This Sunday's NY Times Magazine is entirely devoted to a single devastating story by Nathaniel Rich called "Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change." Now available online, it's another profoundly upsetting reminder of the inconvenient truth much of our culture is seemingly designed to downplay. But it also breaks new ground by examining a period of time when the U.S. and the industrialized world almost came together to avert the worst of what's to come The cover design seems fitting:
— NYT Magazine (@NYTmag) August 1, 2018
The prologue alone will take your breath away and shove your head firmly in the toilet of terrible facts with its unflinching appraisal of the catastrophes to come:
"The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
"Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?
"Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves."
Read it and weep. Or read it and don't mourn, organize! Or read it and ingratiate yourself with a cryptocurrency tech billionaire who owns a private jet and a secure luxury bunker in New Zealand, I don't know.
At an event last night to discuss the issue, Rich told reporters, "It is an issue that I've followed closely for a long time and I've felt that people were telling the same story over and over again, and I felt like at a basic literary level there was something very boring and limited about ... the way that we see the issue, which to me, I have always felt has the highest possible stakes... It's not only a political story, it's not only a science story, it's not only an industry story, but it's a story about humanity."
Losing Earth, featuring George Steinmetz's overwhelming photos documenting the ravages of climate change from around the world, hits newsstands Saturday night. And it's online now. The fools and greedy Mars-bound lizard people can call it Fake News all they want, but the fiery facts will consume us all the same.