An open letter to those who haven’t faced climate change

Skip Spitzer
Age of Awareness
Published in
22 min readMay 14, 2019


Dear friend, acquaintance, or stranger,

If you are like the great majority of people, you probably have not yet really faced the climate crisis. But the situation is dire — most likely profoundly worse than you think. Better outcomes require that everyone look, eyes wide open, and respond. This letter aims to help you do that.

What is climate change?

Our planet has had a life-friendly climate (typical patterns of weather) for a very long time. This is because a layer of gases in the lower atmosphere lets solar radiation in, but, like a blanket, limits escape of the resulting heat (the greenhouse effect). Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important of these greenhouse gases.[*] Things have remained good — mostly not too hot or cold — because of the carbon cycle, in which the amount of CO2 going in to the atmosphere is roughly balanced by the amount going out.

Especially in the last 100 or so years, however, greenhouse gasses have been building up in the atmosphere, now causing the climate to change very rapidly. The most prominent difference currently is that average temperatures of the atmosphere and oceans are rising (global warming).

Humans are the primary cause

This climatic change is mostly anthropogenic (human-caused). Our species messed up the carbon cycle. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere had been remarkably stable during the 650,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, varying from about 180 to 300 parts per million (ppm). Today, however, it’s above 400 ppm — the highest level in more than 23 million years.[1]

Most of this CO2 increase is the result of burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil). Raising livestock, using synthetic fertilizers, and industrial production (especially cement) have also played a big role. Humans have raised levels of other greenhouse gases, like methane, too.[2]

We’ve made a very bad mistake.

Climate change is making the physical environment less hospitable

As greenhouse gases accumulate, the abiotic (non-living) environment is generally becoming harsher. Average surface air temperatures are rising. Weather events — rains, floods, blizzards, hurricanes (typhoons), tornadoes, droughts, and heat waves — are becoming more frequent and extreme. Land is desertifying. Oceans are becoming hotter, more acidic (as higher levels of CO2 in the air dissolve into them), and de-oxygenated (because warmer water holds less oxygen, among other causes). Sea levels are rising, as vast masses of ice melt and because water expands as it warms. Wildfires are becoming more frequent, intense, and destructive. Air quality, and water quality and availability, are diminishing.

Changing conditions are breaking the web of life

These physical changes are disrupting ecosystems (the ways living things interact with each other and their physical environment). Animals, plants, and other organisms are directly affected by physical conditions, but also by the ways those conditions affect other living things. For example, plants may be harmed by less rain, which may also kill soil microbes that feed on plant litter, in turn reducing soil aeration, which plants needs to survive. This interdependence means that climate-driven changes in the physical environment can cause cascading impacts — to the point where local extinction of one species makes more species disappear, bringing entire ecosystems to total collapse.[3]

There are countless cases of this disruption. Especially notable is that ocean phytoplankton (microscopic sea plants) are declining dramatically, most likely due to rising temperatures.[4] These organisms are the foundation of the entire marine food chain.

Likewise, climate change is harming insect populations around the world, which are crashing, threatening the “collapse of nature.”[5] Insects are essential for every ecosystem. In particular — by recycling nutrients from dead plants and animals, maintaining soil fertility, dispersing seeds, pollinating plants, and controlling plant pests — they are essential to all plant life.

We are part of the web too

Although it may seem that humans exist apart from nature, we too are affected by changes in the physical environmental and ecosystem disruption. Those endangered phytoplankton absorb CO2 from the air, make possible the fish that billions of people eat, and actually produce at least half of the world’s oxygen.[6] Those disappearing insects are essential for agriculture, which we require for food, fiber, building materials, medicine, and more.[7]

We depend vitally on such ecosystem services (benefits from nature). Other essential ecosystem services include regulating the climate, cleaning water, limiting wildlife encounters, and controlling pathogens. Yet we are heading toward critical loss of every one of these lifelines from nature.

