, reports they face “an environmental hazard problem because it is very dirty and toxic. Also there is a shortage of electricity and water.” The US Department of Defense Army Modernization Strategy predicted that competition for depleted natural resources will lead to an “era of persistent conflict” and resource wars over water, food and energy.[iii] To solve climate change, inequality must be tackled, according to Kate Raworth, author of Donut Economics.[iv]Examples of projects that followed the People’s Climate March are discussed in an article in Yes! Magazine.[v]
The over one billion people who live in abject poverty consume very little living on less than $1.25 a day,[vi] (the poverty line in the US is $63 a day for a family of four). Estimates are the number of people with a daily income of $10 a day or more will grow by two billion in 2025—mostly in the global South, a projected $26 trillion increase in annual consumption from 2010 to 2025.[vii] This means more consumption of resources and more pollution. People in wealthy nations waste resources and emit gases into the atmosphere that produce global warming that harms all the planet’s inhabitants. The US generates 590,000,000,000 pounds of waste each year and less than 20% is recycled (recycling solutions are included in Christina Sarich’s article).[viii] Eliminating food waste would feed 1 billion people a year as the US wastes 31% of the food supply. Most of the e-waste goes to China: China, the US, and India are the top polluters. Ninety corporations and states are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all carbon emissions since 1751, and two-thirds were produced in the last 25 years since warnings about the danger of global warming.[ix] A spokesperson for indigenous youth organized by the UN, Andrea Landry of the Anishinaabe tribe of Canada, contrasted her traditional with modern attitudes; “We’re in a relationship with the land; it’s a living thing. It’s not a matter of take, take, take. We give to the land and the land gives to us.”[x]
China emits over a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas: A video illustrating China’s pollution is cited in the previous endnote.[xi] Yuan, SpeakOut correspondent in China, reported, “Beijing’s appalling air pollution is killing me. You warned me. But this goes way beyond my imagination. I still can’t believe they just don’t do anything to their capital’s environment! The air pollution index has been beyond the measuring of the AQI chart!!!” It’s not just Beijing; the China Daily reported that most of China’s major cities are “barely suitable for living.” We may think of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) as able to snap its fingers and get action, but Hebei province, for example, has lower standards than Beijing. Winds blow pollution from the neighboring province’s coal-fired power plants, factories and cars into Beijing. The government announced a plan in 2013 to invest $16 billion over three years to reduce the capital’s pollution. Only three of 74 Chinese cities monitored by the government met minimum standards for air quality in 2013. For the first time, in 2014 the government announced it will reduce emissions by 2030 or earlier by expanding renewable energy to around 20%.
Scientists report that devastating climate change will follow from anything above a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature, but some think even two degrees will lead to “intergenerational injustice.”[xii] We’re already suffering from changing rainfall patterns, drought, more frequent heat waves and wildfires, and ocean rise. A UN report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a sobering report in 2014, mirroring a report by the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[xiii] The UN climate change meeting in Puru to prepare for the 2015 Paris conference (the 20th conference) agreed to phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with lesser reductions by 2020. However, the Saudi representative in Lima said he didn’t this goal is realistic when two billion people don’t yet have access to energy.
Climate change deniers don’t have a scientific leg to stand on, but a 2013 poll found that one-third of Americans believed that scientists weren’t in agreement about the danger of global warming. The US military recognized problems associated with climate weirdness, as spelled out in a 2014 report.[xiv] A lack of solutions is not the issue, as with all environmental problems, it’s the lack of willingness to replace the coal and high-sulfur fuel used in China and other countries. To prevent this disaster, at least half of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned. Three countries address action for climate change in their constitutions: Tunisia, Ecuador and Dominican Republic, and over 90 countries include the right to live in a healthy environment in their constitutions.[xv] Global warming and carbon emissions are already wrecking havoc, but the costs of emission controls are small if done soon, as a Chamber of Commerce report verifies.[xvi] Despite the fact that global emissions continue to increase (up 2.1% in 2013), resistance to change is great, fed by right-wing anti-intellectualism in the US. In 2014, they pressed the House of Representatives to instruct the military not to study how to cope with climate change. Not being able to get action from Congress, President Obama announced an almost $1 billion initiative for communities to develop infrastructure to cope with the effects of climate change. He urged youth, the generation hurt by inaction, to speak up.
