By David Wallace-Wells
Mr. Wallace-Wells is the author of the forthcoming “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.”
Feb. 16, 2019, 1034 c
The age of climate panic is here. Last summer, a heat wave baked the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing dozens from Quebec to Japan. Some of the most destructive wildfires in California history turned more than a million acres to ash, along the way melting the tires and the sneakers of those trying to escape the flames. Pacific hurricanes forced three million people in China to flee and wiped away almost all of Hawaii’s East Island.
We are living today in a world that has warmed by just one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s, when records began on a global scale. We are adding planet-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a rate faster than at any point in human history since the beginning of industrialization.
In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what has become known as its “Doomsday” report — “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” as one United Nations official described it — detailing climate effects at 1.5 and two degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). At the opening of a major United Nations conference two months later, David Attenborough, the mellifluous voice of the BBC’s “Planet Earth” and now an environmental conscience for the English-speaking world, put it even more bleakly: “If we don’t take action,” he said, “the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
Scientists have felt this way for a while. But they have not often talked like it. For decades, there were few things with a worse reputation than “alarmism” among those studying climate change.
David Lindsay: Bravo David Wallace-Wells. You have put into words what has been formulating in my mind for months, maybe years. I urge one and all to read the entire piece, and to get active in politics and sustainable living practices.
Regarding the IPCC doomsday report, David Wallace Wells wrote:
“The thing that was new was the message: It is O.K., finally, to freak out. Even reasonable. This, to me, is progress. Panic might seem counterproductive, but we’re at a point where alarmism and catastrophic thinking are valuable, for several reasons.
The first is that climate change is a crisis precisely because it is a looming catastrophe that demands an aggressive global response, now. In other words, it is right to be alarmed. The emissions path we are on today is likely to take us to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040, two degrees Celsius within decades after that and perhaps four degrees Celsius by 2100.”
David Lindsay: Most species, including humans, will not survive such temperature increases.
Kathleen Schomaker and I now have a folk music concert and sing-a-long to perform on Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction, which also includes a few short readings and humor. We are actively trying to cheerfully sound the alarm, and hope to perform before new audiences. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
There are some great comments about the article above, Time to Panic, such as: