On August 9, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its clearest warning yet: climate change is inevitable and irreversible, and it will continue to worsen unless we take action now.
This is the IPCC's sixth comprehensive climate science report published since 1988. Almost a decade in the making, with contributions from hundreds of scientists and peer-reviewed studies from around the world, it uses its strongest language to date in describing how a warming world will affect its inhabitants. Human activity unequivocally caused a 1.1°C increase in global temperatures since pre-industrial levels; that’s almost to the critical 1.5°C threshold which, if surpassed, would dramatically change life on Earth as we know it.
We have zero years left to avoid dangerous climate change, because it’s already here. In 2021 alone, several unprecedented extreme weather events—including heatwaves, droughts, fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters—ravaged all corners of the globe. Though nature does not discriminate, we know climate change and poverty are inextricably linked, and it’s often our most vulnerable populations that face the brunt of both climate disaster and neglectful climate policy.
Right here in Minnesota, Indigenous Water Protectors and their allies/accomplices have been tirelessly fighting for the past 5 years against the construction of a new pipeline expansion (commonly known as Line 3) by Enbridge Inc., a Canadian oil-and-gas transport company. Enbridge is the same company responsible for the catastrophic oil spill in Kalamazoo 2010, the largest inland oil spill in American history.
If completed, the pipeline would pump nearly 1 million barrels of tar-sand crude oil everyday, crossing more than 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River (twice), along a route that traverses the Lake Superior and Mississippi watersheds. It also violates treaty-protected tribal lands, including the wild rice fields of the Anishinaabe tribe.
One estimate suggests Line 3 would have the same environmental impact as 50 coal-fired power plants. Already in the construction process, Enbridge has pumped out 5 billion gallons of water from the headwaters of the Mississippi, during the worst drought Minnesota has seen in years. Additionally, Enbridge has admitted to 28 “drilling fluid” spills, totaling over 10,000 gallons of contamination released into the environment, polluting vital water sources.
Native peoples who live in proximity to Line 3 construction express feelings of betrayal yet again by state and national leaders. Over 800 people have been arrested or cited since November 2020 for peaceful protest, direct action, and civil disobedience; many face trumped-up charges and brutal police violence.
We are at the precipice of an irreversible climate catastrophe. It can be overwhelming to consider the task ahead of us. The IPCC report makes it clear that the only way to combat climate change is to lower greenhouse gas emissions and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. We know it will take both individual action as well as systemic change to reform our relationship with the Earth, advocate for environmental justice, and mitigate the worst effects yet to come. Action starts with you, here and now.
Here are some ways that you can do your part now:
Take Actions to Stop Line 3
Petition Governor Walz
Contribute to MN350 Stop Line 3 Mutual Aid
Photo Credit: Rilyn Eischens/MN Reformer