How long do we have?

Last week, I had the honor to speak to Nathan Hale High School students about climate change as part of Nathan Hale’s 2021 Climate Day of Action, where about a dozen speakers, some who were students and some, like myself, were not, spoke about climate change. My talk, which was based on Climate Reality Project leadership training that I completed back in April, was entitled “Climate Change and its Solutions” which I shared with about 50 students. 

The day was organized by three amazing young women: Meghan, Bayly, and Una. The three kicked off the event with Bayly stating “Six years left. That’s how many years we have until the effects of climate change are irreversible.” Wow, I thought. Where did they get that number? Is that right?

The Global Carbon Project says we have around 16 years (2027) until we reach irreversible changes at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming over preindustrial temperatures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated we had 12-35 years back in 2018 (2030-2053). Climateclock.net says we have less than 12 years (2030). Recent modeling by a group of scientists at McGill University says we have until 2027- 2042. Finally, I came upon the Climate Clock in New York City which says we have a little more than 6 years (2028) if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate. That must have been what Bayly was quoting.

How long do we have left to change the direction of this impending crisis? Somewhere between 6 and 32 years. Any way you slice it, this crisis is real and coming for all of us, especially the youth, including these high school students I spoke with last week. And its greatest effects will be on the poor and the marginalized both in the US and throughout the world. We are rapidly running out of time to fix this. As Pope Francis said on Earth Day, a few weeks ago, “It’s time to Act”. Time to demand action from our leaders. What are you waiting for?

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

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