Before It’s Too Late, Are We Going to Do Anything About Climate Change?


Storm clouds on the horizon.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) issued on Monday October 8, 2018 its most recent, and alarming report on the predicted effects of climate change.   The panel’s conclusions are stark; its recommendations for corrective action are urgent.  In summary, the IPCC report—which is a scream for help, a siren call, and a fire alarm all rolled into one–says that the people of Earth have just 12 years (repeat: 12 years) to reduce carbon emission enough to keep the globe’s temperature from rising more and 1.5C, a temperature increase that would lead to catastrophic environmental breakdown.

The reports authors said that  “ urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.

Given the seriousness of the situation and the need for immediate action, the questions are: will the world’s leaders acknowledge the need; do they have he political will to take action; and are they able to take the necessary steps to save the Earth,  Even if the answers to all three questions are yes—a somewhat doubtful assumption—it is still, and ultimately, up to each of us as citizens of the world, and as restoration ecologists, to do what we as individuals have control over.

Collective Action

Staying at, or below, a 1.5C temperature increase means zero fossil fuels (  But, until society stops using coal, and oil, there are things each of us can do to help reduce the effects of climate change. Here are some simple, common sense actions that each of us can take, as we go about our daily lives, that will reduce carbon emissions.

If everyone pitches in to change their behavior in ways that reduce carbon emissions, this large collective action might just keep the global temperature rise at 1.5C.  As Bill McKibbon of argues, through collective, action groups of citizens can urge leaders to adopt such practices as city-wide renewal energy programs and shifts away from fossil fuels.

 Eat less meat—especially beef

Or eat none at all, and that includes dairy. Avoiding or reducing your use of meat and dairy is the single most effective way to reduce your impact on the planet, this according to a new report.


“The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.”   By some estimates, beef and dairy production accounts for nearly 15% of global carbon emissions.

The global consumption of farm commodities, such as soy beans and beef, accounted for nearly one fourth (25%) of global deforestation between 2001 and 2015, according to a story in the New York Times (10.18.18)

Insulate Homes

Better insulated homes and offices use less energy, and thus produce fewer carbon emissions.

Install Solar Panels

Alternative energy sources are the big hope for staying below 1.5C temperature, for the same reasons that we insulate homes and office buildings: lower energy consumption and fewer carbon emissions.

Walk or Take the Bus

When you need to move around, avoid or reduce your use of automobiles.  Instead of driving, walk, use a bicycle, or take public transit to your destination. If you must have a car, get a hybrid, or, better yet, an electrical vehicle.  If you have a gas-powered car, for goodness sake, do not put ethanol-based fuels in the tank.  Instead use ethanol-free gas. Ethanol is reputed to be environmentally-friendly but the truth is far from it.  Ethanol-based gas gets fewer miles per gallon and produces more pollutants than gasoline without ethanol.  Gas without added ethanol costs more but has less impact on the atmosphere because it gets better gas mileage, and produces fewer pollutants.

Ethanol, in addition to its impacts on air quality and its contribution to climate change,  has negative impacts on land use.  Ethanol comes from corn grown in the US Midwest (Iowa, for example).  Corn production requires gasoline,  meaning that gas is used to produce gas.  ( There is something fundamentally wrong and crazy about that practice.) The land given over to increased agricultural production, so more corn can be grown to produce ethanol, also has negative impacts: fallow land is plowed up, releasing stored carbon, not to mention the loss of native habitats and natural areas.

Challenges and Opportunities

The land given over to agriculture (or taken out of production to reduce impacts on the climate) can provide both opportunities or challenges for ecological restoration.  Next Time:  What are the future opportunities and challenges for restoration in the age of climate change.


About Steve Glass

The blogger is a restoration ecologist, Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (#0093 SER) and writer living in the Midwestern United States.
This entry was posted in climate change, IPPC, Restoration ecology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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