This is very troubling news. For those of us who follow climate change policy and science, it’s not startling, but it’s arresting nonetheless. Indeed, it appears that The Window for Avoiding a Dangerous Climate Change Has Closed.
All of our sunk costs into fossil fuels, carbon intensive agriculture, deforestation, and their linkage to a consumer society and rising population will make 1.5 degrees Celsius extremely difficult. Some say impossible. The study referred to above only makes that very clear.
Just for nuance, Carbon Brief calculated the carbon budget for the coming years. It’s not pretty. We have about 20 years of emissions at current levels to get a 66% chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C. 3 degrees is pretty easy but it’ll lock in some really wicked feedbacks that will result in catastrophes. The weaning will be easier at that rate…well more gradual anyway…but the effects will be horrid. No wonder Dale Jamieson has encouraged us to do the following:
“In my view we find meaning in our lives in the context of our relationships to humans, other animals, the rest of nature, and the world generally. This involves balancing such goods as self-expression, responsibility to others, joyfulness, commitment, attunement to reality and openness to new (often revelatory) experiences.”
An existential response makes sense given the context. Everyone get ready to play Sisyphus and push the rock up the hill. Hopefully, like Camus’ Sisyphus we will smile when the rock tumbles down the other slope. Never mind that it’ll hit few low-lying island nations, the Sahel region of Africa, and the coastal cities of the world along the way.
But just remember, that you are not actually Sisyphus. Unlike him, you have friends. You have peers. You have neighbors and children. We all have our hands on the rock we are pushing. Even if it tumbles…a little shove at the top in one direction can keep it from colliding with those things we cherish.
If you care about these things and have any sense of duty, you will need to do something that’s uncomfortable. You and I will need to talk to policy makers about their decisions. You and I will need to talk with business owners about their business practices. You and I will need to decide that paying more for solar and wind and geothermal and tidal and–gasp–nuclear power is part of what we have to do to ensure a really habitable planet. You and I will need to push the powers that be. If that doesn’t work, then you will have to become the powers that be. Yes. You will have to run for office.
The task of limiting warming and protecting a good home for us and our children is an enormous “WE” project, not an isolated “I” project. But where “I” come into it, I have to recognize that you are a “Thou” and that this riotous beautiful earth is also a “Thou” worth all of the dignity of a mother or son. You and I–all of us–have a lot of work to do.
What do I know from working with people on this issue for years? That people are hungry to work on it. As Jorah Mormont says to Daenerys Targeryen in Game of Thrones, “No one makes it alone in this world khaleesi.” You and I aren’t alone. We are a we.
Will you step up?