10/21/2013 05:31 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Do You Know How Much From Your Pocket is Being Diverted to Carbon Costs?

The Cost of Carbon is the theme of this year's 24 Hours of Reality, the third annual awareness campaign staged by The Climate Reality Project, founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Aimed at creating the world's largest conversation on carbon pollution, it will explore how our tax dollars are being diverted to clean up weather related loss and destruction, and in supporting families displaced by floods and wildfire, among other things.

This may seem like a distant memory, but it was just in 2012 that Super storm Sandy wreaked havoc killing 71 people in the Caribbean and 125 people in the U.S., costing $65 billion. But the reality is 2012 was a year of record-breaking temperatures that triggered intense wild fires scorching one and a half times more land than ever before, and causing severe droughts that resulted in crop and economic loss to the agriculture sector. Maggie L. Fox, CEO of The Climate Reality Project says,

"Carbon pollution is changing our climate and transforming our world -- with profound and costly consequences for governments, communities, and individuals alike."

These sentiments are echoed in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released this past September. It warns, the concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide have increased at unprecedented levels as never seen in the last 800,000 years, with CO2 concentrations intensified by 40 per cent since pre-industrial times.

The 2000 IPCC scientists, who researched and authored the report unanimously agree, it's "extremely likely" human influence has been the dominant cause of global warming since the mid-20th century. The report also says successive warming in the last three decades is higher than any preceding decade since 1850, with 1983-2012 likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere.

Human activities are generating greenhouse gases that are directly linked to the rise in global temperatures. Some of the dire consequences projected in the 600 page document although not surprising, are quite depressing:

  • Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.

  • Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century. Under all RCP scenarios the rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971-2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets.

  • It is very likely that the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin and that Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover will decrease during the 21st century as global mean surface temperature rises. Global glacier volume will further decrease.

Clearly, the stakes are too high for us to carry on with our lives as though "business as usual". The long overdue policy and political changes could perhaps be brought forth by educating the public on the imperatives of carbon control in the atmosphere, which could spur political action. During the 24 Hours of Reality, Mr. Gore will also launch an innovative online tool, "Cost of Carbon" designed to help every single person calculate how much money from their personal pocket is being diverted to carbon costs.

The Cost of Carbon 24-hour reality scheduled for Oct. 22 will span across Africa, Asia, North America, South America, Australia, and Europe, with one host from each continent guiding the segments along with Mr. Gore and Ms. Fox. They will be joined by several international celebrities, scientists, economists, and other experts to explore the diverse impacts that climate change is having around the world and the associated costs.

"This year's event will be a major step forward in the social revolution for climate action. Together, we'll assess the collective and individual costs of carbon pollution we all are paying and call for lasting solutions that will change the course of our future," says, Ms. Fox.

The ultimate goal is to build momentum for "a market price on carbon and a political price on denial", and the campaign hopes to achieve this by urging the participants to send their Cost of Carbon assessment to their leaders and demanding political action in the top 20 carbon polluting countries.

Meantime, let's hope the world leaders take the latest IPCC report seriously. It's a clarion call for humanity to change its course, maybe the only last ditch effort to stop further deterioration of our planet and preserve what's left for our children and grandchildren.

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