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.
According to the new IPCC report, the carbon budget that gives us the best odds of staying below 1,5°C runs out in less than 5 and a half years at our current emissions rate. Maybe someone should ask the people in power how they plan to “solve” that?— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 9, 2021
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.
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