this article is going to answer the question: What is the efficacy of our efforts against climate change?
The environment grows into a more and more relevant topic day by day and article by article. With headlines like “Global warming is irreversible and how we have doomed ourselves,” more people have been taking environmental issues seriously. People are flocking to new lifestyles to reduce their carbon footprint and large corporations are claiming to be taking a step in the right direction, investing in renewable energy and biodegradable packaging. But are we too late? Are our current efforts futile? Or worse, are our current efforts counterproductive?
It’s very easy to succumb to the nihilistic mentality of throwing all our efforts into the bonfire that is our burning planet but I’d like to think that our current efforts are valiant and fruitful. While it will take time to rectify our past mistakes, we are on the right track and hope is around the corner.
An example of a past mistake slowly being rectified would be the excessive use of chlorofluorocarbons, also known as ‘CFCs’ which have destroyed our ozone. After countries had realized this in the 1980s, a global ban was put in place in 1987. Although progress has been slow, Britannica says, “the size of the Antarctic ozone hole had declined by half the size of the continental U.S. between 2000 and 2015” (n.d.). This is despite illegal trading slowing progress down because they are still emitting CFCs. This shows that the Earth is often hurt by our lack of knowledge, we only learn once painful wounds have been inflicted on our planet, but these wounds can be tended to.
However, I must admit that environmental damage is also caused by greedy megacorporations run by billionaires able to slip past being held accountable for their borderline crimes because of the massive power imbalance. USA Today claimed, “In 2018, Amazon emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — greater than the carbon footprint of Switzerland” (2020) ironically contradicting their claims of trying to be more eco-conscious. Because of this, everyday citizens are trying to be everyday heroes taking it on themselves to heal the planet by boycotting companies like Amazon and taking up sustainable lifestyles like zero waste to lessen their carbon footprint and keep landfills from piling up, living out the copious amount of songs telling us to heal the world.
“77% of people want to learn how to live more sustainably”(2019) says Forbes yet there is debate on whether these well-meaning noble lifestyles actually make an impact or if they can truly overpower cruel, gargantuan, corrupt companies carelessly destroying the environment for money. Sustainable living can also be costly, causing people to call the lifestyles classist and making it hard for the less fortunate to make an impact. This shows how people, in general, are willing to put effort into preserving the environment but options are often not accessible or overshadowed by large corporations not being held accountable for their borderline crimes. So while effort can come from a genuine place, it gets complicated.
Despite all of this, I still stand by my belief that our persistent effort is being rewarded, however delusionally over-optimistic it may sound. Our progress may be slow and obstacle riddled; compared to earlier generations, we are on an upward trajectory of preservation. We have not climbed out victorious from the war yet, but we are winning small battles.
Pew Research Center states, “A median of 20% across these countries consider global warming a minor threat, while 9% say it is not a threat” (2019). This shows how there is no global consensus regarding an, ironically, global problem. This creates disagreements and divisions which set us back in the progress of preserving the environment.
How do we keep progressing?
To continue progress, we should change and narrow down the cavernous gap between those unaware and those suffering the repercussions by giving everyone a seat at the table. This creates a mutual urgency and allows for a perspective woven together by the threads of individual experiences. This lets us formulate solutions considering all countries and all classes. After all, what is a global issue, without all of us?
Statista mentioned, “In 2020, over 3.6 billion people were using social media worldwide, a number projected to increase to almost 4.41 billion in 2025” (2021). With this in mind, I would take advantage of social media’s ability to reach people globally to educate the masses on environmental issues; I would use my elevated voice to call companies out on atrocities and hold them accountable since a company is only as powerful as its customers let it be.
Pew Research Center claims, “Hungarians with a post-secondary or higher education are 11 percentage points more likely than their less-educated counterparts to say that climate change is a major threat” (2019), concluding that education plays a vital role to understand the situation. So, for those with fewer resources to be educated, I implore those who can to host campaigns partially funded by the one-percenters using their privilege to help provide for and uplift the voices of everyday citizens with valuable input.
In conclusion, I believe that our efforts have been on the right track and that we have had tangible progress in environmental preservation over the past few years (especially when you’re comparing it to the progress of previous generations). However, we can’t get overzealous; there are still blistering sores unremedied that we need to work on together to solve. I am hopeful, alas, hope with no action is only a dream.
Ellsmoor, J. (2019, July 23). 77% Of People Want To Learn How To Live More Sustainably. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesellsmoor/2019/07/23/77-of-people-want-to-learn-how-to-live-more-sustainably/?sh=4e4f16742b01
Fagan, M., & Huang, C. (2019, April 18). A look at how people around the world view climate change. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/18/a-look-at-how-people-around-the-world-view-climate-change/
Murphy, D. (2020, February 20). How Amazon's Jeff Bezos should spend that $10 billion if he's serious about climate change. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/02/20/amazon-jeff-bezos-preserve-nature-to-fight-climate-change-column/4807536002/
Rafferty, J. P. (n.d.). Is the Ozone Layer Finally Healing Itself? Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/story/is-the-ozone-layer-finally-healing-itself
Statista Research Department. (2021, September 10). Number of global social network users 2017-2025. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/