It’s Too Soon to Admit Climate Defeat

It’s Too Soon to Admit Climate Defeat (Photo: John Finney Photography/Getty Images)

It’s yet another downright alarming week to be a young person. As if we didn’t have enough on our plates with the ongoing pandemic, The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a blockbuster report on Monday, confirming “irreversible” human-made climate damage. The findings read like a dystopian novel: heat waves, sea level rise, droughts, storms and accompanying human suffering are getting worse and more frequent

And it doesn’t take a U.N. panel to see that we’re in deep trouble. We’ve watched the cascading effects of climate change all around us this year. Blistering wildfires consumed entire towns in California and Greece. The numbers from news reports are dire. Floods drowned New York City subway stations and swept through Germany, killing at least 100 people. Nearly 200 more died during the unprecedented heatwave that burned through the Pacific Northwest earlier this summer. In light of these escalating disasters, it’s no wonder our mental health is deteriorating.

There are nihilists online, commonly known in the climate community as climate doomers, who will try to tell you that a better future is fruitless. They posit we should just accept our fate, that humanity is coming to a close. Many of these doomers are as pessimistic as they are cowardly, as lazy as they are privileged. Choosing to accept this existential tragedy makes life easier for them. Pretending the trajectory of the future is completely out of their control means they have no duty but to sit back and watch the world burn.

And this, my friends, is not an option. 

Though the IPCC report paints a grim picture of climate consequences to come, the report also makes it crystal clear that it’s too soon to give up. As David Pomerantz wrote on Twitter, “Imagine getting to be alive during the vanishingly thin slice of history where we understand the full gravity of the climate crisis and still have time to do something about it.” We have a unique opportunity here, and a moral obligation to seize it — not surrender. Here’s why. 

First of all, climate change is not a binary; we don’t either Stop or Not Stop the crisis. Instead, every fraction of a degree of warming intensifies climate consequences; our suffering will get exponentially worse if we don’t act. Slowing climate change is harm reduction: we can’t fully prevent the pain of this crisis, but we can commit to minimizing it – particularly when lives are at stake. Inaction equals death. Action equals life. The choice seems obvious. 

Of course, minimizing climate change is a difficult task. It requires a complete transition off fossil fuels, whose industry has rooted its corporate interests deep in our government. I, for one, am livid that the fossil fuel industry is trying to sell our future for their own financial gain. It’s enraging that powerful people decided our generation’s right to life was less important than the money they were making — they knew climate change was coming, and chose to ignore it because it wasn’t convenient for their profits. And now we’re here. Thanks a lot. 

But you know what? I’m going to use this anger to fuel me, rather than bring me down. I suggest you do the same. Dig deep, and find your own fuel. Whether it’s anger, sadness, duty, or even joy – there’s so much beauty in this world to save! – the climate feelings inside you can power our rocket towards a protected, green, and equitable future. 

Here’s where to begin:

More Reading… 

“What Can I Do? Anything,” by Emily Atkin for Heated

“We Can’t Tackle Climate Change Without You,” by Mary Annaise Heglar for Wired

Movements to Join…

Sunrise Movement 

Zero Hour

Action toolkits…

Inside the Movement Newsletter


Stop The Money Pipeline

Georgia Wright is a producer on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast and also co-host and producer with Julianna Bradley of Inherited, a podcast focused on stories from, for, and by the youth climate movement. 

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