Earth has warmed about 1 degrees C since the beginning of the industrial revolution 250 years ago. The northern hemisphere is particularly susceptible to accelerated warming and summers in the northern hemisphere are already hotter than they've been for 600 years.
In the past, many human civilizations were ruined and radically transformed as a direct result of ecosystem collapse and catastrophic climate change. For example, drought brought an end to many early civilizations in the Fertile Crescent.
Once again, human civilization has reached a turning point in climate change. Local and global catastrophic collapses can occur anytime without prior warning. Island nations and low-lying coastal areas are already losing lives and homes to stronger storms and rising seas.
But, in the face of mounting evidence of global warming, most governments, organizations and individuals view the threat of climate change as distant and irrelevant. As in past crises of inaction, across the globe, development and personal activities that generate greenhouse gases (GHGs) are intensifying, even as collapse of entire ecosystems are fully under way.
The single biggest cause of environmental degradation today is the changing of diets. It took more than a century for Europeans to change over to a diet based on consuming animal products at every meal. But, in large parts of Asia, a similar shift has occurred in just one generation and the demand for animal products is projected to increase by 50 percent from 2013 to 2025. At any given time, the global livestock population amounts to more than 150 billion, compared with just 7.2 billion humans, so livestock have a larger direct ecological footprint than humans.
But understanding the nature of climate change and the serious risks humans face does not have to lead to apathy and despair. Nor does pessimism about climate agreements justify inaction. Cultures and civilizations have developed very rapidly, and can be quickly transformed again. Many people across the globe are already taking action, resisting fossil-based development and pressuring governments to reduce GHGs.
According to one news report, up to 400,000 people die every year from the effects of climate change every year. And, WHO estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. So, even small acts can shrink these numbers.
As J. Krishnamurti stated in Oak Grove, California in 1945,
"The present is of the highest importance; the present, however tragic and painful, is the only door to Reality. The future is the continuance of the past through the present; through understanding the present is the future transformed."
Personal changes can result in lowering GHG footprints, and help in solving human-caused global warming. Knowing the gravity of the situation, and GHG costs of dietary choices, can lead to better decision-making. There is a lot of information available to help us make better consumption choices and to lower our dietary footprints, and if we all did a little bit, that could add up to a lot.