The Truth About These Climate Change Numbers

It’s often argued that climate change is not a technological or engineering problem, it is a political problem. And it’s true. We have all the technology we need to power the world with renewables and stave off the worst of climate chaos. What we lack is the political will to take the kind of moonshot-scale action necessary to accomplish it.

But climate change is also a numbers problem. Every ton of carbon that we dump into the atmosphere stays there for hundreds of years, warming the atmosphere and reshaping the future climate. As the recent IPCC report pointed out, to avoid the worst of climate chaos, the world needs to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Accomplishing that would require not just a remaking of our energy system, but profound changes in agriculture, the design of cities and transportation systems. It is possible to imagine how a revolution like this might happen, but it’s even easier to imagine how it would not.

A new report issued this week by the Global Carbon Project shows that, far from making progress, we’re going in exactly the opposite direction.

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