People are facing extreme impacts from the climate crisis

The consequences of climate change and ecosystem disruption are not the same for everyone. The poor, people of color, and other disadvantaged groups face greater exposure, harm, and difficulty in recovering from adverse effects.[8],[9],[10] For example, the poorest 50% of people in the world live overwhelmingly in countries that are most vulnerable.[11] Children are also especially vulnerable[12] — with an estimated 88% of climate change-driven disease hitting kids younger than five years old. At some degree of warming, however, no one will escape devastating impacts.[13]

Overall, people are increasingly experiencing subsistence difficulties, lifestyle disruption, injury, mental illness,[14] disease, and death from climate-driven impacts such as heat and other extreme weather; flooding; wildfires;[15] polluted air,[16] soil, and water; water scarcity;[17] loss of natural resources (like fish); allergens;[18] wildlife encounters (such as disease-transmitting mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas,[19] mountain lion attacks[20] and exploding rat populations[21]); exposure to chemical toxins released by fire[22] and storm runoff;[23] and spread and heightened activity of infectious bacteria, viruses, and fungi via species migration and waste-containment breaches.[24]

Melting permafrost may even be releasing ancient microbes, against which humanity may not have immunity nor the capacity to contain.[25] There is strong evidence that rising temperatures are escalating interpersonal violence.[26] Heat also undermines our abilities,[27],[28] as does rising CO2 levels, which lower cognitive function.[29]

Climate and ecosystem effects are also leading to societal destabilization globally. We are on a path of intensifying dysfunction, like scarcity of goods and services, failing infrastructure, loss of public services, economic stagnation and collapse,[30],[31]malnutrition and starvation,[32] forced migration and refugee conflicts,[33],[34] suicides,[35] loss of healthcare, poverty and inequality,[36],[37] crime,[38] social conflict, illicit activity by private security and armed bands, terrorism,[39] war, erosion of civil and human rights, and governmental incapacity.

The climate system could become out-of-control

It gets worse: If the atmosphere keeps warming, at some point the climate will become completely beyond human influence. This is because atmospheric warming triggers events that cause even further warming (positive feedback effects).

For example, as temperatures rise, vast polar ice sheets are melting, which causes even more warming because more of the sun’s energy is absorbed by oceans (rather than reflected upward by ice) and enormous stores of CO2 under the ice are released.

Warming is causing forests to decline, releasing CO2 they store, leading to further warming and conditions that kill more trees (such as bark beetle infestation[40],[41]) and make new growth difficult (like fires and drought[42]).

Warming is leading to greater use (and disposal) of air conditioners, which drives even more use of fossil fuels (and release of potent greenhouse-gas hydrofluorocarbons from discarded units), leading to even more warming.

There are many such positive feedbacks, which can cascade, causing runaway warming and abrupt, irreversible, large-scale, and exceedingly inhospitable environmental changes. If this happens, much of the earth will likely be uninhabitable — quite possibly causing human extinction. For example, if the oceans warm to about 6°C[†], phytoplankton could stop producing oxygen, depleting atmospheric oxygen on a global scale.[43] In August 2018, scientists warned in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that runaway conditions could be triggered by atmospheric warming as little as 2°C[44] — a threshold we’re on track to reach in less than 30 years.[45]

Note well: The climate crisis is just one aspect of environmental breakdown

As much as this crisis demands attention, climate change needs to be seen in the broader context of the planetary collapse of biodiversity (the amount and variety of living things). Earth is already undergoing its sixth mass extinction. Since just 1970, an estimated 60% of all wildlife has been lost.[46] About one million species are currently facing extinction.[47] This “biological annihilation” has, warn scientists in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, “cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization.”[48]

You can’t really get the climate crisis without knowing that it is just one driver of this environmental breakdown. In order of importance, the causes are: 1) changes in land and sea use (like destroying natural areas for industrial animal agriculture), 2) exploitation of organisms (like factory fishing), 3) climate change, 4) pollution, and 5) spread of invasive species (like plant seeds, insects, and small animals trapped in ship cargoes or ballast water).[49]

Climate change is playing an increasing role and may eclipse other factors. But just as catastrophic environmental breakdown began before climate impacts became pronounced, it would continue even without them. This means we need to recognize that there are industrial activities underlying all these drivers, rather than focus on climate change alone.

