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Guest column: The climate crisis, an existential threat

By NGCC Volunteer Terri Dudis, DVM

An article in the January 2020 journal BioScience, endorsed by more than 11,000 scientists worldwide, stated that “the climate crisis has arrived” and that an “immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis.” 

For years, scientists have warned of collapsing ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier coral reef in Australia, melting polar caps, rising sea levels, severe flooding, loss of species, decrease in food production, increases in zoonotic diseases and widespread pandemics, displacements of millions of people, extended days of lethal heat, severe droughts and famines, and staggering economic losses. A quick scan of today’s headlines reveals that these dire predictions are unfolding across the globe with increasing frequency and severity at an unnerving pace. Within the past few months, more than 1.2 million Chinese have been displaced by epic flooding. Simultaneously, unprecedented flooding is occurring throughout India, Germany and Belgium while severe drought and famine ravage much of southern Africa.

Deadly wildfires are raging across eleven western states in this country. Prolonged and record-breaking heat waves are proving to be lethal across much of the Pacific Northwest and Midwest as well as western Canada. A severe winter storm recently devastated Texas, causing more than 100 deaths and leaving almost 70% of Texans with no electricity and 50% with no water for an extended period. Hundreds of thousands of young salmon are dying in California rivers as water temperatures rise and water levels fall due to extreme heat and prolonged drought. Scientists estimate that since the 1970s we have lost between 50% to 68% of all plant and animal life on the planet. 

Planet Earth is at a tipping point. The condition of the world to be inherited by our children and grandchildren tomorrow will be directly impacted by the actions and decisions that we make today. Each of us has a moral mandate to assume responsibility both individually and collectively for proactive action to negate the effects of this existential threat. Individuals can educate themselves and their circle of influence, lobby their elected representatives and make good choices regarding their carbon footprint on the planet. The North Georgia Conservation Coalition invites citizens to visit their Facebook page for resources such as checklists with specific recommendations for ways to mitigate the effects of climate change in their everyday lives.

Additionally, individuals can amplify their voices and their effects by becoming part of a larger effort to stem the tide of the climate crisis. People are encouraged to join a team, an organization or a movement to make a louder noise and create a focus and an urgency that can no longer be ignored by elected officials and other policymakers. National organizations such as the Citizens Climate Lobby and the Sierra Club and local groups like the North Georgia Conservation Coalition offer information, resources, direction and support to those wanting to help build a world where everyone can survive and thrive. 

The climate crisis has indeed arrived. How do you intend to greet it?