Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Consider this your all-hands-on-deck, siren-blaring warning that we need to act comprehensively to mitigate climate change now — or forever hold our peace. (Photo: Beth Scupham/flickr/cc)

Consider this your all-hands-on-deck, siren-blaring warning that we need to act comprehensively to mitigate climate change now — or forever hold our peace. (Photo: Beth Scupham/flickr/cc)

We Have 12 Years to Save—or Lose—Our Only Home

Consider this your all-hands-on-deck, siren-blaring warning that we need to act now or forever hold our peace

Olivia Alperstein

Pull on the seat-belt in your gas-guzzling car, folks, and strap in for the worst ride of our lives.

This fall, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a critical report warning that humans have about 12 years — until 2030 — before global warming reaches a catastrophic level.

The report concludes, frighteningly, that the world can’t allow global temperatures to warm past 1.5 degrees Celsius, or there will quite literally be hell to pay. And unless we take drastic action, we’re already all set to get there.

Consider this your all-hands-on-deck, siren-blaring warning that we need to act comprehensively to mitigate climate change now — or forever hold our peace.

The IPCC predicts an increased risk of devastating climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food, water, security, and economic growth.

As sea levels and global temperatures rise, low-lying communities will disappear and heat-related deaths will increase, along with diseases like dengue fever and malaria. Areas that cease to be inhabitable by humans will fuel an accelerated refugee crisis, while resources like agriculture and crops will be decimated in key areas impacted by climate change.

That’s just a few of the highlights of the Ten Plagues-like punishment we’ll get for endangering our planet. We’re facing a pretty grim future — and that’s even if we manage to cap the rise at 1.5 degrees, which we’re not on track to do.

For those of us who are pretty young like me, our golden years may be anything but.

Before you slip quietly into your doomsday bunker or start praying that someone invents interstellar space travel, there’s an urgent message of hope: We’ve got a little bit of time to save the only home planet we’ve got. And it’s going to take all of us to do it.

While dire, the report also contains some critically useful recommendations.

Governments, companies, indigenous peoples, local communities, and individuals all have a critical role to play to solve this crisis. We can and must act quickly and collaboratively on a local and global scale before it’s too late. Acting alone or failing to cooperate, the IPCC report emphasizes, will fall short.

The Paris Climate Agreement isn’t going to be enough — we need massive, World War Two-level mobilization. The victory will be that we get a living, healthy planet.

The report also highlights the need to consider justice and equity as we consider solutions.

Some nations, like the United States, are leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and other accelerants of climate change. Others contribute less to emissions but are more vulnerable to catastrophic damage. A number of low-lying nations (on whose approval the Paris Agreement depended) will literally be underwater if temperatures rise beyond the IPCC’s limit.

The point being: The countries that have contributed the most to climate change need to contribute the most to fixing it — and to helping those who suffer most to adapt.

What can you do, right here, right now, besides giving up meat, your car, or plastic bags and straws?

Urge your local or state government to commit to 100 percent renewable energy in the next decade. Get your community and your state to ban the use of fracking and other fossil fuel production that will drive us to doomsday that much quicker, not to mention the other dangerous risks to people’s health.

Call on the federal government to implement the recommendations of the IPCC report, and commit to working with the rest of the world to act swiftly.

And if you vote, remember the planet when you do.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Olivia Alperstein

Olivia Alperstein

Olivia Alperstein is the Media Manager at the Institute for Policy Studies.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

AOC Slams Conservative Dems Who Would Rather Skip Town Than Vote to Extend Eviction Ban

"We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority."

Jake Johnson ·


'A Devastating Failure': Eviction Ban Expires as House Goes on Vacation and Biden Refuses to Act

"We’re now in an eviction emergency," said Rep. Cori Bush. "Eleven million are now at risk of losing their homes at any moment. The House needs to reconvene and put an end to this crisis."

Jake Johnson ·


With Election Days Away, Bernie Sanders Headlines Get-Out-the-Vote Rally for Nina Turner

In his keynote speech, Sanders said corporate interests are pulling out all the stops to defeat Turner because "they know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice."

Jake Johnson ·


Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·


As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·