Human-Caused Climate Change Gets Personal

Activists wanting to solve the crisis of human-caused climate change face a serious dilemma.  The threat appears neither close enough to get our sustained attention, nor distant enough to postpone doing something about it now. There’s a corollary problem: it’s too big a situation for my behavior to impact, but it is too critical to ignore.

So while I can drive an electric car, I can’t do much about the Porter Ranch gas leak. Environmentalists say it may be the biggest human-made greenhouse-gas disaster that ever occurred in this country, while local utility companies warn if the gas storage facility remains shut down, customers may face power outages this summer. In another instance, I can recycle cardboard, even cut the number of items I purchase that need to be shipped, but I can do nothing about the glut of the stuff clogging landfills. I can even install rooftop solar panels, but I cannot stop the estimated 700 million air conditioners expected to be installed in the next 14 years across the planet.


However, in other parts of the world, climate effects feel much more personal. The civil war in Syria that has devastated so many lives has been linked to a devastating drought caused by climate change. The massive dislocation it has caused now unsettles much of Europe. In the Solomon Islands, the tiny archipelago in the South Pacific rapidly going underwater, people evacuating feel the upheavals directly. Climate change in the form of rising seas also forced an American Indian tribe on the Louisiana coast to leave their ancestral home. For the 185 environmental activists killed last year, an increase of 60 per cent according to Global Witness, the issue was very personal indeed.

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