Ignoring the science has brought us to the edge. The climate summit is the last chance to turn back
More than three decades have passed since former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, in an address to the Royal Society, cautioned that humanity had “unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself”. Her warning, in 1988, about the dangers of climate change was followed by other speeches in which she outlined how rising greenhouse gas emissions could trigger dangerous warming of the atmosphere.
It was a prescient admonition, made all the more remarkable for what occurred in its wake. While scientists – with increasing certainty – found more evidence to support the idea that surging fossil fuel emissions were heating the atmosphere, world leaders refused to take any meaningful action. The burning of oil and gas was allowed to continue and atmospheric greenhouse gas levels soared as a result, a process that has continued for the past three decades. During these years, humanity, despite knowing that global warming poses an existential threat to civilisation, has done virtually nothing about it. Indeed, it has frequently chosen paths of action that have only worsened our prospects of restricting climatic chaos.