Superstorm Sandy in 2012 increased awareness of climate change in the US. An AP-GfK poll of adults held after the storm reported that only 22% think little or nothing should be done by the government to prevent global warming, a 3% decline from a 2009 survey. With extreme weather patterns like hurricanes and high temperatures, the numbers of Americans who see global warming as a serious problem has increased from 46% in 2009 to 68% in 2012, so the number of concerned young environmentalists will probably increase as well.[i]
The bottom line is that all living beings’ future depends on the environment. Climate change especially hurts low-income countries by reducing crop production, increasing drought or floods, and raising sea levels. In an increasingly connected world, ozone created in China reaches the west coast of the US. Bill McKibben (one of the most influential US environmentalists) reports that global warming is here now, that warming will increase by at least five degrees this century making it an inhospitable planet. He said the world will need to cut fossil fuel use by 70% to stop the increase.[ii] We’re losing the fight because of the money spent by the fossil fuel industry, so he backs divestment by universities (i.e., University of Hawaii), companies (Axa in France), churches (Church of England), and countries (Norway). Although the statistics are gloomy, he’s encouraged by global activism, especially the defeat of the XL Pipeline in 2015.
The 2015 Paris conference committed to 1.5 Celsius, although temperatures are already up by 1 degree and 90% of the world’s fossil fuels would need to be left in the ground. Developed countries pledged to raise $100 billion to invest in green energy in developing countries, but without specifics and a small amount compared to the US $600 billion military budget.[iii] A report released in 2016 by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and 350.org listed dangerous fossil fuel expansions underway in Australia, Canada, China, the US, Russia, and Africa that will push the climate past the danger zone.[iv] In 2015 Citibank predicted it will cost $44 trillion to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change by 2060.
Some US states commission climate change studies in order to prepare for the future, but Republican state legislators prohibit the use of words that associate climate change with humans, as in Nebraska, or the use of “sea level rise” and “climate change.” A Virginia lawmaker labels these phrases as liberal propaganda. Some members of Congress say climate change is a hoax.[v] Congress voted to remove Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut emissions from coal plants while President was advocating action in the Paris climate change Congress in November 2015. In 2014, US Senators including Barbara Boxer formed a think tank to counter climate change denial propaganda (as seen in video clips of Congressional deniers[vi]), hoping to be able to pass legislation to tax carbon emissions. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, based on the Clean Air Act, required states to reduce carbon emission 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. However, 27 states sued to stop Obama’s “war on coal.”
Alarmingly for the future of the planet, many youth are unaware of the consequences of climate weirdness and about 40% of the US public believes warming is natural. Although 200 nations agreed that warming shouldn’t increase past 2 degrees, global emissions are increasing with devastating consequences. A survey looking at 11,000 years of climate readings found a dramatic U-turn of rising temperatures.[vii] The Arctic is melting even though the planet is just 0.8 degrees Celsius warmer than it was before industrialization, impacting coastal areas and acidification of the oceans.[viii] Melting the artic ice sheets releases huge amounts of methane, which is worse than carbon dioxide.
Greenhouse gas emissions increased 2.3% in 2013, mainly because of large increases in China and India, according to the Global Carbon Project. A World Bank report states that we’re headed toward a four degrees centigrade warmer world by the end of the century with no certainty that humans can adapt to extreme heat waves, loss of agricultural land, and sea-level rise that will jeopardize major cities.[ix] Low-income people are most harmed by climate change; a group of journalists documents the impact of climate change on poor girls and women.[x] The UN’s Green Climate Fund assists poor countries as they switch to lower-carbon energy sources. The International Energy Agency predicts that six degrees Celsius is more likely and that dangerous warming will be locked in by 2017 if change isn’t implemented.
At the UN climate conference of 2015 every major country made a comment to cut emissions but not enough to prevent continued heating of the atmosphere to 6.3 Fahrenheit.[xi] The commitments would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3% below the present 8% rise by 2030. Emissions currently average five metric tons per person annually—17 tons in the US and six tons in China. To save the planet, this would need to fall to one ton similar to emissions from Haiti and Yemen. Around the same time as the Paris conference, the House of Representatives voted to keep the EPA from considering the costs of climate change.[xii]
In Naomi Klein’s analysis, “our economic system and our planetary system are now at war” on a dying planet. She explained that deregulated and privatized capitalism prevents lowering emissions in a world controlled by “an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.” Her blog “The Leap” provides updates on climate change issues and activism.[xiii] Klein called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies (worth $5.3 trillion in 2015 and more than all governments spend on health care combined, according to the IMF), taxes on financial transactions and increased royalties on fossil fuel extraction and a progressive carbon tax. Global economic “degrowth” is required to rescue the planet as 80% of fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground.
