Anyone who read the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment’s Working Group 1 report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, found it very disturbing. The editors of the Financial Times editors used the moment to publish an editorial entitled Time is running short to avert ‘hell on earth.’
Editors don’t mince words. They made it clear that what is at stake is the question of whether or not humanity will take the actions now that will ensure that the earth remains livable. The reported concensus of 234 international scientists is stark enough: disruptive weather events, droughts, heatwaves, forest fires and a hotter world are already locked in for decades or more and will continue to even get worse as more emissions are added. However, if we heed the recommendations of the IPCC’s most optimistic scenario and effect “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions” in emissions, we have a small chance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.6 degrees C above pre-industrial temperatures, rather than allowing them to mushroom higher, leaving room for a tragically degraded but habitable earth.
As frightening as this prospect may seem, this is not the time to throw up our hands, according to the editors. Rather this is the time that global leaders’ resolve must focus on taking every option and available route possible to achieve net zero and achieve agreement at COP26 summit in Glasgow in November on dramagic goals. Which means that Boris Johnson and other world leaders must resist political pressure from those who still doubt and question the severity of climate change. This is, by now, a no-brainer.
But the editors proceed into bold and even downright courageous territory, where few intellectual leaders dare to tred. They emphasize that, while there are economic gains and returns to be gotten through the investment in innovation that are necessary for the path to net zero, we need to recognize that actually cutting carbon-intensity of nearly all of mankinds’ activities will cause some real pain and not always be cost-effective. Furthermore, they write:
The IPCC report also should prompt environmental campaigners to abandon some traditional prejudices, particularly against nuclear power. Smaller nuclear plants deserve investment for the role they could play in generating carbon-free electricity.
They go on to proclaim: “attitudes . . . need rethinking,” not just about nuclear power but also about geo-engineering, which is the use of various methods to temporarily keep the planet from being warmed by injecting some artificial means of atmospheric solar intervention that prevents the sun’s rays from heating up the free GHGs in the atmosphere. These are brave pronouncements, since they run counter to the ideology of most progressive-minded environmentalists, and they really don’t like it when people do that.
Read the FT’s editorial, Time is running short to avert ‘hell on earth,’ published August 10, 2021. (Click the cartoon insert to see an image of the FT’s editorial.)