Our future keeps getting more dire, but we keep doing nothing about it.
In March 2023 while we were relaxing in Arizona complaining about the cool wet winter we were having, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, issued one more report, in a very long series of similar reports, warning us, again, that the climate is getting worse and we are not doing anything about it.
The latest report shows that the world is very likely to miss its publicly declared goal to hold global warming to 1.5ºC or 2.7ºF. Remember that is the upper limit most of the countries of the world agreed we should not allow global temperatures to rise beyond, because the consequences would be catastrophic. If that level is exceeded world scientists have agreed our planet will pass a tipping point we will not be able to reverse. The damage will be that serious. Passing that limit will mean dangerous sea levels will be inevitable, many species will go extinct, and millions of people will suffer serious harm and die, including, of course, the poorest who will by and large suffer the most. But it won’t be just the poorest.
Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General is always bluntly eloquent on the subject. He said, we should think of it this way: “Humanity is on thin ice that is melting fast.” In fact, he said, the rise of temperatures in the last half century, roughly the time in which Christiane and I have been married, has been “the highest experienced by our world in the last 2,000 years!” Added to that, he said, “concentrations of carbon are already at their highest in the last 2,000 years… The climate time bomb is ticking.” The ice we are standing on is melting and the climate bomb is ticking. These are 2 mixed metaphors but it would be pedantic to worry about that. And what do we do about it? Do we treat this like the emergency it is? Not really? Are we stupid? Yes. Really.
Amna Nawaz the PBS co-host of Newshour invited one of my favorite climate scientists to comment. This was Katherine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University. Besides being a staunch Christian she is one of the most respected scientists on the subject in the US. She began, by saying those dramatic words by the UN Secretary-General were “completely justified.” She did not mince words either.
She reminded us that the window of opportunity the world had in which to change its activities to ensure a better future is rapidly closing, yet our emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise steadily. We are not making progress. We are still falling farther behind. She also reminded us that 1.5 degrees was not a magic turning point or threshold. It is a goal that we have set for ourselves, because we know beyond that limit things will get very bad for the human race. But as she said, “Every little bit that the planet warms carries additional costs with it. So, how much do we need to do? As much as possible. When? As soon as possible. Why? Because we will all benefit from that action.”
That is actually pretty simple: Every bit makes a difference and we will all benefit from doing the right thing and the sooner we do it the better off we all will be!
Hayhoe also pointed out that which we can all see already:
We are already seeing the impacts here today in the way that climate change is loading the weather dice against us.
We know we have always had droughts and floods and hurricanes and heat waves. But, in a warming world, they’re getting stronger and more dangerous. And they’re impacting all of us. But they are particularly affecting those who are vulnerable and marginalized the most.
The warmer the world gets, the more it endangers our food supply, our water supply, the safety of our homes, our own health, our economy and supply chains, the natural environment. Every aspect of life on Earth, including our life on Earth, is at risk the warmer this planet gets.
The UN has also made it clear that we should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, which is now less than 7 years away, and we must stop adding any more carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere entirely by 2050.
Who does not think the west is declining? Declining really is too mild a word when you are heading toward catastrophe.