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A Warning We Can’t Ignore

The IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C destroys any doubt that the fossil fuel industry is at war with our future. We need to confront them head on.

The IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C destroys any doubt that the fossil fuel industry is at war with our future. We need to confront them head on.

The much anticipated report from the UN’s climate science body has delivered a wake up call to the world this week. The report stresses that it’s physically and chemically possible to keep warming below 1.5°C, but that even then impacts would be significant. The window for action is closing fast and “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are necessary.

This is likely the last warning we’re going to get before it’s too late. The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of warming will be significant, according to the report. While the impacts of 1.5 degrees will still be — by all reasonable measures — catastrophic, it’s far preferable to 2°C. The impacts will get exponentially worse as temperature averages increase and every fraction of a degree is going to matter.

Shifting Gears

When a fire alarm in a building goes off, people do not immediately jump into action. Instead they look to the people around them for cues that this is, in fact, an emergency and will act based on those cues.

We know the stakes. We know that we are running out of time. So why aren’t we acting like this is an emergency? Because if we don’t, who will?

The science is telling us that tinkering around the edges just isn’t going to cut it anymore. It’s going to take transformational change to get to net zero emissions at the pace the science tells us is necessary.

But here is where I draw my hope. We are in a political moment crying out for transformational change. Capitalism and the political class are in crisis around the world and a groundswell of discontent has people looking for alternatives to politics as usual.

If the climate movement is offering solutions that don’t challenge the status quo, we are offering solutions in service of a profoundly unjust and deeply unpopular political and economic system.

We must be willing to take bigger risks, both in our demands and our tactics, if we are to address a crisis like the climate crisis. If it doesn’t feel revolutionary, it isn’t enough.

Perhaps part of the reason we have failed to-date to build a movement capable of solving the climate crisis is because we haven’t been asking for enough. People are willing to do something big to win something big, and there simply isn’t anything bigger than the future of our planet.

We must make bold and ambitious demands that deliver on science and justice. Which means we must be willing to confront power and disrupt business as usual at a scale we have never seen before. That means a willingness to ask more of our supporters and being ready with the support they need to succeed.

What exactly does that look like? It looks like a lot of hard work from a lot of people willing to make a lot of sacrifices. But there is no map for where we are going. Only lessons from the past that can guide our path forward.

But I can say with confidence, that the people are ready. We have seen before that when called upon to take bold action, people are more than willing to step up. From Break Free in 2016 where tens of thousands of people all over the world rose to the task of confronting the fossil fuel industry head on.

We won’t get a revolution unless we ask for one. We might surprise ourselves at how ready people are. Anyway, what other options do we have?