In the NewsNew York MagazineAugust 14, 2020

What Climate Alarm Has Already Achieved

Over the past six months, the coronavirus has often been called a “fire drill” for climate change. But at present it looks more like a white-noise machine, drowning out what would be, in any other year, the unmistakable signal of a climate emergency. Last week, new research produced by the Climate Impact Lab on the relationship between warming and mortality underscored just what scale of emergency we may be facing in the decades ahead. By the end of the century, the researchers found, unmitigated warming produced by worst-case emissions trajectories could make climate change more deadly than all infectious disease in the world combined. Bill Gates summarized the research this way: “By 2060, climate change could be just as deadly as COVID-19, and by 2100 it could be five times as deadly.” And unlike this pandemic, it would not abate and could not even be stalled, except by entirely zeroing out every ounce of carbon being produced now — 37 gigatons annually — by the planet we have transformed into an emissions factory, and then waiting, at least decades and perhaps centuries, for the climate to stabilize.