We have 12 years to prevent lasting devastation
Way back in in 1972, David Bowie transfigured himself into an alien rock god and sang us a song about a planet with only five years left to live. Well, let me be your pansexual, androgynous, otherworldly oracle of doom. Picture me in sparkly shoulder pads, if you must, but listen: We have 12 years to prevent climate change from going from bad to worse, from catastrophic for many to catastrophic for all but the wealthiest.
In October, the United Nations published a report explaining the impact of a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius versus 2 degrees. The difference is staggering: If we can prevent a rise of more than 1.5C, the proportion of the global population experiencing water shortages could be 50 percent lower. At stake are the lives of hundreds of millions of people, along with corals, polar bears and insect species.
To prevent a rise of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to cut our carbon pollution by 45 percent by 2030. Unfortunately, global carbon emissions are on the rise, along with my depression and anxiety.
If you think Columbus will be spared or that we're prepared, I have more bad news for you. Our air quality will take a hit and flooding will increase. Worst of all, our summers will get much hotter and our food production capacity will decrease over time.
On Dec. 18, researchers at Ohio State University released a list of 43 recommended actions to help Central Ohio prepare for climate change. It remains to be seen what Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus City Council will do with this plan, but here's why I'm not optimistic.
First, we need a plan to cut back on carbon emissions now. The Columbus Climate Adaptation Plan doesn't provide recommendations for doing so.
Second, the city has shown little willingness to pursue policies that prioritize both equity and environmental sustainability. Columbus managed to leverage a $50 million “Smart City” grant into $500 million in private partnerships for transportation improvements. However, at almost every turn, this money has been earmarked for projects that benefit the wealthy. The COTA bus tracking app is still a cruel joke, but the city is planning an event parking management app for Downtown and the Short North. Easton is slated to get electric self-driving transit shuttles, but we have no serious plans to expand public transportation options for low-income people who will actually use them.
Queer and trans people need to get real about what climate change is going to mean for the most vulnerable members of our community. Our city doesn't seem to have the will or the competence to care for them. Bowie sang, “I never thought I'd need so many people,” and he was right. We're going to need to start taking care of each other.