Although there are current political leaders denouncing the existence of climate change and the impact our human activities have on the changing climate, science and public awareness moves forward. The best data to showcase the effect humans are having on our planet is to look at the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere in the past 400,000 years. Scientists drill deep into ice, removing ice cores to evaluate pockets of air trapped inside from thousands of years ago. Using these small pockets of air, scientists determine the amount of CO2 present in the atmosphere during past periods of time when the ice was formed.
The NASA graph utilizing this ice core data shows during ice ages, CO2 levels were around 200 parts per million (ppm), and during the warmer interglacial periods they hovered around 280 ppm. In the last 400,000 plus years, atmospheric CO2 has never been above 310 ppm, until the 1950s. Since the 1950s we have continued to increase the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere to a record today of 401 ppm. Human activities have caused this unprecedented increase in CO2.
A new documentary provides a stunning visual of the many ways we are increasing CO2 in our atmosphere and adding to climate change. “Before the Flood” is presented by National Geographic, directed by Fisher Stevens and produced by and features Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie is FREE to watch on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes and Amazon Prime Video through November 6, 2016 and then it will be available on National Geographic. If you have a device of some sort and internet, you can watch it. The film follows DiCaprio from his moments of knowing nothing of climate change to a journey across five continents to gain a deep understanding of climate change and what the hope is for our future.
The documentary showcases a variety of monumental impacts we are having on the environment from immense mining operations, overfishing, poor agriculture processes and habitat destruction. “Last year in 2015, when the forest fire happens in Indonesia, it emits more carbon daily than the entire U.S. economy,” says Farwiza Farhan during a scene in “Before the Flood,” when immense rainforests are up in flames, smogging out the view across the landscape. Farhan is the chairperson of Yayasan Haka, an NGO dedicated to the protection, conservation and restoration of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. The burning of the forest, releasing stored carbon and impacting biodiversity, is to make space for more palm oil plantations to feed the need of cheap processed food and grocery items.
There is hope. The end of the film is dedicated to scientific models that show if we stop using fossil fuels, yes, the Earth will continue to warm for a residual bit. But, over time, the Earth would cool and ice sheets that have lost detrimental amounts of ice would begin to grow. But, this is only if we take action now. The longer we wait, the more damage is done. Take action individually by making informed consumer decisions, put pressure on companies to take improved actions to combat climate change and on this November 8th or earlier, vote. Vote for leaders in your community and for our country that treat climate change as the threat and opportunity for our future that it is.
“Climate change is the single greatest threat to a sustainable future, but at the same time, addressing the climate challenge presents a golden opportunity to promote prosperity, security and a brighter future for all,” said Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary General, United Nations. We have an opportunity to create a world in which we protect our resources, build sustainable energy sources and build the foundation for a new visualized future.
“It’s up to all of us,” just as the last line in the movie says.