Why we must take action now on climate change

The Golden Toad was an adorable, small, shiny, smooth-skinned amphibian with an unusually pointy nose and long legs. The Golden Toad was common in its small, high-altitude range in Costa Rica.

“Was,” because now it is extinct.

It had been one in a long list of animals threatened by climate change before it suddenly disappeared almost 30 years ago. The main culprit, along with habitat destruction, was climate change.

There are still many Americans who don’t believe climate change is real. According to a poll conducted in March, only 34 percent of Republicans believe the climate has begun to change, and about as many believe the cause to be human activities. Democrats tend to be much more concerned about global warming, with 91 percent who report worrying about it a great deal.

Just recently, the IPCC released a report about the impacts of global warming at even 1.5 degrees Celsius, and how it would be possible to stay within that limit.

Already, temperatures have risen a degree above pre-industrial times. To stay within the 1.5-degree limit, not only would greenhouse gas emissions need to be eliminated, but we’d need to remove upwards of 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the air by the end of the century, according to the report.

But how much could a degree or two really matter? Are we making a big deal out of nothing?   

At a degree and a half above pre-industrial temperatures, we are predicted to lose between 70 and 90 percent of our remaining coral reefs, which create highly important habitats in the ocean. If we reach the 2-degree mark, the IPCC report predicts 99 percent will die.

We’ve already seen weather patterns becoming more extreme. More severe droughts, more fires, and more frequent, severe storms begin the list.

Even we as humans are not immune to the effects of climate change. Just consider how many people have died in the past few years because of fires, heat waves, drought, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Hundreds of millions of people are expected to be at risk of climate-related deaths by 2050 if the temperature were to rise to that 2-degree mark, but our current trajectory is an entire 3 degrees warmer.

Climate change is only increasing in speed and severity under our current policies. We’re going to have to take far more drastic measures before we hit the point of no return.

It’s already too late for the Golden Toads. How many more animals need to join them on the list of animals it is too late to save, and how many more people need to die climate-change related deaths before we take this problem seriously?

This is a call to action. It may not be convenient. It may cost money. But it is time for us to do whatever it takes before it’s too late for us all.