The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has historically been rather conservative and understated in its climate reports, released a bombshell report this past week effectively stating that humanity has roughly a decade to make profound efforts in greenhouse gas emissions mitigation. If we, as a species, don’t make these changes, we will end civilization as we know it and risk our own extinction. This is not hyperbole—this is fact.
The Amazon rainforest, one of nature’s most efficient carbon sinks, now produces more carbon dioxide than it absorbs, thanks to immense deforestation and fires made worse by Brazil’s current fascist demi-dictator, Jair Bolsonaro. Coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef included, are dying in massive bleaching events thanks to ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide absorption that acidifies the water and kills marine life.
Biodiversity—one of the most significant factors in keeping ecosystems healthy—has taken a devastating hit with humanity having decimated 60% of animal populations since 1970. That means we have only about 40% of animals on Earth that we did in 1970, and that number is decreasing every year.
Extreme weather events happen with increasing frequency, intensity, and exasperation. Glaciers and the ice caps melt with increasing alacrity.
And yet, while we know full well we are speeding towards the cliff edge, people continue to buy gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, fly all over the world for frivolous vacations, buy excessive goods, and vote for politicians who think climate change is a hoax (read: Republicans). Slash and burn really has taken on a new meaning, and it’s all happening so fast that we forget what ecosystems looked like even just 10 years ago.
What makes this even more frustrating, what makes me feel like I’m screaming into the void, and what makes me perhaps quixotically hopeful, is that, believe it or not, we have all the solutions to not only make this better, but reverse much of the damage we’ve done.
We have solar panels, wind, geothermal, and nuclear technology that produces little to no emissions once built. We know more sustainable ways to farm that can help reabsorb atmospheric carbon dioxide far more effectively than monoculture crops. There is a promising growing carbon capture technology field with direct air capture (as long as it doesn’t give a lifeline to fossil fuels) and advanced mineral weathering/mineral carbonation. We have the ability to not just plant billions of trees, but rewild, reforest, and restore ecosystems we’ve ruined. That’s just to name a few. We can do all these things today—but we first need the political will to be there to get it done.
We must take this hopeful path regardless of how daunting it is.
Big companies and their lobbyists (e.g. fossil fuel companies), responsible for much of the impending climate disaster, must look past short-term profits to give the Earth the life support it so desperately needs. At the very least, they must ask themselves what their wealth can do for them if the global economy collapses and money becomes worthless. Flying to space with Jeff Bezos isn’t the solution unless they actually want to die in a rocket-propelled penis-shaped silo or, at best, a shed on Mars.
But what everyone should do—needs to do—is truly understand, internalize, and worry about the apocalyptic world we will suffer if we don’t take the good path. That said, the fact we don’t have people marching in the streets in outrage at our seemingly unfazed world leaders gives me little hope. The climate apocalypse is not a mere possibility—without major global changes, it will remain a fast-approaching inevitability. Most of you reading this will live to see the end of civilization if we don’t do enough.
Democracy thrives in snarkiness