The most highly anticipated climate study of the year is here, and … hoo boy! Without heroic action, the world is on course to reach warming severe enough to destabilize key societal and planetary systems as soon as 2030.
Appropriately responding to climate change now requires cutting global carbon emissions in half by that year, and entirely by 2040 — and then removing the excess greenhouse gases that have built up in our atmosphere over the rest of the century (and beyond). It is a problem with no precedent in history, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which authored the report.
Yes, it’s easy to read this report and conclude that there’s no hope, that we’re sunk, that the world is destined to burn.
But to be frank, the report caught me a bit off-guard — in a good way. You can read the entire 1,000 pages here, or my summary here, but there’s really just one main point to take away: Everyone, and every idea, is now a necessary part of the solution. We are all in this together.
I’ve said that before, sure, but it feels visceral now.
The report admits that “there is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes that would be necessary. Still, the world has briefly achieved such rapid change at regional levels during eras of great upheaval — like rebuilding after World War II or rebounding from the energy crisis of the 1970s.
If you take the report literally — which you should! — the decade of the 2020s is about to be the most important years in all of humanity. We’re about to enter one of the most creative, meaningful, transcendent eras of human history — simply because we must. That makes it an exciting time to be a scientist and writer (support my work here, if you’d like).
And the solutions can help eliminate extreme poverty and the roots of systemic oppression — existential problems, like climate change, are often symptoms of the same bigger problems.
If that is the world we need to will into being — one that centers justice, equity, and respect for all people and all non-human species — then so be it. Through the stark black-and-white of climate data, this report is now the clearest call ever made to motivate bold ideas into action.