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Unprecedented heat waves and wildfires in 2021 are a warning of worse to come and a signal that the tempo of climate change may be quickening. A warmer planet subject to frequent and destructive severe weather events will be less livable, the productivity of economic activities will suffer, and higher temperatures will increase both morbidity and mortality. However, this future is not necessarily locked in.
This note argues that even though delay in tackling an onrushing existential crisis has been costly, the damage inflicted by warming can be contained with the help of binding international agreements to control emissions and share resources and knowledge, complemented by a mix of national policies, regulations, and investments, by harnessing available technologies that are demonstrating their worth, and by investing in research to discover better ways of mitigating climate change and adapting to a hotter world. Staying cool as the world warms could be technologically feasible but not within reach of many in the developing world. Hence capping temperature increase at 1.5°C should be the priority.
Climate is an inestimable global asset. Letting it deteriorate would be a monumental unforced error.