What is needed?

The most immediate need — just about all climate scientists agree — is for societies to vastly and extremely rapidly reduce greenhouse emissions. As more is understood, scientists have steadily revised this urgency upward. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in October 2018 that, to avoid 2°C of warming, humanity faces herculean action scenarios, such as cutting CO2 emissions in half in just 12 years, just as a first step.[50] That was before scientists reported in November that oceans are actually absorbing 60% more heat than previously thought, suggesting that CO2 reduction targets have to be revised upward by 25%.[51]

Because the climate crisis is not the only driver of global ecosystem destruction, however, any effective solution must also address the underlying industrial activities underpinning all the central causes of environmental breakdown.

What about technology?

Geoengineering (using technology to reduce greenhouse gases in or otherwise cool the atmosphere) is probably an essential complement to reducing emissions. Every technological “solution,” however, is either too late, only partially helpful, logistically improbable, prohibitively expensive, or extremely risky.[52] Geoengineering also actually undermines the imperative goal of emissions reduction to the degree that it fosters faith that technology will save the day. There is no substitute for extreme cutback of emissions,[53] which, according to the IPCC, requires “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”[54]

Geoengineering efforts also do nothing about the industrial practices that cause emissions in the first place, nor those behind all the other drivers of environmental breakdown.

Governments have been unable to do what is needed

The response by the nations of the world to the climate crisis has been atrociously inadequate. There is an international climate treaty with an agreed goal of limiting warming to 1.5–2°C. But it is not binding and most nations are very far from meeting their stated emissions commitments — which are in any case collectively much too small to reach the goal.[55] Since the treaty process began in 1992, annual CO2 emissions have actually risen more than 60%[56] and atmospheric concentrations have hit all-time highs in every subsequent year.[57] Few governments are even talking about the other causes of environmental breakdown.

Why has the response been so inadequate?

The reason for lack of real action is that capitalism causes societies to shortsightedly pursue perpetual economic growth. Economic growth means that an economy produces more than it did before. When this doesn’t happen (even for a pretty short time), capitalist economies fall into recession or depression, causing extreme hardship. The resulting mandate for growth — despite clear and reliable information about cataclysmic consequences — enables production and consumption propelling all the drivers of environmental breakdown. Not surprisingly, even climate scientists (who usually steadfastly steer clear of politics) are increasingly saying that modern capitalism is not compatible with averting climate catastrophe.[58],[59],[60]

Government officials are compelled to promote economic growth because it’s difficult to advance political agendas (noble or otherwise) in hard times. Liberal or further to the right, virtually all mainstream politicians agree on at least one thing: A rising tide lifts all boats. Many officials also take pro-business positions due to lobbying and other corporate influence, and personal gain from their own ownership in corporations. Growth is so paramount that, just hours after the September 11th attacks, George W. Bush announced that America was “still open for business.” At international climate negotiations, the Trump administration bluntly declared that economic growth should not be sacrificed for the environment.[61]

Owners and managers of corporations are compelled to promote their own businesses’ growth because wealth, power, and prestige are vigorous motivators and competitive pressures threaten these rewards. From deregulation to thwarting pro-climate policies, corporate decision-makers agitate for a favorable business (not planetary) climate. They produce in ways that minimize their company’s costs, while virtually ignoring costs to society and environment (externalities), unless forced by law or social pressure.[62] They work industriously to focus us on consuming, by stoking our desires and — perhaps worse — fortifying beliefs that all is well, at least well enough for business as usual.

