On the two-decade mark since America’s invasion into Iraq, the fate of scores of people are yet again subject to whether liars, cheaters, and profiteers will win the day.
With regard to the future of our planet, we’re running out of time, but not options, to ameliorate the climate crisis, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, in their latest report released Monday.
The report is the result of over six years of work done by thousands of scientists and experts to holistically understand both the challenges posed by the climate emergency, as well as our remaining capacity to address that challenge—and maybe even leave the world a little better off.
In 2018, thousands of scientists worldwide worked with the IPCC to warn about the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. The effort was geared toward elucidating what kind of catastrophe threatened ourselves and future generations, and how we could accomplish limiting the damage, if not forestalling it completely. Now, five years later, the IPCC warns it is “likely” that warming will exceed that limit; projected emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure without any wind down will push us over the edge. If it often feels like we’re being constantly warned that “we need to change now before it’s too late,” or “it’s almost too late,” well, the IPCC is now officially telling us: “We are on the final brink of being too late.”
According to the report, multiple points of inquiry suggest that mitigation policies have led to observable reductions in “global emissions.” That is to say, the science is pretty straightforward: Take things seriously, and emissions will indeed go down. It’s the type of rudimentary beauty of science that Bill Nye would applaud.
Instead of heeding this basic guidance, or coming to terms with the fact that we literally cannot afford to build up any more fossil fuel–spewing operations, the United States—from which many other nations will get their example on how to pursue climate mitigation—just approved Willow, a massive Alaska oil-drilling project that will produce the equivalent of roughly two million cars’ worth of carbon pollution every year. President Joe Biden’s approval of the project breaks explicit promises he made for no more drilling and impresses no one except fossil fuel executives who will likely use their considerable wealth to flout the Biden administration.
What’s especially mind-boggling (in an appreciative of human ingenuity kind of way, but also a sort of maddening shock at how unseriously we’re taking climate change) is that we have all the technological and strategic tools at our disposal to accomplish the needed climate mitigation.
But so much of what rules everything around us—that is to say: cash—incentivizes the further extraction of fossil fuels in spite of the science that explicitly demonstrates that this is little more than a profit-motivated death drive. The IPCC found that public and private finance still flows much more into fossil fuels than into climate adaptation or mitigation; so we’re literally subsidizing fossil fuel executives making out like bandits while they destroy our planet.
Ultimately, the IPCC report tells us, citizens of this beautiful planet, that there are choices we collectively can make to take care of one another—so long as the worst interests above us don’t get to keep dictating our lives. The approval of Willow may feel discouraging, but there are also scores of people even now still fighting against it. As Mr. Rogers reminds us, when we see scary things in the news, we ought to look for the helpers. And helpers indeed are more abundant than the culprits of all the scary news: It’s high time—and perhaps the only time left—for us to know and embrace that fact.