The Past and the Future are Different Things
Even a tenth of a degree Celsius means the difference between life and death for millions of people.
People are not content to shrug their shoulders and allow big polluters to continue to thwart strong climate policy. In fact, from city halls to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), environmental advocates are demanding urgent action now.
We cannot let the fossil fuel industry off the hook as “Losing Earth” does. Fossil fuel executives were not powerless minions, forced to pollute unabated (in return for enormous profits), at the behest of government officials.
We must acknowledge and join forces with Indigenous leaders, communities of color, women, and young people in the US and throughout the world who have led the climate justice movement for decades. To erase this diverse coalition’s extraordinary contributions is also to erase the enormous victories they have achieved time and again against big polluters. These successes draw hope from our past, and propel us in our present to help write a more just, viable future.
“Losing Earth” (The New York Times Magazine’s “Losing Earth” by the magazine’s writer-at-large Nathaniel Rich) is oddly fatalistic; a 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature is not a foregone conclusion as it implies. The article argues we have come to this climate change precipice because our human nature makes us incapable of realizing long-term gain because it requires short-term sacrifice. Therefore, the article argues we are incapable of the required action in the present to head off a catastrophic 2-degree Celsius global temperature increase in the future. But it’s not true.
We stand a shot at avoiding the world the fossil fuel industry is lobbying for by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and committing to a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy. To accept a 2-degree Celsius increase as inevitable writes off millions of people’s lives, the extinction of countless species and profound changes in our planet’s ecosystems. We cannot and will not accept this. We cannot and will not idly stand by while big polluters continue to drive us to catastrophe and subvert progress.
The more that big polluters’ conflicts of interest are enshrined in and continue to shape policy, the more lives are lost.
We have the chance to pass measures that mitigate the worst effects of climate change. And one of the primary tasks of COP24, according to the UN, is to “work out and adopt a package of decisions ensuring the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.” At the conference, countries must champion true solutions and map out the steps necessary to contain global temperature rise to as close to 1.5 degree Celsius as possible, which could help prevent the worst impact of climate change.
Rewriting our past so that we abandon our own agency in writing a better future for us all is a mistake we cannot and must not make. As “Losing Earth” points out, our lives, our children’s lives and our children’s children’s lives depend on it.