News media are an especially important case of corporate self-interest. Largely because climate is a “ratings killer,” most news outlets have grievously under-covered it. For example, only 22 of the 50 biggest newspapers in the U.S. had any coverage of the dire warning issued to humanity by the IPCC in October 2018.[63] When there is climate coverage, it is often harmful, for example, understating the problem, treating it as just another issue, and giving unwarranted attention to deniers. The result, representing a devastating failure of the news media’s responsibility to inform, is that as recently as 2016 less than half of the U.S. public believed that human-caused climate change was real.[64]

The very wealthy — when not focusing on enhancing their wealth and extremely high-footprint consumption — generally appear to be overwhelmingly more interested in elite disaster preparedness than fighting climate change. There are many signs of growing effort to save themselves through strategies like militarized, corporate and personal security and disaster management services,[65] specialized insurance, private firefighters, buying land, stockpiling resources and gold coins,[66] getting bunkers (including commercially available “survival condos”[67]), and salvation ventures like Blue Origin, Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos’ aerospace project to “enable private human access to space.”[68] At least some of the 1% are fretting about issues like, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”[69]

Most of the rest of us are enmeshed in the culture of busyness, parochial attention, and distraction that thrives under capitalism. Amid working, commuting, caring for loved ones, eating, managing finances, shopping, and selecting and consuming our news, social media, and entertainment, it’s easy to turn away from distressing issues like the climate. This is a problem because it’s not the climate change-denying minority that most threatens us — it’s the believing-but-passive majority.

We are not equally able to contribute to change

Individuals, social groups, and nations have differing wherewithal to fight climate change. In general, the greater there is struggle for subsistence, the less there is capacity to help address the problem. Conversely, the greater the conditions of wealth, the greater the means to help.

We are not equally responsible for the problem

Not surprisingly, those less able to help also typically contribute less to the problem. For example, the poorest 50% of people in the world account for only about 10% of greenhouse emissions from “lifestyle consumption.”[70] Being poorer is relative: Because of higher living standards and services provided on behalf of all citizens, even an average homeless person in the U.S. has a carbon footprint that is more than twice the world average.[71] At the national level, the bottom 100 countries account for only about 3.5% of global greenhouse emissions.[72]

Likewise, those more able to help can do so owing to greater capacity, but also because they contribute more to the problem. The richest 10% of people in the world account for a wildly inordinate 49% of greenhouse emissions from lifestyle consumption.[73] Only about 100 private and state-owned corporations produce the fossil fuel responsible for about 71% of all greenhouse emissions.[74]

There is evidence that men, at least in the U.S. and China, are less likely than women to embrace pro-environment behavior because it is associated with being feminine.[75]

Nationally, the top four greenhouse emitters in 2014 were China (27.5%), the United States (14.8%), the European Union (9.3%), and India (6.4%). But per person figures put things into better perspective. For example, China’s emissions drop to 8.5%, while that of the U.S. rises to about 20%.[76] Since greenhouse gases build up, culpability depends even more on cumulative emissions. Since the mid-1800s, the U.S. has emitted 29% of all CO2 emissions in the world, more than three times that of populous China in second place.[77]

People, corporations, and nations are also responsible insofar as they have promoted policies and ideas that undermine awareness and action. For example, between 2000 and 2016, fossil fuel, electrical utility, and transportation corporations spent at least $1.2 billion to influence climate-related legislation in the U.S. congress.[78]

Just pointing at others is counterproductive

Demanding accountability for the climate crisis is useful. But, given the stakes, bogging down in debate, ignoring our own responsibility, or depending on those most culpable is a grave mistake. Better outcomes require that everyone look, eyes wide open, and — to the actual degree possible — respond.

For most of us, responding in a meaningful way means exploring and making good on commitments to work with others for social change and to change how we live. Substantial personal change, however, can be very easily derailed. You might post this letter somewhere conspicuous until you have made your choices and begun to make them real.

