The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, published a report authored by 91 scientists from 40 nations detailing the steps humanity would have to undertake to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the likely consequences if we fail to do so. The report paints a picture of a dire future that may come, caused by rising tides that could lead to poverty, starvation and a massive refugee crisis, but it also reassures that there is still time to avert this future if we really put in the effort. Therein lies the problem. The world has known about climate change for a while, but if we’re going to mitigate the damage we will need to do a lot more than what has been done so far. That being said, the world has taken some laudable steps toward mitigating climate change. Notable among these steps was the Paris Agreement, a treaty signed by 181 nations in which signatories agreed to voluntarily comply with self imposed limits on carbon emissions with the intention of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. While certainly not perfect, the Paris Agreement was a positive step toward limiting the damage of climate change, which is why it was so utterly nonsensical that in August of 2017, the United States decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement, citing economic motivations. After Syria signed onto the agreement in November of 2017, the United States became the only country in the world to reject the treaty. This certainly is not to say that every nation that’s signed on to the agreement has a perfect environmental record, but it does mean the United States is the only nation that currently refuses to take this nominal step towards addressing climate change.
The fact that we even think of climate change as a debate is insane. There are many issues in contemporary politics with multiple well represented positions, and, though I believe the positions some people take on these issues to be wrong, if not abhorrent, I still believe that there exists room for disagreement and debate. The existence of climate change is not a philosophical debate. There is an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that the temperature of the Earth is increasing, and humans are responsible. Yet, it is the de facto position of one of the two major United States political parties that climate change does not exist. The president, part of this party, has repeatedly called climate change a hoax made up by China. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency, in complete defiance of both its name and intended purpose, is doing everything it can to repeal regulations designed to protect the environment while issuing gag orders to prevent government scientists from even discussing the issue. But, of course, Republican opposition to climate change has nothing to do with the scientific questions. For all the talk of hoaxes, the real deciding factor is that there are some very powerful, very wealthy people with a vested interest in making sure fossil fuels remain profitable, and they have made it clear that they will use their money and power to support any politician who will execute their desires. In so doing, these corrupt politicians have subordinated the needs of the many to the greed of the few, risking the survival of our species and our planet for the sake of profit.
Both to ensure the continued survival of our species and because of the many other societal benefits of green energy, it’s time for the United States to put this silly and anti-intellectual nonsense behind us once and for all and put its full support behind efforts to mitigate rising temperatures and waters. Some people may see the IPCC report as terrifying and grim, and in a way it is, but it can also be a source of hope. There’s still a way to keep the increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and, though we may have to move heaven and earth to do it, I do believe that we can. As a species, we’ve done some pretty incredible things, from eradicating deadly maladies to travelling to the moon. Though this may well be the hardest task we’ve ever faced, the stakes couldn’t be higher. With our survival on the line, it is both possible and imperative that we unite with common purpose to save the world for ourselves and for our children.