UN Secretary-General António Guterres says that “the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win.” This may seem overly optimistic when we’re confronted with constant headlines about the dire state of the climate crisis.
The August 2021 report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed that there’s no chance of undoing the damage already caused by global warming, with climate scientist Linda Mearns stating: “It’s just guaranteed that it’s going to get worse. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.” Josep Canadell, chief research scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and a lead author of the 2021 IPCC report, concurred: “Every single year that passes imposes a huge penalty for the future reductions that would be required.”
“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win.” — António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
So is all hope lost? We’ve asked similar questions before, along the lines of can we really end poverty? So we decided to investigate a similar question: Is it too late to stop climate change? What follows are seven expert answers.
The activist: Farzana Faruk Jhumu
“I believe we have the solution as we can see that within our local communities.… But before that, we need to be more active to decolonize the system.”
By 2050, we will lose one fifth of our land, even if the current global temperature stays the same as the world leaders made targets for 2050. So I almost don’t see the future, but then again, I can’t lose hope. I know if I don’t ask for my rights, they will not give me. That’s how life in MAPA [Most Affected People and Areas] is! Moreover, our frontline communities still keep holding on, so we also will not give up. And when we know we can, we will save our future. And when we already know what our power is, we will not be driven by the system.
I believe we have the solution as we can see that within our local communities. So, when we have the solutions, we can tackle the crisis, But before that we need to be more active to decolonize the system. Within this system, we can’t get what is good for all. By 2030, I see a lot more empty promises, but also a more strong global community to ask and create transparency.
The politician: Mia Amor Mottley
The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley is a politician and attorney who has been the Prime Minister of Barbados since 2018 and the leader of the Barbados Labour Party since 2008. She is the first woman to hold either position.
“What the world needs now is less than 200 persons who are willing and prepared to lead!”
I have been saying to Barbadians, “Many hands make light work.” Today we need the correct mix of voices and ambition. Do some leaders believe they can survive and thrive on their own? Can there be peace and prosperity in one-third of the world if two-thirds are under siege and facing calamitous threats to their wellbeing?
What the world needs now is less than 200 persons who are willing and prepared to lead! Leaders must not fail those who elect them to lead. There is a sword that can cut down this Gordian knot; it has been wielded before.… Leaders today — not leaders in 2030 or 2050 — must make this choice. It is in our hands. Our people and our planet need it.
The economist: Eban Goodstein
Eban Goodstein is an economist and the Director of the MBA in Sustainability and the MS and MEd programs at the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College, New York
“This is precisely the wrong historical moment to abandon belief in a finer future. Climate solutions are now cheaper than fossil fuels — and getting cheaper.”
“Climate despair is gaining dangerous traction among people who understand the profound moment in which we are living. But [author Jonathan] Franzen is wrong on the science, wrong on the impacts of two-degree warming, and wrong on what it will take to stabilize the climate. And this is precisely the wrong historical moment to abandon belief in a finer future. Climate solutions are now cheaper than fossil fuels — and getting cheaper. People are embracing programs and initiatives around environmental education. It lies within our grasp to rewire the world with clean energy. Doing so in the next decade will deeply impact the lives not only of our children and grandchildren but indeed, every human being and living creature who will walk the face of the planet, from now until the end of time.”
The biologist-broadcaster: Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough is a biologist, natural historian, and award-winning broadcaster. For the BBC, he created The Life Collection and The Blue Planet, among many other documentaries about our natural world.
“While it’s true we can never go back to the stable, benign climate that enabled us to flourish for the past 10,000 years…we can reach a new stable state.”
There is no going back. No matter what we do now, it’s too late to avoid climate change. And the poorest, the most vulnerable, those with the least security, are now certain to suffer. Our duty right now is surely to do all we can to help those in the most immediate danger. But, of course, we have a parallel duty. And it’s here that I think there are grounds for hope. While it’s true we can never go back to the stable, benign climate that enabled us to flourish for the past 10,000 years, I do believe that, if we act fast enough, we can reach a new stable state.… If we recognize climate change and the loss of nature as worldwide security threats, as indeed they are, then we may yet act proportionately and in time.
The change needed in itself sounds immense, and of course it is, but we already have many of the technologies needed — at least for the initial changes. And, perhaps crucially, we also have a level of public support and demand for action that I have myself never seen before. People today all over the world now realize this is no longer an issue that will affect future generations. It is people alive today, and in particular young people, who will live with the consequences of our actions.… Climate change is a threat to global security that can only be dealt with by unparalleled levels of global cooperation. It will compel us to question our economic models and where we place value, invent entirely new industries, recognize the moral responsibility that wealthy nations have to the rest of the world, and put a value on nature that goes far beyond money.
The philanthropist: Bill Gates
Bill Gates is…Bill Gates. In addition to being the cofounder of Microsoft, his namesake foundation (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) funds solutions to poverty, disease, and inequity around the world — including Concern’s Innovations for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health.
“This is a problem we can help solve with innovation.”
I’ve written a lot about why I think we can avoid the worst effects of climate change… But the reality is that, even if we do all the right things and prevent a disaster scenario, we’re already seeing the effects of climate change.
The worst impact of climate change in poor countries will be to make health worse—which is yet another reason why we need to help the poorest improve their health. This starts with raising the odds that malnourished children will survive by improving primary healthcare systems, doubling down on malaria prevention, and continuing to provide vaccines for conditions like diarrhea and pneumonia. We also need to ensure that fewer children are malnourished in the first place by helping poor farmers grow more food. This is a problem we can help solve with innovation. We need better methods and tools to grow food, just like we need to find zero-carbon ways to move around and generate electricity.
The climate scientist: Heleen de Coninck
Heleen de Coninck is a Dutch climate scientist and professor at Eindhoven University of Technology and Radboud University Nijmegen. She is one of the coauthors of the 2022 IPCC report.
“We can still do it, we haven’t crossed the threshold. We have to agree on very big changes, and we have to do them right now.”
We are already at one degree warmer; the Earth is already one degree centigrade warmer than before we started emitting lots of greenhouse gasses. And we are feeling the consequences.… [But] we can still keep temperatures from rising above 1.5° C. We can still do it, we haven’t crossed the threshold. We have to agree on very big changes, and we have to do them right now. By 2050, in 30 years, we would have to reduce our CO2 emissions to zero — globally, not just in a developed country, globally. And this will require lots of changes in the way we live.
But in a way, it’s also a good thing, because at least we still have something to choose. If we decide for 1.5 degrees and change our lives to do this — and it’s quite imaginable to live well in a 1.5 C-consistent way — at least we will avoid a lot of the chaos that we would be calling upon ourselves if we were to go to two degrees or even more. We can still choose the future that we want.
Concern’s response to the climate crisis
Those who bear the least responsibility for climate change suffer its effects the most. These effects include food and water scarcity, lost livelihoods, lower education levels, and gender-based violence. In short, climate change perpetuates poverty.
Our work seeks to strengthen the resilience of communities and ecosystems vulnerable to climate-induced hazards. Concern’s focus on climate adaptation includes Climate Smart Agriculture, which helps farmers to adjust to the effects of climate change through nature-based solutions. Other methods include watershed management, afforestation and reforestation, soil and water conservation, and land rehabilitation. We support the sustainability of these actions through systems strengthening, such as developing effective community-based natural resource management and disaster risk management systems.
All quotes have been either obtained directly or are taken from recent speeches and writings. Click on each figure’s name in their bio to read the original source.