1 Point 5

1 Point 5: The sad truth about our boldest climate target

We’ve waited too long. Practically speaking, we are heading past 1.5˚C as we speak and probably past 2˚C as well. This is not a “fact” in the same way climate science deals in facts — collective human behavior is not nearly so easy to predict as biophysical cycles — but nothing we know about human history, sociology, or politics suggests that vast, screeching changes in collective direction are likely.

All those problems are going to get worse. We need to grapple with that squarely, because the real threat is that these escalating impacts overwhelm our ability, not just to mitigate GHGs, but to even care or react to disasters when they happen elsewhere. Right now, much of Australia is on fire — half a billion animals have likely died since September — and it is barely breaking the news cycle in the US. As author David Wallace-Wells wrote in a recent piece, the world already seems to be heading toward a “system of disinterest defined instead by ever smaller circles of empathy.”

That shrinking of empathy is arguably the greatest danger facing the human species, the biggest barrier to the collective action necessary to save ourselves. I can’t help but think that the first step in defending and expanding that empathy is reckoning squarely with how much damage we’ve already done and are likely to do, working through the guilt and grief, and resolving to minimize the suffering to come.