Surrendering a 2 degree world is nobody’s victory

Posted on June 15, 2010


The latest news of the climate talks in Bonn says our political leaders are fundamentally abandoning the fight to limit global climate change to just two degrees of warming.

Some people who don’t care about the issue, who prefer that it not be an issue, might call this failure a victory.  It’s the kind of outcome that the Republican party has been advocating, for example.

Do nothing.

Business as usual.

Unfortunately, even Republicans and climate change deniers are going to suffer if the world continues to do nothing.  Because the climate change is real, and its consequences will only get worse the longer we as a civilization ignore it.

In fact, the less we do now, the higher the cost of fighting it will be in the end.  A dime saved in this decade will rise to a dollar in the next.  And if we put off the fight too long, then humanity loses.  Then climate change becomes irreversible by human actions, and our only option as a species might be retreating to the poles  and waiting it out for a thousand years until the carbon in the air stabilizes.

Yes, humanity will survive climate change, no matter what we do.  So will the planet.  Our civilization might not, however.

What we are deciding, or attempting to decide now in Bonn, is how much trouble we are willing to put up with today in order to save our children and grandchildren from immensely worse trouble tomorrow.  The early answer appears to be “not much.”

Unfortunately our grandchildren cannot call back from the future.  They cannot say, save us from this terrible world you’ve created for us.  They cannot ask, “Why didn’t you start fighting sooner?

Helpless, they are separated from us by irreversible time.

Helpless, they can only look back at what we could have done, and failed to do.

Helpless, they can only look back from their ravaged world, and curse us for the selfish fools we were.

Curse us for the selfish, ignorant fools that we are.