Is Our Planet Doomed?


David Suzuki Foundation

If we can’t keep our carbon emissions under control, there will be dire consequences.

You’ve probably heard it. It’s been passed around for a while, shared on social media by people like you and me and presented to the UN by the world’s leading scientists- the startling statement that humans only have 12 years left to save the planet. Or maybe you’ve heard the even newer declaration, that the meager 12 years has been crunched down to an alarming 18 months to keep climate change at bay.

But is all of this information true, or is it just fear-mongering?

Undoubtedly, humans are negatively affecting the planet. According to Nasa, the global temperature has risen 1.4° Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution. Moreover, global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in 2015 were 400 parts per million, a staggering 43% increase from the concentrations at the start of the Industrial Era.

And the impact humans have on the planet can be seen on an even smaller scale, from the rising deforestation rates that caused the intense Amazon fires this year to the discarded plastic bag you see on the sidewalk that finds its way into the ocean. The changes humans have caused are around us.

Environmental Defence Fund/ Getty Images
Increased carbon emissions are raising the global surface temperature.

Nevertheless, this declaration that we have only a decade to curb the causes of global warming is at best alarmism reminiscent of many earlier declarations that scientists have made.

It’s clear that the earth has a limit to the amount of climate change and pollution it can endure while still sustaining the human population, but placing an exact number of years to that limit misrepresents the situation as a whole and fails to take into account the complexities of nature and the earth. 

The earth is so unpredictable that we can rarely forecast a natural event with complete accuracy. Placing a deadline on our quality of life undoubtedly incites panic and despair- in the real world of government and politics, how often are deadlines ever met on time?  

The truth is that the earth will stumble into uncontrollable climate change when we push it to that point, which could be months, years, decades, or not even in our lifetime. We can’t live by deadlines, we can only live by the fact that at some point, the earth’s climate will spiral out of our control if we don’t make some changes.

 The truth is that our governments and large corporations have to make changes to their environmental policies in ways that support the environment and curb dangerous climate change. 

Climate change isn’t a cliff we fall off, but a slope we slide down.

— Kate Marvel

Putting a number to the amount of time our planet has until that ‘tipping point’  ignores the real issue of ineffective government policy. What we can do is make an effort to put an end to our actions that are hurting the earth and lobby our governments to make a change. Worrying over those ‘18 months’ and trying to fit in every measure that needs to be taken to save the planet will only confuse and prolong any progress. As climate change scientist Kate Marvel declares, “climate change isn’t a cliff we fall off, but a slope we slide down.”