The new IPCC report on climate change will fill you with existential dread — rightfully so
A thousand years from now, when some vaguely human-like machine digs through the ashes of the Twenty-First century and tries to figure out what happened to those once-thriving animals called Homo sapiens, it may be confused about why an intelligent species that could build rockets and write songs like “Imagine” couldn’t heed warnings of its own destruction. A key question for future historians of the universe: How stupid were those humans anyway?
A new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard of climate science, outlines in frightfully stark terms what it would take to keep the earth’s temperature below 1.5 C of warming, which is the threshold for avoiding catastrophic climate change like the collapse of rain forests and coral reefs, rapid melting of the ice sheets that would swamp coastal cities around the world and heat extremes that could lead to millions of climate refugees.
Here’s what this new IPCC report says, in a nutshell: To avoid blowing through the 1.5 C target, nations of the world need to cut carbon pollution as fast as humanly possible. To be more precise, nations of the world need to get to zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Let me underscore this: It’s not enough that Portland, Oregon, or Berkeley, California, get to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Or the entire state of California, for that matter. Or even the entire United States. The entire world must eliminate (or offset)carbon pollution by 2050.
“It’s like a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen. We have to put out the fire,” Erik Solheim, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, told the Washington Post.
Is anyone listening to the alarm? Do you see a stampede of coal plant operators rushing to shut down operations to save civilization? Are cattle farmers lining up to transform their stockyards into tofu ranches? Are commuters dumping their SUVS for good?
I don’t think so.
Still, this is a groundbreaking report, if only because it lays out in such stark terms just how dire our predicament truly is.
The world our parents and grandparents grew up in — is gone forever. There is no going back.
Read more: Rolling Stone