| Debunking The Myth that Climate Change ‘Isn’t Your Problem’ |
One of the greatest challenges of the climate agenda is getting people to care about it.
In one of my Sustainable Development courses last year, we concluded that the most successful climate initiatives are the ones that appeal to the target population’s priorities.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say that a group of conversationalists urged someone to stop eating red meat by explaining that the meat production industry contributes to climate emissions and excess waste. For anyone uninterested in sustainability, those words probably won’t mean anything and that whole heartfelt spiel about saving the planet will more than likely go through one ear and out the other. On the flip side, however, if a doctor explained to that same person that eating red meat leads to an increased risk of heart disease, they may be much more inclined to remove red meat from their diet.
Different approach. Same result.
That’s because, believe it or not, humans are wired to care about things. We care about our wellbeing, our loved ones, our hobbies, and pretty much anything else that piques our interests. So why don’t we care about the planet?
The short (and frank) answer: because we don’t see the need to.
When it comes to climate change, especially if you don’t live somewhere where the consequences are visible, it’s easy for people to sit back and pretend like nothing’s happening, for them to relax and label the “green movement” as someone else’s problem that won’t ever affect them.
And this couldn’t be further from the truth.
What many fail to realize is that the consequences of climate change extend far beyond the stereotypical rising temperatures, environmental degradation, and harm to ecosystems. Beyond impacts to the environment, there are also very serious social implications that stem from climate change and adversely affect people around the world.
So, even if you don’t really care about the environment, here are five ways that climate change can impact your life that will (hopefully) turn some of the most apathetic of global citizens into potential climate allies.
An increase in the frequency and strength of natural disasters is a textbook consequence of our changing climate. For those who live on small island developing states (SIDS) like The Bahamas, we have noticed first hand the destruction that Category 5 hurricanes like Matthew and Dorian can cause, especially when they occur back-to-back. Thus, as climate change becomes an increasing problem, nations that are vulnerable to disasters will not only experience the economic repercussions (as Grand Bahama has seen through the stagnancy of the tourism industry and businesses that have not recovered), but also property loss and casualties.
Refugees and Displacement
Continuing with island nations, coastal communities are extremely susceptible to population displacement. As sea levels rise, many people will be forced to evacuate their homes and certain nations, like The Maldives, are already experiencing a crisis wherein the entire country may become uninhabitable in the next 30 years. Rising sea levels, however, are not the only potential cause for displacement. Climate impacts such as heat waves, drought, and water/food scarcity are all reasons why people in many places around the world have been forcefully displaced.
Health and Disease
One of the climate impacts that is often neglected in the climate conversation is human health. As temperatures rise, there is an increased risk of heat stroke, especially for vulnerable populations who have pre-existing health conditions or lack economic access to air conditioning. Further, health impacts like asthma attacks and respiratory diseases are common health consequences that arise from air pollution and hazards like sandstorms. Warmer global climates also lead to an increased prevalence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever as mosquitoes thrive in hotter climates.
Erratic precipitation, or a lack of rainfall altogether, can negatively impact the agricultural industry. This is a detrimental consequence not only for small farmers who utilize farming for subsistence or to accumulate revenue, but it also impacts the food industry at large. As the nation’s biggest food providers experience decreased crop yields, many people across the globe will suffer, leading to a potential displacement crisis or large scale famine.
The Global Economy
In addition to the economic impacts illustrated in the agricultural industry, other areas such as fisheries, energy, insurance, tourism, and small businesses (and many more!) can also be sensitive to the market shifts that occur due to changes in climate. As a result, this disturbs the livelihoods of people who rely on these industries as a source of income and decreases their quality of life.
As environmentalists, we have to be realistic with ourselves and understand that not everyone is going to feel the same tug at their heartstrings about loss of biodiversity and dying ecosystems that we do.
And that’s okay.
Contrary to what people might tell you, there are no “right or wrong” motivations for caring about climate change. Whether you care about saving marine environments or whether you care about preventing your family from starvation, the reality of the matter is that your actions can still make a difference. The main point is to recognize that climate change is just as much your problem as it is anyone else’s and that means that you have a stake in helping to find the solution.