|Imagine a world where one Arctic summer per decade is too warm to support the sea ice that helps maintain our global ecosystem and environment, directly impacting the people and animals of these far north communities. A world where coral reefs, once bustling with the rich diversity of sea life, have all but completely disappeared from the oceans. A world where mass global migration from tropical areas leads to a drastic population increases in cooler parts of the world. A new report, released in October 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicts that this barren world will be reality if global temperatures continue rising by just 2°C (3.6°F), compared to temperatures from pre-industrial times.
The world is already halfway there – data from 2017 indicates that earth’s temperature has already risen by a full 1°C (1.8°F). In the United States, climate change is already impacting health in a variety of ways. Air pollution, rising temperatures, higher levels of pollen, and longer pollen seasons are leading to more severe and frequent respiratory problems including allergies and asthma. Climate change can also lead to extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and wildfires, which can destroy homes and livelihoods, damage nutritious food supplies, and reduce access to safe drinking water. As climate change progresses, communities worldwide are experiencing harmful changes to their environments. Although climate change will impact all people worldwide, especially as temperatures continue to rise, it is important to recognize that America’s first people are often the first and most severely affected by these harmful environmental impacts, although they have contributed to climate damage the least. In fact, for thousands of years, American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) have demonstrated tremendous respect for the planet, living in harmony with their environments and taking only what they needed from the earth for their physical, cultural, and spiritual purposes.