It is absolutely time to panic about climate change

(VOX Energy Environment, 24 Feb 2019) Author David Wallace-Wells on the dystopian hellscape that awaits us.

“It is, I promise, worse than you think.”

That was was the first line of David Wallace-Wells’s horrifying 2017 essay in New York magazine about climate change. It was an attempt to paint a very real picture of our not-too-distant future, a future filled with famines, political chaos, economic collapse, fierce resource competition, and a sun that “cooks us.”

Wallace-Wells has since developed his terrifying essay into an even more terrifying book, titled The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. And it is a brutal read. Wallace-Wells was criticized in 2017 for being too hyperbolic, too doom-and-gloomy. But as Vox’s David Roberts explained at the time, those criticisms were mostly misplaced.

Wallace-Wells isn’t counseling despair or saying all is lost; he’s merely laying out the alarming facts of what is likely to happen if we don’t radically change course.

What makes the book so difficult to read is not just the eye-popping stats, like the fact that we could potentially avoid 150 million excess premature deaths by the end of century from air pollution (the equivalent of 25 Holocausts or twice the number of deaths from World War II) if we could limit average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or hold warming at 2 degrees without relying on negative emissions. It’s also the revelation that we’ve done more damage to the environment since the United Nations established its climate change framework in 1992 than we did in all the millennia that preceded it. Or, as Wallace-Wells puts it, “We have now done more damage to the environment knowingly than we ever managed in ignorance.”

I spoke with Wallace-Wells about just how dire the situation is, what it means for humans to survive in a climate that no longer resembles the one that allowed us to evolve in the first place, and if he believes we’ve already crossed a fatal ecological threshold for our species.

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VOX Energy Environment, 24 Feb 2019: It is absolutely time to panic about climate change