In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a statement claiming that we had approximately 12 years to fundamentally alter human society in order to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. A year and a half later, no progress has been made towards this goal.
To be completely blunt, there are still people and politicians out there who fervently believe that climate change is not even real, and if it is, it’s certainly not the fault of humans.
It’s becoming more and more clear that there is no possible way humanity will manage to stem the tide of climate change in the 10 remaining years we have until IPCC’s deadline. If people can’t even agree that climate change is real, how can we manage to stop it on a societal level?
Scientists have been aware of climate change since 1896, when Svante Arrhenius first published his research on the effects of coal burning. However, the issue was not taken especially seriously until 1988, when IPCC was established to directly research and discover solutions to the looming climate change.
Throughout its 32-year history, IPCC has published several reports detailing the danger of global warming. Despite these credible warnings, we have made little to no progress in mitigating the crisis.
Why is this? Obviously, pollution is the main culprit, as greenhouse gas emissions are at the highest level they’ve ever been, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, there are plenty of underlying reasons for this increase, often called the Great Acceleration.
According to Andrew Revkin, reporting for a 2018 National Geographic article, it’s a combination of many factors including lack of research, industrial influence on politics and the difficulty of regulation enforcement. These contribute to the problem, but the single largest problem when it comes to combatting climate change is none of these.
One of the biggest challenges facing the crusade against climate change is global inequality. Clean energy is difficult to produce without developed infrastructure and is only widely available in rich nations. At the same time, rich nations can afford to mitigate damage done by global warming.
But developing nations do not share the same abilities. These nations cannot afford to worry about climate change when their focus is on acquiring basic economic necessities and infrastructure that developed nations have had for decades.
Additionally, the same nations are also much more vulnerable to the effects of global warming. According to research, Bangladesh’s GDP per capita has been reduced by 12% compared to what it would have been without global warming, and Sudan’s and Niger’s were reduced by 20% each.
This furthers their inability to swap out fossil fuels. Sweeping changes to the economy are not possible without public interest and funding.
The problem facing our society is environmental, economic and political. Until we can solve all three aspects, we can kiss our climate goodbye. We’re past the point where planting trees can fix our problems.
Until global inequality is mitigated, humanity won’t be able to be on the same page in regards to climate issues. Until politicians in developed nations, which issue the most pollution currently, stop allowing the fossil fuel industry to influence them, we will not be able to create solutions to mitigate the damage caused so far.
None of these things will happen in the 10 and a half years remaining until IPCC’s deadline. We better hope that there will one day be a technological solution to reverse climate change because we don’t have a shot at stopping it any time soon.