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

One of the 25 new Long Beach Transit hybrid gasoline-electric buses on April 23, 2009. Jeff Gritchen / Digital First Media / Orange County Register / Getty Images

In Long Beach, California, some electric buses can charge along their route without cords or wires.

When a bus reaches the Pine Avenue station, it parks over a special charging pad. While passengers get on and off, the charger transfers energy to a receiver on the bottom of the bus.

Read More Show Less
Semi trucks travel along I94 on June 21 near Lake forest, Illinois. Scott Olson / Getty Images

The Trump administration pushed through an exemption to clean air rules, effectively freeing heavy polluting, super-cargo trucks from following clean air rules. It rushed the rule without conducting a federally mandated study on how it would impact public health, especially children, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General Charles J. Sheehan in a report released yesterday, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

A time-restricted eating plan provides a new way to fight obesity and metabolic diseases that affect millions of people worldwide. RossHelen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Satchin Panda and Pam Taub

People with obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure or high cholesterol are often advised to eat less and move more, but our new research suggests there is now another simple tool to fight off these diseases: restricting your eating time to a daily 10-hour window.

Read More Show Less
Kunhui Chih / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Plastic debris washed up on remote islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans has killed hermit crabs, which mistake the plastic for shells, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
A man and his dog walk past an H&M store in Stockholm, Sweden on March 11, 2014. Melanie Stetson Freeman / The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

By Ashutosh Pandey

H&M's flagship store at the Sergels Torg square in Stockholm is back in business after a months-long refurbishment. But it's not exactly business as usual here.

Read More Show Less