There are certain things out there that are just really, really overdone. We all know what these things are. It could be the Jewelry liquidation ad that has been playing on the car radio for the past eight months. Maybe it’s the internet reminding you, in highly contradictory scenarios, that you only live once. Or the third helping of your aunt’s mediocre carrot muffins that she sends over every two weeks.
What about global warming? What about rising sea levels and exponential drops in biodiversity and unhealthy accumulation of greenhouse gases? Please, you say, not this again. Well, that is what happens with news. No matter how urgent, self-evident, or pervasively relevant, tell the same story enough times and eventually nobody wants to hear it anymore. Theories spring up claiming that climate change is nothing more than an elaborate scam. We come up with all kinds of methods to shield ourselves against doomsday prophecies so that we can continue with our lives. So when we hear news such as climate related disasters have increased by 80% in the past fifty years, or that this year has been the hottest year in earth’s history, and that July was the hottest month ever recorded, no one even looks up. But if a Nobel scientist makes some antagonizing statements about women in the work place, feminists spring up from all corners of the internet and raging chaos immediately ensues. We have taken the modern world’s most intricate and challenging problem and brought it down to the size of a mediocre carrot muffin.
The problem is not primarily that we look upon climate change with a jaded exhaustion. The alarm has been blaring for so long our ears are bound to start ringing eventually. The problem began when we started dressing up the issue in completely the wrong way. For the most part, environmental issues have been portrayed by the media as a matter of science. All the foreboding data and facts are brought forth by scientists and research organizations. The physical mechanisms behind how human activity affects the planet’s natural workings are outlined. Naturally, we expect the solution to this issue to come from some sophisticated technological breakthrough, and the ultimate responsibility to rest in the hands of the scientist.
We barely just managed to overcome the barrier to acknowledging that climate change is about the fate of human beings, and not loggerhead turtles. But the full force with which we are to address this challenge cannot be unlocked until we recognize that climate change is not a matter of science. Climate change is, and always has been, a human rights issue. More explicitly, it is a global challenge with direct and permanent implications on development and equality.
Climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable populations. On the level of individuals, the very people for whom we have been fighting for in the name of philanthropy and equal opportunity: low-income workers, the disabled, single mothers, will be those who have the hardest time recovering from losses caused by natural catastrophe because of their inherent lack of resources and stability. Take a step back and it becomes clear that disadvantaged communities do not have nearly the adequate level of infrastructure to tolerate floods, droughts, and hurricanes. And finally, on a global stage, we can see that it is always agricultural, food producing nations, those that are struggling vehemently to catch up with the rest of the world’s living standards, that are always struck and knock down the hardest by the physical consequences of an unstable, deteriorating planet.
Climate change is not a matter of science, because the only way to address an obstacle as immense as climate change is by initiating social change. What many do not recognize is that although scientists seek knowledge and create solutions, scientists do not make change. People make change. And as history has repeatedly demonstrated, we do not tire of fighting for something if we know without a doubt that it is about human rights. We need to start rallying for this issue the same way we rally for gender equality, marriage equality, and every other type of equality that matters to us. Because climate change is not a mediocre blueberry muffin. It is about living equality, and there has never been an issue that is more globally and directly about people.
Our current emission levels indicate we are headed towards a global temperature increase of 5 degrees C. The threshold temperature increase beyond which global warming is catastrophic and irreversible is 2 degrees C. The Paris Climate Change conference will be held at the end of this year in December 2015, at which freely elected world leaders convene with the simple objective of a binding, universal agreement to stay within this threshold, and consequently, literally saving the world. There is never a bad time for a civil cause to get its act together. And there is indeed nothing more overdone than the phrase “the time is now”. But for this monumental issue disguised as a muffin, the time is, precisely and objectively, right now.