Quantcast

Now Is the Time to Solve Climate Change for 2050

Popular
A bean farmer checks her crop in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Neil Palmer / CIAT

By Paula Caballero

The reality of daily life is that we try to fix the problems that are staring us in the face. In many ways, the desire for short-term results defines the rhythm of both public and private life. So the idea that decisions today will define where we end up in a couple of decades is difficult to grasp, and may even appear outlandish.

Yet the unprecedented, deadly tropical cyclones in the Caribbean today and around the world foreshadow a perilous tomorrow if we don't tackle climate change now. We are at an historic crossroads that requires us to factor in the future. Because in a very real sense, 2050 is now.


Our decisions today will define where we end up tomorrow. The idea that unabated, incremental growth is the formula to eradicate poverty will leave us all ultimately poorer and make the pockets of desperate poverty more entrenched. Business as usual will lead to a world that is depleted, more unforgiving, more unequal.

What we do now will determine whether we are able to keep global temperature to 1.5 degrees C or well below 2 degrees C (2.7 degrees or 3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels; that's the point beyond which the most severe consequences of climate change kick in. Short-sighted investments could lock in 20th century ways of doing business and policy that will make achieving this target more expensive and technologically challenging.

In addition to taking paths that emit fewer greenhouse gases, a "2050 is now" mindset is also about protecting the natural resources and systems that will enable the people in tomorrow's communities—especially rural ones—to make a decent living. Ill-advised decisions on how we use land and manage water could undermine food, water and energy security in the decades to come.

Within the next two decades, the world will spend $90 trillion on infrastructure, transforming cities, energy systems and landscapes. We get to decide now whether we spend that $90 trillion on damaging, backward-looking more-of-the-same or shift our energy, transport, agriculture and consumption to radically new pathways that can be sustained. This is the only way we can ensure that our midcentury world gives all people a shot at a dignified life while safeguarding the planet's natural wealth.

The Drumbeat

We need to reframe how we understand development and its challenges. The global community has rightly prioritized the eradication of poverty. But unless we make the right decisions today, we may lock out development opportunities and end up perpetuating poverty, or making it worse.

By 2050, 2.5 billion people are expected to move to the world's cities. The growing global middle class will strain natural resources. Entrenched poverty will be increasingly concentrated in areas already experiencing conflict, fragility and resource degradation. Just eight years from now in 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in regions that lack sufficient water. Recognizing that 2050 is now means taking responsibility for avoiding conditions that will yield tomorrow's poverty and exacerbate inequality within nations and across regions.

The drumbeat of "2050 is now" must shape our thinking. We need to learn to frame our problems and solutions in terms of how they will define our world over the coming decades, not whether there will be results for a couple of years. Every cost-benefit analysis should consider long-term consequences.

Change is within reach. The investments, policies and actions we take today can ensure that the natural and built environments will provide decent lives for the world's people—especially the poorest and most marginalized—between now and 2050, while protecting the planet's awesome biodiversity.

Sustained, sustainable and inclusive development is only possible if we tackle climate change by making today's decisions looking to 2050, looking to create the conditions that will safeguard and increase natural and human capital. That is how to get the growth we need.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More