We're All Going to Die
The Latest IPCC Report Is a Sobering Warning That We're Screwed
The planet is dying and we likely won't save it. That's the takeaway from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report. Released on Monday, it is an update to the dark and portent-filled February report. According to the scientists who wrote the report, greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and immediately be cut down over the rest of the decade in order to prevent the absolute worst ravages of climate change, even as some worsening conditions are guaranteed from years of inaction.
The report is grim. The third part of the IPCC's findings say that it's a “now or never” moment. And that's even as it's reported to be watered down by fossil fuel producing nations. But even with that, the picture painted by the report. 1.5C used to be a doomsday scenario that the Paris Accords nominally aimed to prevent; now keeping future heating at that level is our best-case option.
And yet it feels like any action to save the planet — and in turn prevent untold suffering worldwide which is already happening thanks to worsening severe weather impacts and displacement — is being actively opposed by those in power. In the United States, President Biden's climate initiative, which itself didn't go far enough, was killed when the Build Back Better bill died in Congress. International accords or treaties aim for a longer timeline than the IPCC lays out, and the biggest summit in recent memory, the Paris Accords, was nonbinding.
Meanwhile the combination of inflation plus the war in Ukraine is driving policy counter to saving the planet. Biden is releasing oil from the nation's Strategic Energy Reserve to try to lower prices, while urging OPEC nations like Saudi Arabia to pump more gas. This is the guy who ran as the pro-climate president in 2020. And the Saudis aren't increasing production, in part due to several geopolitical squabbles (don't worry, they still are getting military support from the U.S. Even as they did mass executions). Instead of going green, European states are looking to other sources of gas and fossil fuels as they try to get off of using Russia gas. And this is as costs continue to climb. Nations are openly stating they need to become energy independent from Russia, but no one is using this inflection point to maybe try to be eco-friendly and stop the rise in greenhouse gases. The result is more dependence on a costly fuel that just is slowly killing us. This is what the cost of delaying environmental action is. It's not just damage to the planet, it's moves that hurt economies and the people who live in them.
Oh, and let's not forget that the United States and Europe are the ones behind the majority of our planet's ecological damage. You know, the global powers nominally the ones leading the way on climate change.
If you follow me on Twitter you know I'm prone to tweeting out the latest bad climate news and commenting “we're all going to die.” It's slightly glib — listen there is an Aquaman GIF of that quote that is appropriately exhausted in nature — but it's a pretty accurate representation of the situation we're in.
Am I pessimistic? I'm trying really hard not to be. But it's hard to look at the sheer scale of work needed to be done, and the massive political shift to do so, and not despair. Add in that this needs to start no later than 2025, and it's worrying. It's very likely the elections this year and in 2024 will veer toward a party that's big on fossil fuels and climate denial, thanks in part to completely lackluster policy moves by the Biden administration and the legislative one-man veto of Senator Joe Manchin. The thing is, the tools and methods to prevent the worst damages of climate change exist. They already do. We know that shifting to a green economy would actually create jobs and would be smart investing, to look at it from a purely cold, calculating capitalist perspective. We also know the consequences if we don't. Resources shortages, increased violence over limited supplies, refugee crises, soaring costs and death. And we're choosing that route.
No one's coming to save us, we have to do it ourselves. But even if people do take action and force that political and socioeconomic change, it's unlikely the planet has enough time.
Greta Thunberg was right.
Today's Panic Links
The war in Ukraine continues, with untold suffering from it. The latest reports of executions and mass graves are horrifying. The images are graphic I don’t recommend seeking them out. Discourse Blog has an excellent piece on why Russia needs to be held accountable, and why every nation must be for war crimes.
And since this is a Substack page, it's worth commenting on a tweet this week from a Substack executive claiming that people might leave Twitter because speech would be less regulated. The great Alex Pareene has a brilliant and brutal response to that.
Today's Panic Music
Been on a loop in my head all day. Can’t go wrong with Joy Division.