Climate action is hard, but becomes harder the longer we put it off

Delaying climate action only leads to more necessarily radical change down the line

A power generation facility. Electric lines fill the photo, and pillars of something cloudy comprise the background. The day looks hazy, hot, and pervasively dirty.
If we don’t change, the environment will. PHOTO: Pixabay / Pexels

By: Luke Faulks, Staff Writer

Who hasn’t bemoaned change? From a new job to a new home to a change in a family dynamic, humans are made to fear change. We associate change with uncertainty. However, when issues arise, change becomes necessary. Avoiding that change allows the problem to fester. Our response to climate change shows delaying action is making the crisis worse, and making necessary change increasingly overwhelming. 

The late 19th century identified the greenhouse gas effect (the trapping of gases in the Earth’s atmosphere). Over the next three decades, a scientific consensus was reached: anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change exists and presents an existential threat to life on earth.

Since then, deliberate actions have been taken to reduce planet-warming emissions: the emergence of meat substitutes, tax credits for renewable energies, and regulations on industry emissions. However, these advances have been slow to catch on. The change necessary for effective climate action has been consistently delayed, resisted, or ignored

Addressing climate change necessitates a radical change by consumers as well as producers. A general reduction in meat consumption could cut into the 14.5% of annual global emissions produced by the production of livestock. High-speed rail would curb emissions from air travel, and more solar and wind farms would displace fossil fuels from the energy mix. Driving an internal combustion engine really does need to be a thing of the past. Some, or all, of these steps may represent a scary, but necessary, change. 

As it stands, the world has fewer than eight years to halve emissions to prevent “catastrophic climate change.” A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said as much, in no uncertain terms. 

In 2021, a report by the International Energy Agency was released. A series of strategies were proposed that would result in a 50% reduction of emissions by 2030, and net zero by mid-century. The longer we wait to implement these changes, the more drastic — and the more challenging — our response will need to be. 

Now is the time for policy-makers to increase their climate ambition and follow one of the many plans for change that have been presented to them. 

Change, while scary, becomes scarier the more radical that change needs to be. Learning on the fly from our species’ experience with climate change can help us move forward with a healthier set of habits.