Lifestyle changes are important

It’s easy to sidestep changing the way we live by believing that a single person’s lifestyle choices are inconsequential or amount to self-interested “virtue signaling.” In fact, making the most substantive lifestyle changes can help: 1) Lower personal emissions considerably, building toward critical mass of similar reductions; 2) Support development of new standards and modes of living that will be required in a sustainable world (should we create one); 3) Resist the habits and rules of consumption that the system prescribes and depends on (what Czech playwright Václav Havel calls “living within the truth”[79]); 4) Create effective entry points into participating in the climate movement; 5) Overcome cognitive dissonance, hopelessness, and other psychological barriers to taking action;[80] 6) Alert and move others; and 7) Break the “spiral of silence” (in which even people who care about climate change shy away from talking about it because they rarely hear others doing so).[81]

In developed nations at least, the most important lifestyle choices are: 1) Have no more children (avoiding emission, on average, of 58.6 tons of CO2-equivalent[‡] of per year)[82]; 2) Live car-free (1 to 5.3 metric tons); 3) Avoid flying (up to 2.8 metric tons per flight); and 4) Eat a plant-based diet. Consuming less generally can also be significant, but does not rival these choices (except for high-income consumers). Traditional “green” lifestyle choices, like recycling, have positive environmental benefits, but only a very small effect on emissions footprints.[83]

A plant-based diet, as say scientists at the University of Oxford, is “probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth.”[84] The biggest cause of environmental breakdown, destruction of natural habitat, is primarily caused by animal agriculture. Animal-based food uses a staggering 30% to 45% of the world’s surface area[85],[86] (for livestock and the crops needed to feed it). The second largest factor, killing for food (like fishing), is also primarily caused by the animal food system. From 18 to as much as 51%[87] of the emissions causing the third factor, climate change, stems from animal agriculture. Shifting to a plant-based diet therefore almost immediately ends your contribution to the activities most responsible for the top two drivers of environmental breakdown and to what could be the largest source of greenhouse emissions causing the third.

Being part of the movement is essential

Whatever lifestyle choices you make, it is crucial to get involved in the climate movement. That’s because although our own footprints matter, it’s the industrial system as a whole that is driving planetary environmental breakdown. The system is also producing a wide range of deplorable social outcomes — like starvation, poverty, discrimination, violence, crime, animal cruelty, greed, inequality, and lack of awareness of and distraction from social and environmental problems.

Only a very large social movement can fundamentally change the system — it’s clearly not structured to transform itself for the greater good. Thankfully, the climate change movement is global, determined, and growing. Extinction Rebellion, a relatively small organization in the United Kingdom, actually compelled its government to declare a national climate emergency.

Responding to climate change can be personally beneficial too

Some good news is that responding to the climate crisis potentially also has many personal benefits. It can help you do right by your (and all) children, have substantially better health, save money, experience less stress, deepen sense of purpose and self-esteem, build social connection, develop new skills, raise more-prepared children, and increase your personal, family, and community resilience. Responding can help alleviate the needling distress of knowingly living in denial. It can put us more deeply in touch with what we are losing, inciting greater appreciation for the unbelievably majestic beauty of life and the world that enables it.

It is very possible that it is too late to stop runaway climate change. It is also possible that it is not too late and that what we choose will help make an important difference. One thing we know for certain is that we can only make a difference if we face climate change, look, and respond.

Visit for help.


Skip Spitzer[§]

September 2018 (updated 5/13/19)

[*] Other primary greenhouse gases are water vapor, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

[†] Warming figures are in comparison to the pre-industrial average global surface temperature.

[‡] CO2-equivalent is a unit that describes amounts of multiple greenhouse gases in terms of just the primary one.

[§] You can reach me at This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit


[2] For example, methane is up 254% and nitrous oxide 121% compared to 1750. See WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin: The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2014. World Meteorological Organization. №11, 9 November 2015.

[3] Strona, Giovanni, and Corey JA Bradshaw. “Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change.” Scientific reports 8.1 (2018): 16724.

[4] Degnarain, N. and Stone, G.S. Soul of the Sea: In the Age of the Algorithm. Leete’s Island Books. 2017.

