Quantcast

'Hothouse Earth' Co-Author Says 'People Will Look Back on 2018 as the Year When Climate Reality Hit'

Climate
Flames of the Simi Valley fire ravage a Southern California mountain side on Oct. 29, 2012. U.S. Air Force / Senior Master Sgt. Dennis W. Goff

By Jessica Corbett

Amid a flurry of "breathless headlines" about warnings in a new study that outlines a possible "Hothouse Earth" scenario, one co-author optimistically expressed his belief that "people will look back on 2018 as the year when climate reality hit."


In an interview with the Guardian on this past Friday, Stockholm Resilience Center executive director Johan Rockström declared, "This is the moment when people start to realize that global warming is not a problem for future generations, but for us now." Rockström's study has received an "unprecedented" amount of global attention in the past week—270,000 downloads and counting.

"Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creating a series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago," Common Dreams reported last week.

This domino effect of feedbacks loops, the report explains, would pose "severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans." Though such warnings are chilling, the report authors and climate experts pointed out a major takeaway from the study that much reporting on it failed to highlight: that there is still time for humanity to act.

"Yes, the prospect of runaway climate change is terrifying. But this dead world is not our destiny. It's entirely avoidable," meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote for Grist this week. "As the authors of the paper have argued in response to the coverage, implying otherwise is the same as giving up just as the fight gets tough."

Investigative journalist Antonia Juhasz, known for her deep dives on the oil industry, spoke with another co-author of the report, University of Arizona professor Diana Liverman, about actions the international community can take right now to address the climate crisis.

"Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state," the report's abstract declares. "Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."

Rockström told the Guardian that he is concerned about the growing gap between scientists warnings' and most politicians' docile statements and actions, noting that "politicians prefer small problems that they can solve and get credit for. They don't like big problems that, even if they succeed, leave the rewards for their successors."

However, Rockström added, "once you pile up public pressure, politicians find it hard to avoid taking responsibility." As the Guardian acknowledged, "even in the U.S., which President Donald Trump has vowed to pull out of the Paris accord, public opinion surveys have shown a growing acceptance of climate science," likely helped along by recent extreme weather across the globe, which experts have linked to the climate crisis.

Gallup polling found earlier this year that although there's a notable partisan divide—only 35 percent of Republicans believe human activity is causing the crisis, compared with 89 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Independents—"majorities of Americans overall say most scientists think global warming is occurring (66 percent), it is caused by human activities (64 percent), and its effects have begun (60 percent)."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

New pine trees grow from the forest floor along the North Fork of the Flathead River on the western boundary of Glacier National Park on Sept. 16, 2019 near West Glacier, Montana. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

By Alex Kirby

New forests are an apparently promising way to tackle global heating: the trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities. But there's a snag, because permanently lower river flows can be an unintended consequence.

Read More
Household actions lead to changes in collective behavior and are an essential part of social movements. Pixabay / Pexels

By Greg McDermid, Joule A Bergerson, Sheri Madigan

Hidden among all of the troubling environmental headlines from 2019 — and let's face it, there were plenty — was one encouraging sign: the world is waking up to the reality of climate change.

So now what?

Read More
Sponsored
Logging state in the U.S. is seen representing some of the consequences humans will face in the absence of concrete action to stop deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis. Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Talk is cheap, says the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, who begged governments around the world to make sure that 2020 is not another year of conferences and empty promises, but instead is the year to take decisive action to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of habitat-sustaining ecosystems, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The people of Kiribati have been under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. A young woman wades through the salty sea water that flooded her way home on Sept. 29, 2015. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket via Getty Images

Refugees fleeing the impending effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home, according to a new decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as CNN reported. The new decision could open up a massive wave of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

Read More
The first day of the Strike WEF march on Davos on Jan. 18, 2020 near Davos, Switzerland. The activists want climate justice and think the WEF is for the world's richest and political elite only. Kristian Buus / In Pictures via Getty Images

By Ashutosh Pandey

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is returning to the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the 2020 World Economic Forum with a strong and clear message: put an end to the fossil fuel "madness."

Read More