With roughly 1C of warming, we’re seeing some changes that can rightly be described as alarming, and the question of whether we can return from this precipice is a good one. If you’ve come into the theatre late, the plot so far is as follows:
A small group of nefarious individuals has undertaken an experiment to see how rich they can make themselves by spewing vast quantities of gases into the atmosphere. After ignoring the warnings of their own scientists, they’re now in a fight to squeeze every last drop of profit from their fossil empire before public opinion turns the market against them.
Meanwhile, the resistance – a growing alliance of scientists and activists of all stripes – fights to keep the earth inhabitable for the next generation. With the combined forces of Renewables on their side, they have struck a powerful blow against the Fossilists.
Fearing that another victory by the resistance will bring millions more to their side, our villains deploy their army of Deniers to muddy the waters of science.
We have no script for what happens next, and some of the plot threads may be out of our hands, but we do know that economics and public opinion are on our side. With the complexity of our world and the billions who inhabit her, no-one knows for sure what will happen in the future.
Anyone who claims to know exactly what the world will look like in fifty years’ time is a fool; but anyone who ignores the dangerous warming trends in climate is more so.
So, the answer to the question above is: we don’t entirely know.
The feedbacks and tipping points I talk about in Are we too late? could mean we’ve missed our window for action, but if I had to bet I’d say we still have time. Recent research into the carbon budget (what we can emit without passing a dangerous level of warming) is optimistic that we can make it, but it’s going to take a massive effort.
What’s next? Next, we have to kick the fossil habit.