The German program Energiewene provides a green model by converting almost 30% of their electricity from solar and wind in about 15 years.[xiv] More than 1.7 million households and cooperatives generate their own electricity The leading solar producers in 2014 were Germany, China, Japan, Italy, US, France, Spain, UK, Australia and Belgium. The International Living Future Institute “offers green building and infrastructure solutions that move across scales (from single room renovations to neighborhoods or whole cities.)”[xv] Globally 1.3 billion people don’t have electricity and can benefit from solar energy. NGOS like Empowered by Light provides solar energy in developing countries helping students study at night and even help prevent rape of young women in dormitories.[xvi] About a quarter of the people without electricity live in India and millions more can access it for only a few idea a day, using unhealthy but cheap kerosene lamps that make it hard for students to study at night. Prime Minister Modi raised funding for solar technology, but also increased the number of polluting coal plants. Corporations like Selco India sell small solar units to homes.
Some progress is occurring with reducing funding for coal-burning plants, capping limits on carbon emissions or taxing them, lobbying for ending government subsidies for oil companies, and stopping the use of CFCs (fluorocarbons with chlorine).[xvii] The Gates Foundation invited investors to join the Breakthrough Energy coalition to invest in carbon-free energy, joined by researchers at the University of California. Huge government subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel corporations should be shifted to renewable energy companies, as IMF Director Christine Lagarde recommends. Norway is a model in encouraging the use of electric cars and the market for them is growing in China. Activist in the US Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, US activist Gopal Dayaneni believes that systems change is the umbrella goal that unites and unifies the climate movement, the global justice movement, and the antiwar movement in their focus on grassroots movements.[xviii] He’s active in the Our Power campaign to organize in communities such as the Navajo Black Mesa Water Coalition.
Others say the emphasis on reducing carbon emissions detracts from Vandana Shiva’s “regenerative agriculture” approach that captures carbon dioxide into properly farmed soil and forests, the largest “sink for CO2.”[xix] Land misuse accounts for about 30% of carbon emissions. The factory agricultural and livestock system is second only to energy consumption in creating greenhouse gases. About 150 ppm (parts per million) of harmful CO2 must be removed from the atmosphere through regenerative land use—Bob Willard lists a 12-step program for how to end fossil fuel dependency.[xx] Iowa provides an example of how to manage organic farming and transform degraded soil.[xxi] Because of the US blockade, Cuba developed perhaps the best model of sustainable agriculture, including state-supported urban farming. Regeneration International calls for a Regeneration Revolution and the World Resources Institute provides research about how to sustain natural resources, keeping in mind the human population will jump to 9.6 billion by 2050.[xxii]
Canadian Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014) is the new handbook of the climate movement. Her book was followed by a 2015 documentary with the same title. She advocates that acting on climate change is “our best chance to demand and build a better world,” thereby saying no to powerful corporations in a conflict between “capitalism versus the climate.” Climate provides the “big tent” to build a movement of movements. She advocated adopting the German model of encouraging decentralized local energy generators and predicted that change will occur because of leadership from below, as it did with the abolition movement in the 19th century.
Klein’s book predicted riots will occur to protest water shortages in an inevitable water revolt. The World Economic Forum included water crisis along with climate change and mass migration as the biggest problems facing people. Climate News Network reported that more than 40% of the world’s large cities supplied by surface water might experience drought and shortages by 2040.[xxiii] A Dutch university study reported that four billion people across the planet suffer water scarcity during at least one month during the year while half a billion struggle with it during the year.[xxiv] Globally, 663 million people lack clean drinking water and multinational corporations such as Nestle and investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are buying up water rights, privatizing water especially in developing nations. More than 180 communities remunicipalized their water. In the last 15 years.[xxv] The UN estimates that six to eight million people die annually from water-caused diseases, most of them under age five. President Mikhail Gorbachev, the last head of the USSR, pointed out that UN agencies forecast that by 2025, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will face scarcity of fresh water, which could cause massive migration and violence.[xxvi]
Reversing privatization, hundreds of cities are taking back control of their water from corporations—over 180 cities in 35 countries, especially strong in France.[xxvii] Inexpensive nanoparticle-coated paper presented in book form is an effective filter to clean contaminated water, invented by Theresa Dankovich.[xxviii] An Austrian company called Pumpmakers invented the NSP Solar Pump in hopes it will bring clean drinking water to the nearly million people without it.[xxix] It is assembled locally from a kit. The pump can reach water as deep as 800 feet even on cloudy days. Solutions are available as in all the problem areas.
