I remember having to watch An Inconvenient Truth in high school. I remember listening to Al Gore talk about greenhouse gases, rising sea levels, and global warming. It was difficult to imagine back then, like when you read about war and try to picture what it would really would have been like. Such things are too far removed from our reality.
But the way we think about climate change must change. We must move on from simply speculating, and confront what is happening here and now.
The statistics are startling. America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reliable records for global temperatures dating back to 1880. Since 2010 we have experienced four out of the five hottest years on record. 2015 sits very comfortably at the top of the list, and NASA recently declared January 2016 the most anomalously hot month in the whole 135 years of record keeping. Evidently, the planet is getting hotter.
Violent weather is another consequence of climate change that is increasingly manifesting in the present. Do you remember the big storm that hit Fiji in February? That storm, cyclone Winston, was the most powerful ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. The wind speed rose to 325km/h, (I’d like to make a joke about how we’re Wellingtonians and that’s just a breeze, but this isn’t a joke), five Fijians died, and many more lost their homes. Who is to blame? Fiji was the first country to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement, while New Zealand’s climate policy continues to regress and stagnate. This is a classic example of the kind of injustice we can expect to see a lot more of in the future. Innocent developing nations suffering due to lack of action on behalf of the developed world.
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When we talk about climate change we are no longer talking about the future. We must shift our imagination away from fantastical images of the Statue of Liberty submerged in snow, and toward the reality of what we are experiencing here and now. In 2016 our climate is changing. This may be inconvenient but it is the truth.