For the past three years, I’ve endeavored to learn just how drastically global warming is changing our planet and our lives.
And what I’ve learned is staggering. The threat of global warming on our global well-being looms larger and more immediately than most of us know or care to consider. And this apathy is perhaps the greatest obstacle when it comes to addressing global warming, the most pressing crisis in the history of human civilization.
For the vast majority of us, the effects of global warming are minimal. We might have a rainier spring or an extended summer, but these are minor inconveniences, and they belie the enormity of the issue.
So I decided to visit sites around the world where the effects of our global warming are most pronounced and interview subject-area experts in each location. In order to fully understand global warming and its impact on our environment and economy, I had to experience it first-hand.
M y research took me Greenland, where glaciers are thinning and breaking apart at speeds never recorded before in human history, and where warmer water temperatures are changing fish migratory patterns, making it harder for fishermen to find and catch them.
In Queensland, Australia, I spoke with Eric, a cattle farmer struggling to keep his herd alive due to the severe drought ravaging the area. He simply doesn’t have enough water to keep them hydrated.
Dairy farmers in Norway have the opposite problem — changes in climate patterns have brought an excess of rainfall to the region, nearly twice the usual amount, forcing farmers to construct costly drainage systems.
In my native Sweden, I spoke with researchers at the national Meteorological and Hydrological Institute who study how rising temperatures threaten the reindeer farming industry in northern Sweden.
It’s not just agricultural jobs that are in danger. I traveled to Oppdal, Norway, where the ski tourism sector has been dramatically reduced by the shortened winter season.
Tourism to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, has been negatively affected, as well. Half of the reef has been bleached to death since 2016, resulting in fewer visitors and thus fewer tourism dollars.
Many people have the false impression that the environment and the global economy are distinct from one another. Or worse, they assume the two are opposed — that environmental efforts must come at the expense of economic growth, and vice versa.
This couldn’t be any further from the truth. As my research shows, we can’t separate the environmental well-being of our planet from the health of our global economy. Environmental changes have enormous implications for our economy, and these effects will only become more intense as global warming continues.
Contrary to what you might think, my trip also gave me hope.
In Morocco, an emerging economy, I toured one of the largest solar energy farms in the world. The Noor Solar Plant develops 1,470 GWh of low-cost, sustainable energy per year, and already the project has spurred infrastructure development in neighboring communities.
A similar phenomenon is taking place in the Anhui Province in China, where engineers have built a solar farm on a lake in a defunct coal power plant. (The symbolism couldn’t be any better.) The project has been a blessing to the surrounding communities — employment and local tax revenue have increased, and water pollution has decreased considerably due to the switch to sustainable energy.
If industrializing economies like Morocco and rural China can commit to renewable energy, surely can the West can, too.
The greatest lesson I learned in my travels is that all is not lost when it comes to climate change. We are not out of time. We’re not too late. We can save the planet, and the economy, if we so choose.
But it is a choice, however, and we must make the right choice. And soon — before we’re out of choices altogether.
Thanks to the unabated effort and extreme patience of video journalist Thomas Sonne, who has accompanied me on my field trips, my project to study climate change around the world has now been turned into a video documentary entitled Convenient Choices II (it’s as a follow-up to Convenient Choices published in 2015). You can watch the documentary right here.