July 3 was the hottest day in our planet’s recorded history. Oh wait, sorry, let me start over. July 4 was the hottest day in our planet’s recorded history. Nope, that’s still not quite right. I’ll try one more time. July 5 was the hottest day in our planet’s recorded history.
That first statement, about July 3 being the hottest day on record was true, until the very next day where temperatures rose again. The same thing happened on July 5, where the previous day’s temperature was once again surpassed.
Those records, the ones that were broken on consecutive days from July 3 to July 5, were global averages that reached the astonishing high of nearly 63 degrees Fahrenheit. This may not sound so bad, it’s lower than room temperature. But this is a global average, meaning that it takes the far northern and southern reaches of the planet into account. For reference, the global average temperature in the 20th century was 57 degrees Fahrenheit.
The current heat our planet is experiencing is “well within” what has been predicted by experts and humans are “unequivocally” the cause of climate change, so what’s left to talk about? Just one thing, but it’s a big one. How do we solve this problem?
While we can’t just throw money at the problem or just “stop” climate change from happening, there’s one step we can take to make sure that we don’t cause any more problems for ourselves in the future: stop burning fossil fuels.
I know, radical idea, right? It may seem like the obvious solution, but some would have you believe otherwise. Since the early 2000s, BP (British Petroleum, a large oil company) has been touting the idea of “personal responsibility” for your own “carbon footprint,” meaning that each person should do their part to create less carbon emissions and act in a more environmentally-friendly way.
In concept, this is a great idea! Everyone should do their part, and it would be a better world if we all got along and acted with kindness towards our planet, right? Wrong. 100 companies are responsible for nearly 75% of global carbon emissions, and you choosing to buy shoes made from sustainable rubber won’t save the otters.
The idea of the personal carbon footprint was created by BP so that they could pass the blame for carbon emissions onto the consumer, rather than face the consequences of their own actions and be good stewards of the planet. The concept of the personal carbon footprint has taken hold worldwide and people feel that their sunday barbecues are responsible for record high temperatures, finding themselves unable to place blame on the corporations emitting gigatons upon gigatons of carbon. NBC News even created a “climate confessions page” where users can post about things they’ve done that make them feel “climate guilty,” such as consistently using disposable water bottles instead of refillable ones. In reality, these small life choices don’t make a difference when compared to the unreal levels of emissions created by mega-corporations that have no regard for anything but their bottom line.
That’s not to say that people shouldn’t make lifestyle changes if it feels right for them. Personally, I don’t eat beef anymore. But, I don’t delude myself. The record heat we’re facing, the unbelievable levels of extinction we’re seeing, and the unlivable conditions we find our planet hurtling towards at a record pace aren’t the result of individual people’s choices to eat a steak, go on a road trip, or buy a new computer. The catastrophic, planet-scale horrors we’re seeing now are a result of greed. Greed from companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron.
The heat we’ve all faced this summer, regardless of what kind of climate actions you take in your personal life, should terrify you. But, regardless of what kind of climate actions you take in your personal life, we all need to remember why we’re in this situation. We’re here because of the greed of a few companies, and they must take action before it’s too late.