I have been studying and writing about social and environmental justice and peace for almost 40 years because I am passionate about these issues. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have always been keenly interested in exploring how communities and nations can be organized to support and nurture the development of healthy people, families, and children.

In November and December, I watched three days of videos of different panel discussions at COP28, the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In other words, this is the 28th year that the nations of the world have gathered to discuss how to cooperate in addressing climate change. This is the first year that fossil fuels – oil, coal, and gas – have been discussed as the main cause of climate change. This was important and a long overdue breakthrough. This year, the participating nations decided to reduce fossil fuels, but they did not commit to phase them out. They created no timeframe for “phasing down” / reducing fossil fuels, and they set no consequences for failing to live up to their commitments. COP28 representatives discussed many other issues related to climate change and continued to make decisions by consensus. That means that every nation has to agree, which can be quite challenging.

Good news about climate change
There was truly exciting news from COP28. Most of us now realize that fossil fuels are the number one cause of climate change. Former Vice President and climate educator Al Gore spoke at COP28 and said that as soon as we stop using fossil fuels, climate change will start decreasing and average global temperatures will begin to drop. Scientists used to think it would take years before climate change would improve, but the newest science tells us that climate change can immediately begin slowing. In his presentation (watch here), Gore said that in 30 years, the remaining carbon in the atmosphere would dissipate and be gone. Carbon in the atmosphere is what traps heat and causes climate change, as does methane.

The goal for addressing climate change
The goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement was to keep average global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In order to meet that goal, the latest U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says that fossil fuel consumption must peak by 2025. Then fossil fuel use must dramatically fall by 2030 to about half of what it was in 2019. Not by 2050. By 2030. Fossil fuel emissions must drop to more than half of what they are now – by 2030. Scientists agree that reducing fossil fuels in this way would prevent global average temperatures from reaching and staying at 1.5 degrees Celsius. Once global average temperatures reach and stay at or exceed that measure, scientists expect that the intensity of climate disruptions and unnaturally intense disasters would increase dramatically. Weather events like floods, fires, extreme heat, and hurricanes would likely be much worse and more frequent than what we are seeing now. As Al Gore said, we can prevent this from happening.

Eliminate fossil fuel subsidies by governments worldwide
According to Gore, the amount of money that the nations of the world are giving to fossil fuels in the form of government subsidies is so huge that it is hard for us to grasp. He said that if fossil fuel subsidies were ended and used instead to address climate change, those subsidies could fund the climate change transformations needed all over the world.

The U.S. and China are the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels. Even though President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is the biggest step forward in funding renewable energy ever in U.S. history, it is not nearly enough. Many people believe that Biden should declare a climate emergency in order to free up resources to build out renewable energies to meet the IPCC deadlines instead of approving new oil and gas projects.

Recent studies reveal that about 4 million people are already estimated to have died from climate change-related causes. Phasing out fossil fuels quickly would save millions or more lives. It would prevent even more people from losing their homes. It would save many wildlife species, preserve ecosystems, and allow us the chance to restore other ecosystems.

10 aspects of addressing climate change
There are 10 main aspects of addressing climate change. We can call them phases, but they are not necessarily happening in a particular order. Many of them are being addressed at the same time or in overlapping ways. Different aspects of climate change will have to be addressed differently for every community and every nation. The main aspects of addressing climate change discussed at COP28 are:
1. End (phase out) fossil fuels (declare a climate emergency if necessary)
2. Reject false solutions
3. Prevention: protect nature’s climate anchors
4. Create a just transition
5. Mitigation (take steps to minimize the damage from climate disasters)
6. Economically just finance
7. Early warning systems
8. Disaster recovery
9. Reparations
10. Resilience and transformation

We will share more about these in future Save & Savor the Earth posts. In the meantime, take the time to watch Al Gore’s presentation at COP28. You will also benefit from familiarizing yourself with these 10 terms that Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps says are “the most vital to being part of the conversation about the climate crisis right now.”

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you because, well, the planet needs your urgent action – and we need each other as we navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here,  and check out our minutes and take action table, our lending library and the Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our next Zoom meeting on Monday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 PM using this link.