[5] Sánchez-Bayo, Francisco, and Kris AG Wyckhuys. “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers.” Biological Conservation 232 (2019): 8–27.

[6] John Roach. “Source of Half Earth’s Oxygen Gets Little Credit.” National Geographic. June 7, 2004.

[7] Jankielsohn, Astrid. “The Importance of Insects in Agricultural Ecosystems.” Advances in Entomology 6.02 (2018): 62.

[8] S. Nazrul Islam & John Winkel, 2017. “Climate Change and Social Inequality,” Working Papers 152, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.

[9] U.S. Global Change Research Program. Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume 2: “Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States.” Nov. 23, 2018.

[10] Patrisse Cullors and Nyeusi Nguvu. “From Africa to the US to Haiti, climate change is a race issue.” The Guardian. September 14, 2017.

[11] Gore, T. (2015). Extreme Carbon Inequality: Why the Paris climate deal must put the poorest, lowest emitting and most vulnerable people first.

[12] Stanberry LR, Thomson MC, James W (2018) Prioritizing the needs of children in a changing climate. PLoS Med 15(7): e1002627.

[13] Zhang Y, Bi P, Hiller JE. Climate change and disability-adjusted life years. J Environ Health. 2007;70(3):32–36pmid:17941401.

[14] American Public Health Association. Making the Connection: Climate Changes Mental Health.

[15] Don J. Melnick, Mary C. Pearl and Mark A. Cochrane. “The Earth Ablaze.” New York Times. Aug. 8, 2018.

[16] “State of the Air 2018.” American Lung Association. 2018.

[17] United Nations. Water and Climate Change.

[18] Union of Concerned Scientists. A Changing Climate Worsens Allergy Symptoms.

[19] Jacqueline Howard. “Tick- and mosquito-borne diseases more than triple, since 2004, in the US.” CNN. May 2, 2018.

[20] Nathan Solis. “Humans, Climate Change Shrinking Habitat for Predator & Prey.” Courthouse News Service. August 8, 2018.

[21] Emily Atkin. “America Is on the Verge of Ratpocalypse.” New Republic. August 23, 2017.

[22] Sarah Maslin Nir. “In California, Houses Burned. So Did the Toxic Chemicals They Contained.” New York Times. Nov. 29, 2018.

[23] Noyes, Pamela D., et al. “The toxicology of climate change: environmental contaminants in a warming world.” Environment international 35.6 (2009): 971–986.

[24] Beard, Charles B., et al. Ch. 5: Vectorborne Diseases. US Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, 2016.

[25] Sara Goudarzi. “As Earth Warms, the Diseases That May Lie within Permafrost Become a Bigger Worry.” Scientific American. Nov 2016.

[26] Rinderu, M. I., Bushman, B. J., & Van Lange, P. AM. (2018). “Climate, aggression, and violence (CLASH): a cultural-evolutionary approach.” Current Opinion in Psychology, 19, 113–118.

[27] Arman Azad. “How climate change will affect your health.” CNN. October 12, 2018.

[28] James Temple. “Climate change’s highest cost: Overheated employees too miserable to work.” MIT Technology Review. Nov. 27, 2018.

[29] P.N. Bierwirth and Emeritus Faculty. “Are increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels lowering our

intelligence?” Australian National University. Nov. 7, 2018.

[30] Mike Scott. “Climate Change Threatens Economic Growth.” Forbes. April 3, 2014.

[31] David Wallace-Wells. “A future of erratic weather, higher seas, and extreme heat could lead to an economic ‘Great Dying’ twice as severe as the Great Depression.” Business Insider. Feb. 21, 2019.

[32] FAO, IFAD, and UNICEF. “WFP and WHO (2017) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017: Building Resilience for Peace and Food Security.” (2018).

[33] Jeff Turrentine. “Climate Change Is Already Driving Mass Migration Around the Globe.” OnEarth (Natural Resources Defense Council). January 25, 2019.