[ii] Bill McKibben, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012.
[v] Elana Schor, “Senate Dems Seek to Fill Keystone with Climate Votes,” Politico, January 13, 2015.
[vii] “Earth is Warmer Today,” National Science Foundation, March 7, 2013.
Bill McKibben, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three Simple Numbers that Add Up to Global Catastrophe,” Rolling Stone Politics, July 19, 2012.
[viii] Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, “15 Huge Ocean Conservation Victories,” Nation of Change, EcoWatch, December 27, 2015.
[ix] Naomi Klein, “One Way or Another, Everything Changes,” book excerpt from This Changes Everything, TruthDig, September 17, 2014.
[xi] Climate Interaction
[xii] Samantha Page, “House Votes to Keep EPA From Considering Costs of Climate Change, Climate Progress, September 27, 2015.
[xiv] “Energiewende: Germany’s Energy Transition,” Solarray, April 1, 2015.
[xvii] Kaye Spector,” Four Climate Policies to Celebrate This Thanksgiving,” Nation of Change, November 27, 2013.
[xviii] Laura Flanders, “The New Grassroots Heroes,” Yes! Magazine, November 14, 2014.
[xix] Ronnie Cummins, “Organic Consumers Association,” Organic Consumers Association, August 4, 2015.
“Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change,” Rodale Institute.
Vandana Shiva, “A Soil Pilgrimage,” Common Dreams, October 12, 2015.
[xx] Bob Willard, “A 12-Step Program,” November 12, 2013.
[xxi] Jeff Biggers, “Iowa’s Climate-Change Wisdom,” New York Times, November 20, 2015.
[xxii] Leah Penniman, “Four Ways Mexico’s Indigenous Farmers are Practicing the Agriculture of the Future,” Yes! Magazine, August 10, 2015.
[xxiii] Tim Radford, “Big Cities Head for Water Crisis as Populations Explode,” Climate News Network, February 21, 2015.
[xxiv] Roisin Davis, “More than Half the World’s Population faces Severe Water Scarcity,” TruthDig, February 13, 2016.
[xxv] Sam Jones, “UN: 15-Year Push Ends Extreme Poverty for a Billion People,” The Guardian, July 6, 2015.
[xxvi] Mikhail Gorbachev, “The Unity of Water,” Project Syndicate, July 7, 2014.
[xxvii] Nick Buxton, “Ebb and Flow of Privatized Water,” NationofChange, December 4, 2014.
[xxviii] Kounteya Sinha, “Page Out of Innovation: A Book that Filters Water,” The Times of India, August 18, 2015.
Environmental models exist. Feldheim, a small town in Germany, generates renewable energy with a wind turbine and solar panels, and a biogas factory converts pig manure into heat, saving on heating oil and producing fertilizer as a byproduct. Germany installed more solar power for individuals than any other country, with over half of the installations owned by individuals, cooperatives and communities. Wind and solar and other renewable energy sources supply 27% of German’s electricity production, compared to 13% in the US.[xvii] The cost is paid for by a small surcharge on electricity bills. The German word for energy transition, energiewende, is used globally. The European Union set a goal to cut greenhouse emission by 40% from 1990 levels and achieve 27% energy from renewable sources by 2030. The countries with the best environmental records are in Europe, with the exception of Costa Rica, in third place after Sweden and Norway, with Germany and Denmark in fourth and fifth place (the US is #28).[xviii]
Ghana is building the largest solar plant in Africa. Hip-hop artist Akon, who is from Senegal, promotes affordable solar energy kits for villagers that are cheaper than kerosene, as used by Kenyan women.[xix] A model Smart Home was built by the University of California, Davis, with geothermal healing, a solar system, and efficient appliances to reduce fuel and water consumption. Evergreen helps communities set up cooperative ecological programs, including school gardens and other programs for children.[xx] Among the greenist cities to study as models of green energy, farmers’ markets, and bike paths are Vancouver (British Columbia), Portland, San Francisco, New York, Curitiba (Brazil), Bogota, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Malmo, Berlin, Frieburg (Germany), Feykjavik, Singapore, Adelaide, and Cape Town.[xxi] Other solutions are collected on my wordpress site.[xxii]
We’ve had 50 years of warning about threats to the environment and failed to respond during 30 years of international climate talks. A documentary A Fierce Green Fire (2012) explores 50 years of the environmental movement. The Flame Tree Project sets out a strategy to save life on earth and various sites post recent climate change data.[xxiii] The environmental organization 350.org is viewed as one of the most influential grassroots environmental organizations. It refers to the maximum safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, currently at 400 and rising. Students at Middlebury College and McKibben are conducting a campaign to divest from fossil fuel companies, with a list of the 200 biggest fossil fuel corporations.[xxiv] “Benefit Corporations” commit to sustainable practices. Hundreds of youth organized protests against the Keystone XL pipeline; 500 acted in civil disobedience at the White House in March 2014 and others joined in regionally “to buy back our future” in an eco-revolution, as shown in a video of the San Francisco demonstration.[xxv] One teen speaker there said, “My generation has been labeled as complacent and I refuse to accept that.” They chanted “no pipeline for the 1%.
