We have little time left to mend our ways and allow the planet to start healing itself.
A couple of years. That’s how much time we have left to save the planet. Unless we permanently lower our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, we may well reach a threshold on climate change beyond which we will be able to do little to save ourselves and the planet from irreversible harm.
Needless to say, 2020 isn’t a magic date, which will suddenly usher in unheard-of calamities, come New Year’s Eve. That’s not the point. Rather, what the scientists are arguing is that we have very little time left to mend our ways and allow the planet to start healing itself by significantly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
And make no mistake: unless we do so, climate change will have its effects felt increasingly in a variety of disastrous ways. Sea levels will continue rising, inundating low-lying areas. Weather will become far more unpredictable with potentially devastating results to crops and human communities. Storms and draughts and heat spells will get worse and worse.
So what to do? The letter writers laid out a short-term plan with six specific goals for the year 2020. We must boost renewable energy to 30% of electricity use. We must start implementing plans to phase out our dependence on fossil fuels significantly by 2050 and we must halve our CO2 emissions by that date. We must begin transitioning to electric vehicles with at least 15% of all new vehicles sold being of the electric variety by 2020. We must stop cutting down forests. And we must move towards a more sustainable “green economy” both in the public and private spheres.
“The year 2020 is crucially important for another reason, one that has more to do with physics than politics,” the scientists write. “When it comes to climate, timing is everything,” they add. “[S]hould emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, or even remain level, the temperature goals set in Paris [will] become almost unattainable. The UN Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed in 2015 would also be at grave risk.”
We cannot allow that to happen. Our planet is our most prized possession. We must start treating it as such.