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climate crisis
Columns
Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

Will 2024 be the year we accept failure in the fight against global warming?

We are entering uncharted territory in this climate crisis and we must act like an endangered species

A forest fire near the city of Porto Velho, Brazil
A forest fire near the city of Porto Velho in the state of Rondônia, BrazilVictor Moriyama
Eliane Brum

The rapid escalation of the climate crisis makes it impossible to keep on spouting the same old messages of hope and new beginnings instead of talking about the harsh reality ahead. These days, such messages of hope seem like bad fiction. We are experiencing a phase of complete uncertainty as we witness the systematic destruction of nature and grapple with the unpredictable behavior of our planetary system. Responsible adults must step up to face the challenge, although I’m not very optimistic about that prospect. As a journalist, I constantly see multitudes of fragile adults addicted to consumerism. They tend to crumble easily under criticism and challenges, often choosing escapism over facing the facts. However, these are the very people we must rely on to confront the current crisis and the ones that lie ahead. Will 2024 be the year we accept failure in the fight against global warming?

In 2023, we watched governments prioritizing the interests of large corporations and their wealthy shareholders over controlling global warming caused by fossil fuels, deforestation and industrial-scale cattle ranches. This year has been the hottest in the past 125,000 years, leading to unprecedented extreme weather and widespread devastation worldwide. The issue stems from persistent destruction of nature despite decades of warnings, as well as government inaction, as evident in the disappointing COP28 climate summit held in Dubai. In this case, inaction speaks louder than words.

What last year made clear is that we can no longer control global warming by simply implementing all the measures we’ve known about for decades. The levels of global warming are now incompatible with the quality of human life, and we are venturing into uncharted territory. According to renowned climate scientist James Hansen, this year and the next will be seen as a turning point that exposed the futility of governments in addressing climate change. Not only have they failed to contain global warming, but its pace has accelerated. Hansen, the director of the climate program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York City, famously warned the United States Senate about the impending climate crisis in 1988.

In 2023, we may have witnessed a shift in the Earth’s response after 250 years of widespread destruction of nature. It’s unclear how much control we still have, but taking immediate action is crucial. We must respond urgently, like an endangered species fighting for survival. If we accept failure and don’t act, we will soon be telling our children that 2023 was the most stable year of their lives — and had the mildest temperatures.

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