Is It Too Late for Us to Avoid a Climate Catastrophe?

Since the dawn of the Industrial Age, humans have wreaked havoc on the Earth. Even if we could halt all greenhouse gas emissions right now, global warming might flatten, but temperatures would remain far above normal for many centuries to come.

It may be too late to limit or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. However, without major action, the global temperature is predicted to rise by somewhere between 2.5 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, with devastating effects on the environment.

A recent scientific report from the UN indicated that human activity has changed the climate in unprecedented, irreversible ways. Coined a “a code red for humanity” by UN Secretary General António Guterres, the report warns of increasingly extreme droughts, flooding, and heatwaves. Scientists say that it is still possible to avert the impending climate catastrophe, but only if the world acts now, effecting deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to stabilize rising global temperatures.

General Guterres makes clear that it is still possible to avoid disaster, but there is no room for excuses or delay.

The COP26 Global Climate Conference

Staged in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 12, 2021, COP26 brought together world leaders to accelerate action towards goals set out in the Paris Agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Hailed “the world’s best last chance” in the fight against climate change, the 26th annual climate summit united tens of thousands of world leaders, government representatives, scientists, negotiators, businesses, and citizens for 12 days of talks.

Postponed in 2021 because of the pandemic, COP26 ended on November 13, a day later than scheduled, after negotiations overran. Key outcomes agreed at the event included:

A $130 trillion investment of private capital towards accelerated transition to a net-zero economy. Green finance will be provided by banks, insurers, markets, and active climate-aware institutional investors.

Increased climate transparency in the private sector, enabling clients and investors to scrutinize companies’ climate commitments towards net-zero transition plans by 2023.

Increased implementation of Paris Agreement targets, revisiting and strengthening 2030 objectives, and putting pressure on governments to work towards achievement of the Paris Agreement temperature goals sooner than outlined in the original agreement.

The agreement of almost 100 countries to decrease methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Agreement of 110 world leaders to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

Creation of the International Sustainability Standards Board to increase global focus on climate risk reporting and disclosure.

Agreement of 23 nations, including the top 20 coal power-using countries globally, to phase out use of coal power by leading nations in the 2030s, followed by the rest of the world in the 2040s.

Ushering in a Green Renaissance

With ever-increasing concern over the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels, the world as we knew it is set to change dramatically over the course of just a few years, marking the start of a green renaissance. To avoid the looming climate catastrophe, countries, communities, companies, and families all over the world will need to transition to greener, more sustainable sources of power, a move that seemed unrealistic just a decade ago.

If the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we are capable of drastic change, sometimes at lightning speed on a global scale. For example, to counter the economic impact of the pandemic on citizens, the US government came up with a $3 trillion funding package virtually overnight. With regard to the climate crisis, the future is not yet written, although many deemed COP26 a step in the right direction.

Will Turner is a conservation scientist. He concedes that the UN Climate Report published in the latter part of 2021 painted a grim picture, stating unequivocally for the first time that “human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land.”

Nevertheless, Turner explains that people are increasingly seeing the effects of climate change in their daily lives, be it flooding in their hometowns, forest fires, or price spikes at the local supermarket. It simply is not possible to deny or ignore this global problem any longer. As Turner points out, as we enter an era where all regions are at risk, seeing evidence of climate change in our routine lives suddenly makes it very real.

Every line of the 4,000-page UN Climate Report was agreed upon by experts from 195 countries. It reflects an overwhelming level of consensus that we will reach an increase in global temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius in a matter of decades. The report identifies “tipping points” that we will not be able to reverse, from the melting of Greenland’s ice sheets to abrupt forest dieback.

Will Turner says that against the backdrop of a closing window in terms of halting climate change, is the very human desire to fight when faced with the prospect of losing everything. With solutions well within our reach, what we do as individuals matters now more than ever. Rather than leaving it to others, we all need to play our part, making more sustainable choices on issues such as diet and travel, and using our voices to drive systemic solutions.

Originally published at on February 17, 2022.




Possessing a background as a US Air Force fighter pilot, Ralph Thurman is an operating partner and senior advisor in the private equity industry.

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Ralph Thurman

Ralph Thurman

Possessing a background as a US Air Force fighter pilot, Ralph Thurman is an operating partner and senior advisor in the private equity industry.

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