Now is the time to act to stop climate change


Photo by Sourish Dey

Hunger strikers and supporters rally outside the White House in support of the Build Back Better Act. In recent years, climate activists have escalated their actions as the time to act on climate change runs out.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on the impact of 1.5 degrees celsius of warning. It warned of global catastrophe and said the world needed to cut emissions in half by 2030. Yet, as we are now in 2022, the state of affairs on climate is deeply disturbing. In 2021, global emissions increased 5% according to the International Energy Agency. With less than 9 years till 2030, we continue to barrel down the path of climate inaction and increased emissions. 

  What makes this all even more worrying is that there has been a major effort to urge climate action around the world. The youth climate movement has brought climate to the top of the political agenda in the US and speaks at the forefront of global climate discussions. Despite all this, the world still hasn’t taken sufficient action to even maintain current emission levels, let alone drastically decrease them.

It seems we do not sufficiently appreciate the severity of the climate crisis. This is particularly bad since we are nearing the end of the window to avoid catastrophe. We have known about man-made climate change since the 70s. We have failed to act since then. Now, the years left to seriously mitigate the impact of climate change can be counted on our fingers. Yet, we still failed to act in 2021. If we fail again in 2022, it’s almost guaranteed that we will fail to meet the IPCC target for emissions. 

The stakes are incredibly high. Failure to address climate change will result in a wide range of negative impacts. Crop yields will decrease significantly and droughts will be more frequent, leading to increased scarcity of both. This scarcity will lead to an increase in war, which is expected to be accompanied by a decline in democracy and the undermining of human rights. Millions are expected to die in heat waves yearly by the end of this century and major cities along with entire countries will be underwater. The Arctic will be ice-free in the summer. This is just a snapshot of the major damage climate change will cause. The IPCC report spends over 100 pages outlining the impacts in greater detail. 

That picture of a world suffering from our failure to address climate change feels dark. The state of inaction and the increasing likelihood of that world of climate catastrophe can make us cynical. Yet, this outcome is entirely preventable and there is reason to hope. The climate movement grows stronger giving a more powerful push on governments to take action. If the world starts to treat climate change as the looming crisis that it is, we can greatly mitigate the impacts. 

But that would require a great mobilization of society. In this country alone, it would require a multi-trillion dollar investment to decarbonize our economy. It would require the developing world to provide large amounts of funding to the developing world to allow them to engage in sustainable development, cutting down on new emissions. It would require our society to transform at every level. We would need to reimagine how we get around, how we produce our electricity, heat our homes, and feed our people. Only with mobilization of a grand enough scale and ambition can the world truly reduce its emissions to reach the IPCC target.

Decades of time have been wasted for acting on climate change. We have just a few years left to get our act together. There is no more time to wait. 2022 must be the start of a new global policy on climate. We can no longer treat climate as a side issue or one of little significance. If we wish to avoid the terrible impacts of climate change outlined in the IPCC report, 2022 must be the year that the world finally starts taking climate change seriously.