[34] Kirk Semple. “Central American Farmers Head to the U.S., Fleeing Climate Change.” New York Times. April 13th, 2019.

[35] Burke, Marshall, et al. “Higher temperatures increase suicide rates in the United States and Mexico.” Nature climate change 8.8 (2018): 723.

[36] Kishan Khoday and Walid Ali. “Climate Change and the Rise of Poverty.” United Nations Development Programme. December 19, 2018.

[37] Junia Howell, James R Elliott; Damages Done: The Longitudinal Impacts of Natural Hazards on Wealth Inequality in the United States, Social Problems, spy016,

[38] Ranson, Matthew. “Crime, weather, and climate change.” Journal of environmental economics and management 67.3 (2014): 274–302.

[39] Lukas, K. and Nett, K. and Rüttinger, L. Insurgency, Terrorism and Organised Crime in a Warming Climate: Analysing the Links Between Climate Change and Non-state Armed Groups. Adelphi (Berlin, Germany). 2016.

[40] Dino Grandoni. “Montana’s forests once helped blunt climate change. Now they contribute to it.” Washington Post. January 29, 2019.

[41] Jan Lopatka. “Climate change to blame as bark beetles ravage central Europe’s forests.” Reuters. April 26, 2019.

[42] Kimberley T. Davis, Solomon Z. Dobrowski, Philip E. Higuera, Zachary A. Holden, Thomas T. Veblen, Monica T. Rother, Sean A. Parks, Anna Sala, Marco P. Maneta. “Wildfires and climate change push low-elevation forests across a critical climate threshold for tree regeneration.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. March 2019. 116 (13).

[43] Sekerci, Y. & Petrovskii, S. Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change. Bull Math Biol (2015) 77: 2325.

[44] Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T.M., Folke, C., Liverman, D., Summerhayes, C.P., Barnosky, A.D, Cornell, S.E., Crucifix, M., Donges, J.F., Fetzer, I., Lade, S.J., Scheffer, M., Winkelmann, R., and Schellnhuber, H.J. (2018) Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1810141115.

[45] Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). “Global warming: Dwindling chances to stay below 2 degrees Celsius warming.” ScienceDaily, 21 September 2014.

[46] Barrett, M., et al. “Living Planet Report 2018: Aiming Higher.” (2018).

[47] Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. “IPBES Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers” (unedited advance version). Released May 6, 2019.

[48] Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, Rodolfo Dirzo. Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. July 2017.

[49] Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. “IPBES Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers” (unedited advance version). Released May 6, 2019.

[50] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global Warming of 1.5ºC. 2018. Retrieved from

[51] Resplandy, Laure, R F Keeling, Y A Eddebbar, M K Brooks, R Wang, L Bopp, M Long, John P Dunne, W Koeve, and A Oschlies, November 2018: Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition. Nature, 563(7729).

[52] New Fact Sheets Reveal Status of Geoengineering Technology Development. Geoengineering Monitor.

[53] Brian Walsh, Philippe Ciais, Ivan A. Janssens, Josep Peñuelas, Keywan Riahi, Felicjan Rydzak, Detlef P. van Vuuren & Michael Obersteiner. Pathways for balancing CO2 emissions and sinks. Nature Communications. Volume 8, Article number: 14856 (2017).

[54] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C.” October 2018.

[55] Brad Plumer, Nadja Popovich. “Here’s How Far the World Is From Meeting Its Climate Goals.” New York Times. 11–6–2017.

[56] Calculated from data from Global Carbon Atlas at

[57] Based on data from 2° Institute at

[58] For example, see: Järvensivu, Tero Toivanen, Tere Vadén, Ville Lähde, Antti Majava, Jussi T. Eronen. Backgrounder for UN Global Sustainable Development Report 2019. BIOS Research Unit, Helsinki, Finland. August 14, 2018.

[59] Also see: Ripple, W. J. et al. 2017. World scientists’ warning to humanity: A second notice. BioScience. 76(12):1026–1028.

