Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, Chair Hoesung Lee, center, speaks during a press conference in Incheon, South Korea, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Painful Truth: Are we wise enough to avoid climate catastrophe?

I'm not hopeful we'll escape the rising temperatures of global climate change.

Are we all going to die?

I mean, not right away. A dozen years, give or take, before things go off the rails and we start to have to really worry about survival in a way we haven’t before.

According to a new UN report on climate change, we have as little as 12 years to slash global emissions by 45 per cent, which should head off the worst of a further 1.5 degrees Celsius in global warming.

If you don’t think human caused global warming is real, well, I really don’t care what you think. You’re not helping. Go away.

For the rest of us, this is alarming. Can we slash global carbon emissions by almost half in a little more than a decade?

Yes. It’s physically possible.

Is it politically possible?

I don’t know. I fear it isn’t, and that we’ll spend the next decade fiddling while Rome burns (possibly literally) and then the decade after that assigning blame.

And then things will get worse. Most of us who are middle-aged and older will only see the early stages of how bad things could get. Massive droughts. melting permafrost and polar ice caps. A significant rise in sea levels (goodbye, Florida, Bangladesh, and coastal communities everywhere in between). Mass extinctions. Crop failures. Refugee crises, one after another.

To avert this scenario, we have to change our society top to bottom. We have to convert a worldwide fleet of billions of cars, trucks, and buses to electric power as fast as possible. We have to switch generation from coal and oil to renewables such as solar. We have to protect forests. We will have to tax the heck out of carbon emissions, which will make travel and trade much more expensive. And governments would have to invest in expensive, and largely experimental, technologies to extract carbon from the atmosphere.

I don’t think we’ll do it. I don’t think national governments will be able to see past their self-interests, I don’t think voters will pick the survival of their children over a nice truck and cheap gas. I think we’re doomed.

I hope I’m wrong. I’d like to be proven wrong. But what is there in human history that suggests we’ll get out of this one okay?

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