The Climate Report Is Bad. But There Is Something We Can Do About It.

A sign warns motorists and others of flooding on New River Inlet Road in North Topsail Beach. A 2019 study by the Center for Climate Integrity, estimates that it will cost $724 million to adequately provide short term protection against flooding in N. Topsail. (Photo by Michael McElroy)

By Michael McElroy

August 13, 2021

The worst-case scenario for our warming planet—deadly fires, floods, and droughts—will require international cooperation by governments. And nothing less. 

Humans are conclusively behind the recent spate of devastating fires, floods and heat waves across the world, a long-awaited report from a United Nations science panel says. And without significant action from world leaders, extreme weather events will get much worse. 

The report, issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that current warming trends are “unprecedented” and that there is no going back. 

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“Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible,” the report says, and current emissions are on track to increase warming over the next decades to catastrophic levels.

There is still a way to avoid that worst case scenario, the report said. But the effort will require large scale action from world leaders; individual efforts to curb energy use will no longer cut it.

“Deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases,” the report says, are needed over the coming decades to keep global warming at about 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a benchmark widely viewed as the tipping point. Every half a degree beyond 1.5 would not only make extreme weather events more common, it would make them more severe. Droughts would lead to widespread water shortages, crop failures and deaths. Rising seas would bring about the loss of coastal cities, millions of climate refugees, and deaths. Warmer seas would mean the deaths of countless species of ocean life and coral reefs. 

The good news is that much of President Joe Biden’s plan to address climate change will go a long way towards the deep cuts the report has in mind. The bad news is that political realities threaten that ambitious, and absolutely necessary agenda. 

That’s where you come in. 

Thousands of activists are calling state and national representatives, encouraging them to support climate change legislation.

The Democrats unveiled a $3.5 trillion budget deal this week that can be passed through reconciliation rather than a full vote, meaning it would pass if only the Senate’s 50 Democrats vote for it. The budget includes substantial resources to lower carbon emissions and develop clean energy sources. 

There’s no going back from where we are, but we can still take a step back from the abyss.

[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify the actions activists are taking around the climate legislation.]


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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