Why the United Nations Climate Report Should Spark Hope, Not Despair
By Dan Lambe
We’ve spent years walking toward climate action. Now, it’s time to run.
That’s the message this week from a panel of United Nations scientists. The new report says if we continue at our current pace of greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll be unable to limit our global warming to a goal of 1.5°C. Scientists warn that each fraction of a degree above that threshold comes with added consequences, increasing both the probability and severity of heatwaves, natural disasters and water insecurity. Unfortunately, we’re already nearing this benchmark, presently sitting at 1.1°C of warming.
This report paints a stark picture, for sure. But now is not the time to crawl into a hole and throw up our hands. Scientists confirm there is hope. There are things we can do to make a change, but we must act immediately.
And I really do mean ‘we’ as individuals.
Every one of us holds a certain amount of power in this fight against climate change. As the UN report points out, the responsibility to protect our planet does not solely rest with governmental leaders implementing policies to limit greenhouse gases. If more people were to commit to end-use measures, we could reduce projected emissions by 40-70% according to a climate expert from Greenpeace. For you, that might look like switching to a plant-based diet or biking to work or limiting your air travel.
For the Arbor Day Foundation, we have committed to do our part, too, and the path forward is lined with 500 million new trees — all planted by 2027.
It’s the most ambitious goal we’ve ever set and it’s rooted in a similar urgency as the U.N. report. Our planet and all the living beings that share it, can’t afford the price of inaction any longer.
To help curb the effects of climate change we need to kick tree planting into high gear. Trees have long been recognized as one of the most cost-effective solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. They pull carbon from the air, clean drinking water and reduce heat. That impact can be amplified if we’re guided by intentionality, getting trees in the ground where they’ll do the most good for climate, community and biodiversity.
The experts agree, we can’t reach our climate goals without trees. In the U.N.’s climate report from 2022, scientists specifically highlighted planting trees and halting deforestation as a key part of the solution to climate change
Of course, we know trees aren’t magic. They aren’t the silver bullet in climate change. But they are a critical piece of the puzzle. Every tree that takes root in the next 10 years will undoubtedly affect this planet for the next 1,000 years. Positive change is possible.
You can be the catalyst for that change.
You don’t need to be a political leader to plant a tree. You don’t need to be an environmental expert. You don’t even need to be a member of the Arbor Day Foundation to plant a tree. All you need to do to be part of this global effort to curb the effects of climate change, is act. Right now. Get your hands on a sapling and get it into the ground.
I promise, one tree does make a difference.
Dan Lambe is CEO of the Arbor Day Foundation, the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.