The deadline is 2030. By then, if we don’t do everything in our power to curb the causes of global warming, it’ll be too late. The world’s leading climate scientists issued this warning in a report at the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Among the worst-case scenarios forecast in the report are inundated coastlines, intensifying droughts, extreme heat, and poverty. It’s harrowing to think about. Will the panic around the report incite us as a species to take a stand for our survival and climate justice for the future? Can we keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius? We reached out to some of our authors to find out.
“‘Twelve years to save the planet,’ say the headlines about the latest IPCC report. It is easy to understand the need to set a deadline, and the scientist are probably right that, if we haven’t sharply turned towards lower global emissions of planet-warming gases by 2030, then it will be too late to stop warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the ambitious Paris target. The problem is it suggests climate change has an on-off switch. It’s not like that. We are already one degree warmer. Nothing will change overnight in twelve years if we don’t act. If there are tipping points that might accelerate things, we don’t know where they lie. Most likely, the world will just keep getting warmer, and the weather will keep getting wilder and more extreme.
Climate change is cumulative. Once in the air, carbon dioxide takes centuries to go away, so every time we add another tonne we are just turning up the planet’s thermostat another notch. We have to stop. Unless we get back to zero emissions, the warming will continue. To three, four, five, seven, ten degrees and beyond. The sooner we stop, the less bad it will be. And if we can find ways to start drawing down carbon dioxide—by reforesting the planet, for instance—then we can put things into reverse. It’s that simple.”
—Fred Pearce, Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age
“The recent report from the UN that catastrophic consequences due to climate change are looming ahead for the future of the biosphere come as no surprise too many of us. But for the public, this scenario doesn’t feel actionable. Perhaps it’s just too big, leaving citizens not sure where to start, or it feels too hopeless.
If anything, it is a wake-up call to a wake-up call, a plea to national leaders to get serious fast. After many years of sounding the alarm, there is only the recourse to ring the bell louder.”
—Marcus Eriksen, Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution
“One of the trickiest social psychology questions of the twenty-first century has been how to motivate climate change action. For better or worse, one of the only sufficiently powerful motivators might just be the increased urgency of shrinking timelines. We can bolster this short-sighted self-interest with effective activism strategies that leverage the minority of the population that has a longer time horizon, but the lingering question is whether we can motivate global action on the elephants in the room—like animal agriculture at over 14% of greenhouse gas emissions—before we’ve locked in catastrophe. Fortunately, some powerful technologies are peeking over the horizon, such as so-called ‘clean meat,’ real meat made without animals, that could facilitate dramatic reductions in emissions over the coming years.”
—Jacy Reese, The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists Are Building an Animal-Free Food System (forthcoming)
“In light of the latest climate science, it’s not panic that I worry about but the kind of fatalism that says we’re doomed, that there’s nothing to be done, and that nothing ever could have been done. As I wrote in a recent essay responding to such fatalism, this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding or mischaracterization of the climate crisis. We now face an all but certain climate catastrophe in the coming decades, but it’s not a binary, doomed or not-doomed, situation: just how catastrophic it will be depends on many things, the most important of which are what we do, now, politically.
It strikes me that many of the things I wrote in What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other which sounded extreme or even defeatist to some ears now sound commonplace, even too mild—such as, ‘it’s time now to fight like there’s nothing left to lose but our humanity.’ I still believe that statement, as long as it’s understood that the ‘fight’ takes many forms, on many fronts, including basic fights for democracy and human rights. Or where I quoted activist Tim DeChristopher, who told me that ‘holding onto our humanity’ in the face of what’s coming will be ‘a never-ending challenge’—and that ‘we need an endless movement and a constant revolution.’ Those words still ring true to me, regardless of how far we still remain from realizing them.”
—Wen Stephenson, What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice