The climate activist Greta Thunberg has a gift for sifting through climate news and distilling the most essential information.

Earlier today, she summed up the science of the latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with a few sobering tweets. 

Thunberg has repeatedly drawn attention to the remaining carbon budget, partly because it borrows language from economics, the field that seems to most inform politicians who have so far failed to craft meaningful climate policy.

There’s also the benefit of mathematical simplicity. 

The carbon budget cannot be budged, delayed, or bargained with — it simply describes how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases the atmosphere needs to absorb before global temperatures rise beyond certain levels. 

The carbon budget for 1.5 degrees Celsius — the level that scientists urge countries to stay within — will be exceeded within five and a half years based on current emissions trends.

Once 1.5 degrees of warming is surpassed, scientists expect that various environmental tipping points will be reached, setting in motion potentially unstoppable climate deterioration. These tipping points include the melting of the polar regions, the loss of forests, the desertification of regions, the alteration of ocean currents, and much more. 

But Thunberg reminds us that we don’t have to experience these tipping points. As she wryly alludes to, the solution to the climate crisis isn’t high-tech gadgetry or long-distant promises to phase out emissions.

The solution is simple: Leave fossil fuels in the ground. That would require complete and immediate transformation of the global economy — a daunting task, no doubt, but we can choose to transform the economy now or let the climate crisis force us to anyway.


You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defeat poverty and defend the planet by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.

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Defend the Planet

Greta Thunberg Bluntly Captures Stakes of Climate Crisis in Wake of IPCC Report

By Joe McCarthy