"Students Global Climate Strike, Perth WA 2019" by Gnangarra / CC BY 2.5 au

Are We Really Running Out of Time to Stop Climate Change?

Sep 26, 2019

By Rafi Letzter

Are we running out of time to stop climate change? Nearly a year has passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that limiting global warming to the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit) mark by the end of the century — a goal set to stave off the worst impacts of climate change — “would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Some politicians and writers have thrown their hands up in the air and argued that it’s too late, and that human civilization is simply not up to the task. Others, meanwhile, took the report as a call to arms, reframing one of its points as a political organizing message: We have only 12 years to stop climate change, and the clock is ticking. (A year later, we’re down to 11.)

But the full picture is both more and less dire than a slogan can capture. We can’t stop climate change — because it’s already here, and it’s already too late to reverse many of its catastrophic effects. What’s true is that things are on track to get much worse over the course of this century, and that if we’re going to stop those things from happening, society is going to have to start hitting some important deadlines fast. There’s a big one coming 12 years after the IPCC report. Blowing through it won’t immediately plunge society into a “Mad Max”-style dystopia, as some have suggested — perhaps tongue in cheek — but it will make sure everything keeps getting steadily worse, and it will make turning things around down the road that much harder.

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5 comments on “Are We Really Running Out of Time to Stop Climate Change?

  • The more we prevaricate, keep our heads down and needlessly squander, the more abysmal and protracted the nadir of our children’s lives will be.

    It is never wrong to seek sustainability. Only that way can we build any kind of secure and investable future.

    Mankind’s enemies are the kleptocrats and, sad to say, the deluded religious in their false security. Sad also, the biddable, desperate poor co-opted by kleptocrats to do their democratic dirty work.

    It may seem strange, but much of the most important initial work to do, is to relieve that sense of desperate poverty, to recharge the democratic process, and take better control of the kleptocrats.

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  • the biddable, desperate poor co-opted by kleptocrats to do their democratic dirty work

    A classic nexus indicating a proto-fascist situation, orchestrated by real crypto-fascists.  Actually, it’s not all that proto any more, and they’re no longer seriously under cover.

    It’s sad that the political vocabulary of the 1930s is suddenly useful again.

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  • It’s a lot worse than anyone wants to believe.  We are not looking at a mere one or two degree increase in global temperatures, we are looking at more like 8.


    On top of that, ocean life is particularly at risk.  Our ocean’s ecosystem is heavily dependent on plankton, and in particular, armoured planktons that evolved hundreds of millions of years ago that allowed an explosion in the variety, complexity, and sheer biomass of ocean life by buffering the oceans against acidification due to volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters.



    Not that we, as a species, will be around to see any of this.

  • Pye

    Just to explain the difficulty you had posting your comment: as part of the site’s spam protection system, comments containing multiple links are often put aside pending moderator approval. If you try to repost the comment while it’s awaiting mod approval, it is identified by the system as spam, and that can mean that any other comments you make at about the same time can also be treated as spam.

    Please don’t worry if it happens again – it’s nothing personal, and we always review any comments marked as ‘pending’ or ‘spam’, so we will always retrieve them next time one of us is online.

    The mods

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