In order to solve the climate crisis, various grassroots movements need to work together: anti-GMO, anti-natural gas extraction, traditional farming activists who oppose Confined Animal Feeding Operations responsible for up to half the greenhouse gas emissions, conservationists, natural health advocates, and the climate movement. If we remain passive, farming land will turn to dust bowls in parts of the world, the oceans will rise and continue becoming more acidic destroying food sources, more species will go extinct, and extreme weather increases.[xxvi] Clearly some young people are environmental activists and some are ignorant about problems like global warming or feel helpless to change it while the planet warms and pollution and toxic waste increase. Poor countries will suffer most from climate change and rising sea levels, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (More on climate change on the book website.) What can an individual do? Vote for environmentalists, don’t invest in fossil fuel companies, recycle, compost food, use cloth instead of plastic bags, bicycle and carpool, plant a vegetable garden, insulate homes, reduce beef consumption, and boycott junk food restaurants.
[i] Stephen Leahy, “In Developing World, Pollution Kills More than Disease,” Common Dreams, June 16, 2014.
[iii] Nafeez Ahmed, “Earth Insight,” The Guardian, June 14, 2013.
[iv] Kate Raworth, Want to Solve Climate Change? Tackle Inequality.” Nation of Change, October 25, 2014.
[v] Joseph Boutilier, ‘These 8 Projects Are sustaining the Momentum of the People’s Climate March,” Yes! Magazine, October 9, 2014. http://www.nationofchange.org/2014/10/09/8-projects-sustaining-momentum-peoples-climate-march/
[vii] Nick Jepson, “The End of the Long Twentieth Century? The Rise of China and the Possibilities of a New Global Fordism,” Global-e: A Global Studies Journal, July 7, 2011.
[viii] Christina Sarich, “Garbage Land USA,” NationofChange, June 14, 2014.
[ix] Suzanne Goldenberg, “Just 90 Companies Caused Two-Thirds of Man-Made Global Warming Emmissions,” The Guardian, November 20, 2013.
[x] Marzieh Goudarzi, “Indigenous Youth Step up to Protect their Roots,” Inter Press Service, February 17, 2013.
[xii] James Hansen et al., “Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate change,’” PLOS One, December 3, 2013.
[xiii] Editorial Board, “Climate Signals Growing Louder,” New York Times, March 31, 2014.
[xiv] Department of Defense, “2014 Climate Change Adaption Roadmap,” October 2014.
[xv] Raveena Aulakh, “Tunisia Embeds Protection of Climate in New Constitution,” TheStar.com, February 1, 2014.
[xvi] Paul Krugman, “Interests, Ideology and Climate,” New York Times, June 8, 2014.
[xvii] Kiley Kroh, “Germany Sets New Record,” Climate Progress, May 14, 2014.
[xviii] Anastasia Pantsios, “Top 10 Greenest Countries in the World,” EcoWatch, October 23, 2014.
[xix] Denis Gathanju, “Kenyan Women light Up Villages with Solar Power,” Renewable Energy World.com, July 13, 2010.
[xxvi] Zack Kaldveer and Ronnie Cummins, “Food, Farms, Forests and Fracking: Connecting the Dots,” Organic Consumers Association, May 9, 2013.
Seven must-see climate action videos were collected online.[i]
[i] Stefanie Spear, “7 Must-See Climate Action Videos of 2014,” EcoWatch, December 26, 2014.