If you feel as if little news can break through round-the-clock coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, you’re not far off. Surely one story getting far too little media attention is the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), just released on February 28. Unless the Ukrainian war spins out of control and results in nuclear Armageddon (unlikely, but hardly impossible), the escalating climate crisis detailed in the report will surely prove to be the more consequential story.
What’s happening in the sphere of climate change? Far worse that what anyone ever thought possible, in two intersecting respects.
First, the destructive impacts of human-caused climate change are already upon us, and on track to worsen significantly over time – perhaps quite rapidly, if the world blows past various “tipping points” (as many climate scientists contend it already is) and destructive feedback loops kick in. It is no longer a matter of “things will be bad unless we do something soon to curtail climate-changing practices….” It is now a certainty that profoundly negative and dislocating physical, political, social, and economic impacts are irreversibly “baked into the cake” of a condition created by the unbridled production of climate warming emissions. The only uncertainty now concerns just how bad things will get, how fast. So, if you were worried about the climate crisis before this latest IPCC report, you should now be terrified.
Second, and at least equally if not more distressing, governmental efforts by the globe’s major emitters to stem the worsening crisis thus far – in fact, for all practical purposes, no meaningful efforts – bode poorly for the long-term prospects of the planet and every life form on it. This monumental and unprecedented failure of government to behave in a rational manner – i.e., taking immediate and radical policy action to sharply reduce emissions while accelerating a rapid transition to renewable energy and sustainable economic practices – is nothing short of criminal. It is, in my view, a form of social murder, indefensible by any moral measure, and surely not according to the social work profession’s vision of the world as it should be.