I don’t want to be this morbid, but there’s no escaping it: we’re screwed. Every climate scientist since the dawn of climate science has warned us about the dangers of continually thrusting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It warms the planet, which changes the climate and leads to devastating consequences like massive hurricanes in the southeastern United States (and its latitudinal cousins across the globe) which can kill thousands and cause billions in damage. For years, we have heard that climate change will get worse in the future, while climate change has continued to get worse in the present. Now, the “last chance” warnings from scientists are getting much, much louder. We should heed them. The Earth is effectively deploying weapons of mass destruction in increasing power every single year, and it will get more dire.
That’s what a new report from a group of scientists appointed by the United Nations to study climate change published. The fact is simple: if we do nothing in the next ten years to dramatically restructure our economy on an unprecedented scale around non-fossil fuel energy sources, huge swaths of the Earth will largely become uninhabitable by 2040. That’s not that far off, folks. A kid born today will graduate college in 2040. I am 31. I will be 53 in 2040. This is going to happen to us. If we do nothing now, millennials will spend the second half of our lives lamenting our missed opportunity to stage a revolution and affect our own planetary fate.
So what can we do? The central problem with climate change is that it is such an intractable issue—so vast and complex—that the very fact an answer could exist seems to be a paradox. It’s simply paralyzing. You may have seen this (unhelpful) tweet from CNN floating around yesterday.
Here’s the problem: none of that stuff matters unless we seriously address the unimpeachable fact that since 1988, 71% of global carbon emissions have come from just 100 companies. This isn’t about becoming a better consumer of the free market, it’s about radically changing the energy source the market relies on. If we don’t, we face certain doom in just two decades. Despite the complexity of climate change, the answer to solving it is actually pretty simple, as journalist Kate Aronoff brilliantly highlighted:
— Take control of the state government.
— Bring the entire fossil fuel industry under public ownership.
— Dramatically scale down production.
— Invest a bazillion dollars into a new jobs program to decarbonize the economy and create an entirely new energy platform that is not reliant on fossil fuels.
Lost in the doom and gloom of the IPCC report saying that we have until 2040 to stave off certain catastrophe, is the scientists’ opinion that the technology does exist (and will exist) to address the myriad scientific challenges of climate change. The central problem is the political will to enact those technological changes. That’s where we come in. We must, lest their dire predictions for planetary destruction come true in our lifetimes.
It has to be us. Hell, it can only be us. America is a global outlier on the topic of climate change (pretty much everyone else takes it as seriously as they should), and it’s time that our tangible global leadership matched the ambitious level of our rhetoric. Conservatism’s financial masters have successfully made it a wedge issue in this country, like abortion. Our parents and grandparents’ generation will not save us. In fact, they’re largely the ones ostensibly trying to kill us by being political obstacles to necessary change. And yes, I literally mean they’re trying to kill us. The message from the IPCC is clear: dramatic reform in 10 years, or a very different planet that’s hostile to human life in 20. Those are our only choices. Anyone who opposes the former, by definition, is helping to create the latter.
So how do we seize the state? Elections are the most acceptable form, but the problem is that with the Supreme Court, even if we make massive electoral gains which are unprecedented in history, any aggressive legislation to meet the scale of the problem will almost certainly be struck down by Brett Kavanaugh and the four other conservative justices on the Court. We don’t have time for drawn-out legal battles. I don’t know what the answer to our problem is (a new kind of constitutional convention, at the very least), but the scale of the solution is something similar to the French Revolution—one of the most important events in human history. Here’s the too-long—didn’t read summary of it, per Wikipedia:
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies that lasted from 1789 until 1799. It was partially carried forward by Napoleon during the later expansion of the French Empire. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon.
Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies.
The lesson of the French Revolution is that democracy is the middle ground found between oligarchy and guillotines. There have always been wealthy men who have used that wealth to oppose societal progress—no matter the political or economic ideology they operated within—and the masses of the world have eventually overthrown them time and time again. Our mirage of democracy and “free markets” controlled by a handful of powerful capitalists is wholly dependent on a fuel that is poisoning us. There is no compromise we can reach with that reality.
It’s time to overthrow our global economic masters again. We cannot afford to respect norms when the system itself is part of the problem, and time is running out. The global oligarchs are getting stronger by the day thanks to their allies in Western conservative parties, and just 100 of their businesses have the capability to literally destroy the planet. It’s up to us to stop them, as millennials must take control of our politics to create new, sustainable political and economic systems—lest we face certain planetary doom in just two decades.
P.S. Voting is still vitally important—as we must build up popular will around our generation’s policy of staving off certain planetary destruction—so please make sure that you and all your friends both register to vote, and vote against all fossil fuel interests in the upcoming November 6th elections. Our future depends on it.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.