Can the planet be saved from climate change?

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In the coming decades, humans will have to reckon with wildfires, droughts, floods, disease, species extinction, famine and millions of displaced people, all caused by climate change.

If there’s any consolation in this bleak future, it’s that things can get better – not enough to prevent the terrible, but enough to ward off the worst.

That’s one of the messages from four panelists while filming “Can This Planet (Still) Be Saved?” at Wamogo High School in Litchfield last month.

The show was a presentation of “Common Ground with Jane Whitney”, a nationally broadcast public affairs forum on PBS.

On the show, David Wallace-Wells, a New York Times reporter and author of the 2019 book “The Uninhabitable Earth,” acknowledged that due to human efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global warming of the Earth could be maintained at 2 to 3 degrees centigrade. , rather than 4 to 5 degrees.

This halving of the global temperature forecast, he said, would give humanity a “sub-apocalyptic world” – a livable, albeit vastly changed, world.

This will always mean that people around the world will have to adapt to hundreds of changes.

“Our planet Goldilocks – neither too hot nor too cold – is gone,” said Bill Weir, CNN’s chief climate correspondent and one of the show’s panelists.

Progress is slow due to the inertia of governments and peoples used to living in an oil-dependent economy.

A recent UN report found that only 26 of the world’s 193 countries are acting aggressively to curb climate change. The report concludes that as a result of this limited progress, global temperatures will reach 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2100, considerably higher than the 1.5 degrees Celsius target needed to ward off the adverse consequences of climate change. climate change.

Wallace-Wells said we still have an economy that has grown for centuries, fueled by fossil fuels, and the people who want that economy to continue still wield an enormous amount of power.

But because renewables are proving to be an affordable alternative to petroleum-based fuels, a huge shift is already underway.

“In five to ten years it will be a different place,” he said.

Humans will also have to change. CNN’s Weir said he’s interviewed people living in South Louisiana who would rather rebuild and raise their homes an extra 3 feet every few years than acknowledge rising sea levels are flooding them.

But more and more people have to deal with this changing world because they have no choice.

Cindy McCain, wife of the late U.S. Senator John McCain and one of the participants in the filming of “Common Ground,” said it is currently happening in her home state of Arizona.

“We’re going to ration water, which I never thought I’d see,” she said.

McCain is now the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agencies. She said the droughts and floods seen around the world are devastating to food production in these places.

“It affects everything,” she said.

Wallace-Wells emphasized throughout the show’s filming that people living in developing countries that emit far fewer greenhouse gases than industrialized countries are the people who will suffer the most from climate change.

“Pakistan’s total carbon contribution in its entire history is equal to the carbon produced by the United States in one year,” he said. “Those who have done the least will feel it the most.”

To change this trajectory is to change people.

Cristina Mittermeier, a Mexican marine biologist turned renowned photojournalist and one of the ‘Common Ground’ panelists, said her images of the consequences of climate change allow her to engage people in ways that datasets fail. often.

“It affects every aspect of our lives,” she said of climate change. “But I don’t think people think about that.”

Wallace-Wells said the new technology – expensive as it is – could help shift things towards a cooler planet. But panelists also said tackling climate change means working at the personal and grassroots level.

“Maybe the best thing you can do is go to your city’s zoning board,” CNN’s Weir said. “Any local contribution you can make is valuable. »

Mittermeier said there is also a generational shift in the issue.

“I find a lot of hope in young people who are dealing with this issue,” she says.

“Culture is moving in the right direction,” Wallace-Wells said. “Is it moving fast enough? No. But it’s going in the right direction.”

Contact Robert Miller at [email protected]

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