[60] Also see: Scientist Kevin Anderson: Our Socioeconomic Paradigm is Incompatible with Climate Change Objectives.

[61] Brad Plumer and Lisa Friedman. “Trump Team Pushes Fossil Fuels at Climate Talks. Protests Erupt, but Allies Emerge, Too.” New York Times. Dec. 10, 2018.

[62] Spitzer, Skip. “A systemic approach to occupational and environmental health.” International journal of occupational and environmental health 11.4 (2005): 444–455.

[63] Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope. “The media are complacent while the world burns.” Columbia Journalism Review. April 22, 2019.

[64] Funk, Cary. The Politics of Climate. Pew Research Center. October 4, 2016.

[65] Noah Gallagher Shannon. “Climate Chaos Is Coming — and the Pinkertons Are Ready.” New York Times. April 10, 2019.

[66] Benjamin Powers. “How the Wealthy Insulate Themselves from the Worst Impacts of Climate Change.” Medium. June 9, 2017.



[69] Douglas Rushkoff. “Survival of the Richest: The wealthy are plotting to leave us behind.” Medium. July 5, 2018.

[70] Gore, T. (2015). Extreme Carbon Inequality: Why the Paris climate deal must put the poorest, lowest emitting and most vulnerable people first.

[71] Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Carbon Footprint Of Best Conserving Americans Is Still Double Global Average.” ScienceDaily. 29 April 2008.

[72] Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT), version 2.0. World Resources Institute. 2014. These figures do not include emissions from land-use change and forestry.

[73] Gore, T. (2015). Extreme Carbon Inequality: Why the Paris climate deal must put the poorest, lowest emitting and most vulnerable people first.

[74] Griffin, Paul. “The carbon majors database: CDP carbon majors report 2017.” Inglaterra: CDP Worldwide (2017).

[75] Brough, Aaron & E.B. Wilkie, James & Ma, Jingjing & Isaac, Mathew & Gal, David. (2016). Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption. Journal of Consumer Research. 43. ucw044. 10.1093/jcr/ucw044.

[76] Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT), version 2.0.

[77] Joseph Romm. “U.S. responsible for 29 percent of CO2 emissions over past 150 years, triple China’s share.” Grist. June 2, 2009.

[78] Brulle, R. J. “The Climate Lobby: A Sectoral Analysis of Lobbying Spending on Climate Change in the United States — 2000 to 2016.” Climatic Change. August 2018.

[79] Vaclav Havel. “The Power of the Powerless (essay).” International Journal of Politics. 1979.

[80] Sara Wanous. “Use psychology for better climate communications.” Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

[81] Maibach, E., Leiserowitz, A., Rosenthal, S., Roser-Renouf, C., & Cutler, M. (2016). Is there a climate “spiral of silence” in America? Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

[82] The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas. 12 July 2017.Environmental Research Letters. Volume 12, Number 7.

[83] Moser, S., & Kleinhückelkotten, S. (2018). Good Intents, but Low Impacts: Diverging Importance of Motivational and Socioeconomic Determinants Explaining Pro-Environmental Behavior, Energy Use, and Carbon Footprint. Environment and Behavior, 50(6), 626–656.

[84] Olivia Petter. “Veganism is ‘Single Biggest Way’ to Reduce Our Environmental Impact on Planet, Study Finds.” The Independent. 6/1/2018.

[85] UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “Livestock’s long shadow: environmental issues and options.” Rome: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (2006).

[86] Thornton, P., Herrero, M. and Ericksen, P. “Livestock and climate change. Livestock Exchange Issue Brief 3.” Nairobi, Kenya: International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). 2011.

[87] Goodland, Robert, and Jeff Anhang. “Livestock and climate change: What if the key actors in climate change are… cows, pigs, and chickens?” World Watch Magazine. November/December 2009. Volume 22, №6.

Originally published at



Skip Spitzer
Age of Awareness

Software engineer, nonprofit strategy development consultant, and environmental and social justice researcher and campaigner