Search as we might for evidence to the contrary, even the most optimistic readings indicate that when it comes to climate change, we're almost certainly doomed.
Let's start with the moderately good news: Every major country on Earth except India has agreed to cut emissions, to the cumulative effect of reducing the heating planet by 6.3 degrees by the century's end, the Times reports. It's a dragging step in an increasingly dire situation—the current goal is to limit warming to 3.6 degrees, resulting in an environment that, while far from ideal, would at least be tolerable.
In this country, though, progressive climate change measures have faced vicious opposition from Congress, and it seems unlikely that agreement will be reached ahead of the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Paris, now just two months away.
America's current plan does not necessarily rely on the support of Congress—the federal Department of Transportation has imposed new rules on cars and light trucks with the intention of increasing fuel efficiency, and the EPA has new rules on power-plant emissions that will force closure of the nation's less efficient coal-fired plants, the New Yorker reported last month.
These steps, along with stricter energy-efficiency standards for appliances, will lower emissions by 26 percent by 2015. It's a laudable step, but not nearly enough—the remaining two degrees will be burned through in just a few decades, the magazine says.
And that's just the U.S. On the global scale, the pledges made ahead of Paris “are a big step forward, but not sufficient—not even close,” John D. Sterman, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Times.
In New York, Mayor de Blasio is today announcing a plan to cut emissions in the city by 80 percent by 2050. The plan is to use a "retrofit accelerator" that enables landlords to refurbish their buildings for energy efficiency. The goal is to retrofit around 1,000 buildings a year by 2025, a plan that, if successful, would equate to taking 200,000 cars off the road, Politico New York reports.
"Business as usual simply won't do when our very survival is at stake," de Blasio told the outlet. "We're ensuring that building owners have the tools they need to go green through the NYC Retrofit Accelerator."
The city will also be expanding its carbon challenge, in which 700 multi-family buildings and 40 institutions will pledge a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decade. Those who continue to lag might be hit with mandatory emissions reductions, though the administration is optimistic that punitive measures can be avoided by making emissions reduction tools universally available.
The earth is around 1.5 degrees warmer than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution. Polar ice caps and glaciers are rapidly dissipating, oceans are acidifying as sea levels are rising faster than we thought, weather is becoming more extreme, and the global food system is beginning to falter. What's in your Mason jar?