Fall 2019

36 REAL-LEADERS.COM / FALL 2019 In the past 50 years, the human population has doubled, the global economy has grown nearly 4-fold, and global trade has grown 10-fold, together driving up the demands for energy and materials. Keeping pace with this staggering growth is a corresponding increase in carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions from human activities, which according to the World Resources Institute are now higher than at any point in history. In fact, data reveals that global CO 2 emissions are 150 times higher today than they were in 1850. The daily race to feed, clothe, heat and cool a global population of 7.5 billion people produces enormous amounts of CO 2 , the effects of which are mostly invisible to consumers —who don’t realize the collective impact of billions of small purchases and lifestyle decisions when multiplied on a global level. Each day in India, 1,000 more cars appear on that country’s roads, adding to the smog and adversely affecting human health. Each day at Delhi’s National Institute for Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease, 1,000 people line up to be treated for lung problems. “Everybody in India is a smoker,” says Dr. Arvind Kumar, a prominent chest surgeon, “simply by breathing the polluted air each day.” A United Nations report released in May warns that 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, which will have a drastic effect on human survival. The report, compiled by experts across the world has linked the loss of animals and plants to human activity, especially since the rise of the industrial revolution in the mid-1850s, which has seen global temperatures rise around 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. Warming oceans will result in the collapse of the commercial fishing industry, and increased CO 2 levels mean less oxygen to breathe. And who doesn’t like breathing, right? Rising sea levels threaten whole island nation-states that are being forced to relocate or face submersion. Robert Watson, who served as chairman for the U.N. report, says the decline in biodiversity around the world is eroding “the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life worldwide.” Even if you’re a climate- change denier, this should make you sit up and take notice. “We care about nature,” continues Watson, “but we care about human well-being, and we need to link it to this; that’s the crucial thing. Otherwise, we’re going to look like a bunch of tree-huggers.” Humans extract 60 billion tons from nature each year to satisfy worldwide demand for crops, fish, minerals, and other goods, the authors of the report note. They conclude that this harvest is unsustainable. A CBS poll in April found that 60 percent of Americans think the environment will be worse for the next generation. Known as a country that prides itself on living the American Dream and giving the next generation a better life, it’s difficult to comprehend why climate matters are not higher on the agenda. Part of the solution is for people to see more of themselves in the issues and not assume that the problem is too big to make a difference. Leaving it to politicians and professionals isn’t a solution either; Climate Change and Economic Equality New research shows that global warming has already affected the economies of nations around the world. It has hit some places — mostly in the tropics — harder than others. And the countries that have paid the highest price tend to be those least responsible for causing the problem, emitting much less carbon dioxide per capita over past decades than richer countries. Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) THE PROBLEMS GETTY IMAGES