The long-anticipated post-Paris report of the IPCC—Global Warming of 1.5°C—is out today and, not surprisingly, it is making tsunami-sized waves among climate-change radicals who are already convinced that only the breakneck decarbonization of the planet ensures the future of the biosphere. “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C,” says the opening line of today’s IPCC press release, “would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Deferential media have responded with the usual cant, as in this jeremiad from Deutsche Welles’ Sonya Angelica Diehn:
But when you really boil it down, do we actually have a choice? Do you want millions of people to lose their homes and their livelihoods? Are you and your family ready to personally face ever more heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall and flooding? Are you ready to see your own food security at risk?
If you care at all about the future, you should be ready to make some sacrifices now and take action to hold politicians accountable.
There’s nothing new in this, of course. For decades media coverage of the work of the IPCC has been almost uniformly obliging and uncritical. We have grown accustomed to reading full-frontal attacks on President Trump and the hated “denialists.” And having allowed the IPCC consensus to stifle scientific dissent, we also appear to have resigned ourselves to the radicals’ decarbonize-or-perish binary without caveat—which is to say, without so much as a nod to the political realities that make it fanciful.
Here’s an example: according to a story in the New York Times, somewhere in the 728-page IPCC document posted today is an estimate of the global carbon price circa 2100: $27,000 per ton. If you’re reading this in Canada, you’ll know that our prime minister is, even now, meeting considerable resistance on his plan to tax carbon emissions at a comparatively paltry $50 per tonne by 2022. The distance between these two numbers is mind-numbing. But it evinces the poverty of the climate debate as it stands today, courtesy of the the iron-fisted hegemony of IPCC ideology and influence.
The point should be obvious. Political leaders who live and work here in the world of the real are no more likely to embrace “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” than they are to disarm unilaterally because the dream of a world without war is nice. We used to call politics the art of the possible precisely because we comprehended its limits.