There is no doubt now that our climate is breaking down. Rising seas and extreme weather events are costing lives and putting tens of millions of people around the world at risk. And younger generations are being robbed of their future on a healthy, liveable planet. But climate change also presents an opportunity to change the way we live so we improve things for us and the planet.
The effects of climate change are everywhere. Arctic and Antarctic ice is melting, leading to rising sea levels. The frequency and strength of storms are increasing, leaving destruction in their wake. And rainfall patterns are shifting, causing devastating droughts and floods.
As our climate breaks down, billions of people are already struggling to cope and it’s the poorest who are being hit hardest. Powerful cyclones have devastated the lives of millions of people in the Philippines. Forest fires in Australia have covered cities in thick polluting smoke.
In drier, hotter conditions, wildfires rage out of control, reducing mighty forests to ash. The oceans are warming and the water is becoming more acidic, causing mass coral die-offs and the loss of breeding grounds for sea creatures. Delicate ecosystems that are home to insects, plants, and animals struggle to adapt quickly enough to the changing climate, putting one million species at risk of extinction. That means our food security, health, and quality of life are all under threat.
The state of the climate and the health of our planet’s living systems are intimately linked, and changes in one will radically affect the other.
With such a huge crisis facing the entire planet, the international response should be swift and decisive. Yet progress by world governments and organizations has been achingly slow. Many commitments to reduce carbon emissions have been set, but few are binding and targets are often missed. The world has continued to fall short of what’s needed to meet targets and has not yet prepared for the consequences of climate change. There’s still time for them to turn this around – and there are clear things we can do – but we need to take bold action now.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, that climate change is too big to solve. But we already have the answers, it’s just a question of making them happen.
Fossil fuels need to be quickly replaced with cleaner, renewable energy like wind and solar power.
We need to stop destroying forests for intensive agriculture such as cattle farming and palm oil plantations, allowing the trees to regrow and planting hundreds of millions more. And creating ocean sanctuaries will provide protected areas in which sea life can flourish away from the threats of industrial fishing, helping to restore the oceans’ natural balance.
Around the world, millions of us are taking steps to defend our climate. Indigenous Peoples are trying to keep out fossil fuel industries that want to destroy their land or put their water supply at risk from oil spills. Communities in the Pacific Islands, who are facing sea-level rise and more extreme weather, are using their strength and resilience to demand world leaders take quicker climate action. Tens of thousands of school strikers and people from all walks of life have taken to the streets demanding a solution to the climate emergency.