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An Optimist’s Guide to Climate Change

Grim environmental news is nothing new, but 2018 brought a deluge of it, and some now argue that the world has reached the point of no return for climate change. But new research shows that it is not too late to change course.

WASHINGTON, DC – During a recent commute to work, as my car inched along in rush-hour traffic, I watched a heron stalk the banks of the Potomac River. The majestic bird was a timely reminder that nature and beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of circumstances. And yet, even for optimists like me, it is getting harder to be hopeful about the fate of our planet.

Grim environmental news is nothing new, but 2018 brought a deluge of it. One report noted that vertebrate populations have declined by 60% in the last four decades, and less than a quarter of the Earth’s land has escaped the effects of human activity. By 2050, less than 10% of the planet’s land area will be untouched by anthropogenic change.

Perhaps most sobering was a study from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warned that the world is not on track to meet emissions targets needed to keep global warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the threshold set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The consequences of this failure grow more extreme with every fraction of a degree by which the mark is missed.

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