The end of the world is approaching, even if you’ve heard it all before

Icebergs in the fjord after breaking away from glaciers in southeastern Greenland. (David Goldman / Associated Press)

Periodic reports of the UN International Group of Experts on Climate Change turn into self-parody.

This is your last warning, they say. Move on. Do not sit idly by. Fix the problem now.

We mean it!

I am constantly amazed that the IPCC scientists do not wave their hands in disgust at the inability of humanity to wake up and stop publishing reports at all.

Instead, they continue to keep faint glimpses of hope and encouragement, which is just, maybe, maybe we’ll approach the case. I can’t help but wonder, or is it just because, well, any other message is unthinkable.

According to the latest report released on Monday, the world is on track to overcome the critical goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a goal set nearly a decade ago in the Paris Climate Agreement. . If we fail to keep warming at that level, as scientists have long said, we will no longer be able to avoid many of the worst effects of climate change.

There is no big secret about the parade of catastrophes that will follow if emissions continue to rise: new uncontrolled storms, dangerous heat, terrible floods, fierce fires and other “extreme events unprecedented in the recording of observations.”

And this is just the beginning. Lack of water and heat will lead to lack of food and malnutrition. Changing agricultural schemes will cause mass migrations of tens of millions of people. Conflict and war will be the result of increased competition for minerals and water. The economy will collapse.

This is the material of apocalyptic books and cataclysms of science fiction films.

However, people all over the world mostly reacted like children holding their fingers in their ears and shouting “Nyah nyah nyah” to drown out the bad news. We broke our arms, but changed our behavior only gradually. We took action that could have changed the situation 25 years ago, but now too little, too late, after decades of stubborn, irresponsible neglect, denial and passivity.

You no longer need to be crazy to climb on a soap dish and announce that the end of the world is approaching. As far as I can judge from the brightest scientific minds in the world (even if I don’t understand all the technical details, I believe in the process that led them to my conclusions), only far-reaching, transformational changes in how we live and work can prevent disaster .

Only immersing huge sums of money in the problem and making extensive behavioral changes can protect us. We need to speed up the cessation of dependence on coal, gas, oil and other fossil fuels, because we do not have enough time and alternatives.

Certainly, there was a certain movement that explains the glimmer of hope of the IPCC. Clean energy technology has progressed. Although total carbon emissions continue to rise, growth has slowed. The use of renewable energy sources has expanded, just not enough. The United States has now returned to the Paris Climate Agreement.

But solutions are not enough to solve the problem.

Why were we unable to respond properly?

Neurologists, psychologists and researchers of human behavior have tried to answer these questions. Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert argues that we react instinctively to protect ourselves when a baseball hits us in the head, but we are not biologically prepared for big, slow threats.

Here in the United States, our democratic political system is ill-suited to pursuing policies that require sacrifice and pain today in exchange for the future; politicians who support such strategies are dismissed.

Our economic system rewards corporate behavior that maximizes short-term profits for shareholders rather than long-term planning for a better, more stable world.

Although climate change is a slow and often imperceptible threat, it does not mean that it is inevitable. For the grandchildren of our grandchildren, the crisis is not far off. It is now coming to us. In fact, it’s up to us.

But we are constantly failing in this task.

Scientists from the late 19th century knew that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere could raise global temperatures. Half a century ago, the melting of ice in Antarctica has already been documented. By the 1970s, Exxon Mobil understood its role in ocean warming and melting polar ice. The first international conference on climate change was held in Stockholm 50 years ago.

When I saw the story of the last IPCC report, I almost ignored it because, like everyone else, I read it a million times – and wrote a thousand times. I knew it would scare me, make me feel powerless.

Therefore, such messages may seem counterproductive: people get used to it. They are divided into branches. They fall into depression, swear not to have children.

Or they turn the pages of sports, telling themselves that other news is more relevant: six people were shot in Sacramento; Ukrainians killed when Russian soldiers pulled out of Bucha; Grammy Highlights.

But let’s not fool ourselves. We can click on the IPCC report, but the facts remain. Serious problems are coming up and we are not doing enough to stop it.


This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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