In the glut of terrible news that seems to have become the norm recently, there was one particular story some of you may have missed.
It’s not hard to see why: with the implosion of the US America and Brazil dominating foreign headlines and our own domestic troubles, a new report on climate change might seem to be the least interesting thing out there. However, this report may actually be the most important story out there at the moment.
Drawn up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the report is signed by over more than 100 international scientists and explains in great detail the importance of keeping climate change below 1.5°C.
Now there are a lot of interesting things to take out of this report, but for this piece I want to focus on the two key points that I found the most frightening.
First, the entire report acknowledges human-fueled climate destruction as inevitable. According to the IPCC, we are already past the point of no return. We have ruined the climate and there is no going back.
“If all anthropogenic [man-made] emissions were reduced to zero immediately, any further warming beyond the 1°C already experienced would likely be less than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades” (emphasis by original authors).
In other words, even if we were to cast a magic spell that would eliminate all human-caused greenhouse gasses, we would still be looking at a further increase of 0.5°C. Since that is not going to happen, severe climate change is now pretty much a scientific certainty. All we can do now is mitigate the damage as much as possible.
The second point is just how little time we have to fix things. The report says that our best hope of surviving is to keep climate change below 1.5°C. However, the report also says: “Limiting warming to 1.5°C implies reaching net zero CO2 emissions globally around 2050”.
2050. 32 years away. We have just more than over 30 years to completely eliminate all CO2 emissions, otherwise we are looking at an increase of 2°C or more. This, more than anything, is the most terrifying part of the whole report.
The entire global economy is based on fossil fuels. It runs our transport, it powers our machines, it electrifies our homes. Eliminating CO2 emissions completely means nothing short of a complete overhaul of the system upon which modern civilisation is based.
We shouldn’t forget that this system is the same one that led us here in the first place. Exxon Mobile, one of the largest oil companies in the world, is currently being sued for burying evidence about how they were causing climate change almost 40 years ago.
At the time of writing, just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of global emissions. Is it any wonder why business and political elites are reluctant to do anything concrete on what is possibly the biggest existential threat humanity has ever faced?
The people at the top are too heavily invested in the system to bring about change. As long as the game is rigged to benefit the 1% at the expense of the rest, there is no incentive to improve. If we truly want to fight climate change and save not just our planet but ourselves, then we have to stop waiting on the corporations. We need to organise ourselves at a grassroots level and demand that they wake up and see the damage they are doing.
Time is running out and if we don’t act now, it will be too late.