The world’s attention will once again be riveted on Paris this week as leaders from 195 nations gather for what may be the last chance to reach a global agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions and avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change.
But for hundreds of millions of people, the devastating impacts of a rapidly warming planet are now all too real. TakePart sent reporters, photographers, and videographers to six countries on the front lines of global warming to tell the stories of a climate already changed. We take you to the Philippines, where destructive super typhoons and Pope Francis’ call for action on climate change are spawning a grassroots movement in a deeply Catholic country that the United Nations ranks as the third-most-vulnerable to extreme natural disasters.
In Australia—one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters and the second-largest exporter of coal— heat waves and drought are killing off the iconic koala, which faces an even more immediate threat from a giant coal mine the government has approved to be built in the marsupial’s habitat. The Chinese-owned mine also threatens the future of farmers who are fighting the project in a bid to save their way of life and the koalas that live on their land.
The indigenous Sámi people of the Scandinavian Arctic are taking matters in their own hands to preserve ancient traditions as their world melts, disrupting the timeless migrations of salmon and reindeer that have sustained the Sámi for millennia.
The great boreal forests of the far north are a bulwark against climate change, storing a third of the world’s terrestrial carbon and sustaining native peoples. In Canada, one of the world’s last intact boreal woodlands, covering 1.2 million square miles, is under siege as soaring temperatures spawn wildfires and a wave of disease-carrying insects while mining, oil drilling, and dams carve up vast expanses of forest home to wolves, caribou, moose, and elk.
Climate change is also battering Guatemala. But the good news is that a 20-year experiment that gave control of one of Central America’s most important rainforests to the Mayan people has resulted in a big drop in deforestation while generating millions of dollars for indigenous businesses.
You’ll find some of the most vociferous climate deniers in Texas, an oil-drenched state that also has been ravaged by drought, heat waves, and floods of biblical proportions as temperature rise. That hasn’t stopped ranchers, farmers, and cities from pragmatically embracing renewable energy, water conservation, and sustainable agriculture—even if climate change remains a topic they’d just rather not discuss.
These stories send a common message to the world leaders in Paris: It’s time for action. Just follow the people.