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California floods, Chile fires: LGBTQ+ collective action can lead on climate change

California floods, Chile fires: LGBTQ+ collective action can lead on climate change
Photo by William Fortunato for Pexels

Our community knows how to make change — we now need to put that energy towards the climate crisis.

The COP28 Climate Change Summit ended last last year with a marginal and loophole-ridden agreement from nations on battling global warming and other disasters related to climate change. On the positive side, and despite the fossil fuel-sponsored summit, the ending agreement included a central provision to move away from fossil fuels. The summit also agreed to help disadvantaged nations with the battle against climate change impacts (even as some impoverished regions have discovered huge reserves of oil and coal that can transform their economies just as it did decades ago for OPEC nations). Another major term of the agreement was commitment — with no real requirement — to lower emissions by 10 percent by the end of the decade to keep the planet from exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius warning level from scientists.

The reality is that many climate experts have agreed a 10 percent cut does not go nearly far enough — 2022 actually saw an increase of 1.2 percent in emissions, creating the hottest year the planet has experienced in recorded history, with 2023 likely to exceed it. So, while many countries, fossil fuel companies, and political leaders are slapping themselves on the backs for the COP28 agreement, it’s highly unlikely the agreed actions will stop the destructive nature of climate change; just look at what’s happening in California and Chile.

Centralized action of governments and companies, which is largely reliant on taxes and for-profit opportunities, is not working to the degree we need or can reasonably rely upon. In April 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is made up of 195 member countries, released a report that called for nations to consider “human behavior, consumption and choices,” including consuming less meat, when working to battle climate change. A report released at COP28 and published by the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization had a more direct statement: “Nations that over-consume meat will be advised to limit their intake.” As for driving, a highly respected study led by the University of Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit and lead researcher on the report, Dr Christian Brand, said: “We found that those who switch just one trip per day from car driving to cycling reduce their carbon footprint by about 0.5 tonnes over a year, representing a substantial share of average per capita CO2 emissions.”

It’s time for our leaders to alert all 8 billion inhabitants of Earth to take collective action to reverse climate change. It’s remarkable that the media mostly ignores this call for individual action on climate or even outreach by celebrity climate activists and influencers. The individual inhabitants of the world must act together.

At this point what can we collectively do? Climate scientists have pointed to several actions we can all do, such as giving up meat one day a week. Also, if all of us committed to not use fossil fuel vehicles for transportation just one day a week, we will also cut emissions significantly, as well as having the magical impact of lowering our gas reliance on fossil fuels from 15 million barrels a day to an estimated 12 million daily, lowering prices per gallon to more affordable levels and moving us much faster to the collective inflation goal of 2 percent annually. Oxford’s Dr. Brand stated, “If just 10% of the population were to change travel behaviour, the emissions savings would be around 4% of lifecycle CO2 emissions from all car travel.”

When it comes to leading on collective action, there are no better humans on the planet than those who identify as LGBTQ+. Throughout the modern history of LGBTQ+ rights, collective action has led to greater equality, marriage rights, lowering HIV rates, and even, stopping last year’s MPX outbreak. The Stonewall Uprising gained notoriety in 1969 and ultimately paved the way to greater societal acceptance and equality because of the collective resistance and arrests of queer, trans, and drag patrons. HIV was slowed with the collective actions of encouraging condoms in the early days of the disease, and now, encouraging men who have sex with men as well as other vulnerable communities to get on HIV prevention, or PrEP. Gaining marriage rights for Americans in 2015 was the long culmination of collective action. Most recently, the LGBTQ+ community took collective action in taking the MPX infection rate, which was largely affecting gay men in 2022, from thousands a week to near zero in just six months because we demanded more testing, vaccines, and public education.

With our tremendous success in collective action, we need to lead the way on the biggest issue facing every living and future human alive. We can be those leaders.

Michael D. Kelleyis a cofounder and a principal LGBTQ+ shareholder ofequalpride, publisher of The Advocate. His opinion pieces representhis own viewpoints and not necessarily those ofequalpride or its affiliates, partners, or management.

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