What is climate change and what does it mean for you?

Fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods… they’re not new, but they have become bigger, more frequent and more deadly over the last decade, and there’s one scientific reason for it: Climate Change. In the next 10 years, there won’t be anyone on Earth who hasn’t been touched by the impacts of climate change.

So what is climate change and how did we get to this point?

Climate change is caused by the rise in average surface temperature on Earth due to human activity: most importantly, burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests, and animal agriculture.

The burning of fossil fuels — like coal, oil, and gas — releases greenhouse gases into the air. It’s like wrapping the planet in a blanket of warm air, and it’s been rapidly warming up the surface of the Earth for just under 200 years. Now, in order to avert the worst consequences of climate chaos, we have less than 10 years to cut global emissions in half.

That’s a massive shift in energy that can’t be achieved overnight. That’s why the work to reduce fossil energy use has to start right now. The longer we wait, the harder it is to achieve — like slamming on the breaks at 80 mph before slamming into a brick wall — every second of delay increases the chances of disaster.

Climate change isn’t just warmer weather.

Polar Bear hovers over a shoreline
Climate Change is driving Polar Bears and thousands of other species toward extinction.

The impact of climate change is more than just hotter days, but while we’re on the topic of warmer weather, extreme heat has become increasingly common. 2010 to 2020 was the hottest decade on record with heat waves hitting more regions around the world and sparking fires more often and more easily.

Heatwaves do more than just make you uncomfortably sweaty, they have major impacts on human health, crops, plants, animals, and the planet. More heat means more droughts, and more hot, dry conditions mean wildfires are primed to start and wreak havoc on communities and nature. And hotter ocean temperatures mean stronger hurricanes and sea level rise impacting entire coastal communities.

From the Amazon Rainforest to the Arctic, climate change is leading to fires in places that should never experience them: and the consequences have been devastating. In Australia, massive fires nearly caused the functional extinction of koalas and decimated communities and homes.

This global climate crisis is a human rights crisis.

Tens of millions of people around the world are already facing impacts from drought, storms, and rising sea levels.

People are killed, displaced from their homes, threatened by extreme weather, and plagued by the increasing health risks of pollution. Between sea levels rising and drought-stricken areas, millions of people could soon be forced to leave their homes due to a lack of food, water and resources. In the first half of 2019, seven million people were displaced because of extreme weather around the world — and the predictions are far more dire over the coming decade.

But we can’t forget how we got into this mess in the first place. Fossil fuel projects like pipelines and refineries are disproportionately developed in Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. These projects also violate fundamental human rights, by polluting the air, contaminating drinking water supplies and destroying the livelihoods that support communities. And many pipeline projects are being built on Indigenous lands without consent, violating treaty rights and ancestral land.

From frontline and fenceline communities facing a fossil fuel pipeline threatening their water to Indigenous people facing fires in the Amazon to worker rights violations on palm oil plantations, the industries fueling climate change are also fueling injustice.

Climate change impacts rainforests, and it matters to everyone on the planet.

Our threatened climate, forests and communities face a common culprit: for the short term profit of a few corporations, forests are being destroyed at the expense of all else. The world’s rainforests are habitat to countless animal species and an abundance of plants –– varieties that we are still discovering to this day. For millions of local and Indigenous people, forests are their homes, hunting grounds, and ceremonial lands.

Whether you have a rainforest in your backyard or the nearest one is half a world away, we all depend on forests. But the warming climate, combined with clearing for profit, is threatening the survival of the lush forests that protect the world from further climate damage.

In the face of a growing climate and ecological crisis, forests have never been more critical to our collective survival. And right now, forests are facing intense challenges, including wildfires, storms, insect outbreaks, and more invasive species due to the effects of the climate crisis.

We must keep forests intact and standing. We must uphold the rights of frontline and Indigenous communities as they face the most immediate harm. We must draw a line in the sand: not another forest cleared for profit, for people and planet.

There are solutions for Climate Change.

To stop climate destruction in its tracks, we need to:

The climate crisis is a global crisis and there’s a lot at stake, but we can solve it if we demand change.

If corporate greed is the problem, people power is our best solution. Corporate profits are at the center of climate and rainforest destruction and human rights violations. By challenging corporate power, we can demand that banks stop backing dirty fossil fuel projects. The climate crisis is here right now. It’s not a future problem we can wait to solve. We must take action now — too many lives depend on it.