This is the new Reality Drop. No games, just truths.
MYTH #55: It's too late


Even if we stopped burning coal and oil today, the world would continue to warm. It’s too late to do anything about it. Why bother?


Climate change is already happening today. How much the climate warms in the future is up to us.

We’re already feeling the effects of climate change. But that’s precisely why we need to both prepare for the climate change impacts we can’t avoid, and act quickly to curb the carbon pollution that’s causing the problem in the first place. It’s not an “either-or” decision — we need to do both. The longer we wait to make the transition to clean energy, the worse this problem will get for our children and future generations. It’s our choice.

Additional Information from The Climate Reality Project:

Even if we stopped emitting carbon pollution today, we’d continue to experience warming for a considerable time. This is because the pollution that causes climate change stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and because our climate is sort of like an enormous tanker with a ton of momentum behind it. Once climate change gets going in one direction, it’s difficult to stop right away. There’s a big time lag between when we emit pollution and when we feel its full effects.

But using this fact to argue we shouldn’t do anything about climate change is akin to telling a friend who’s in debt that she shouldn’t even try to start paying off what she owes — that she should just keep on digging herself into an even deeper financial hole. 

In reality, you’d probably tell your friends to really watch their spending and make payments on time. You’d know that, down the line, this could mean the difference between living with just a little bit of debt and going totally bankrupt.  

The same goes for climate. If we act now to swiftly transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy, there’s a chance we could limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). If we do nothing, and continue on the path we’re on, the temperature could rise over 6 degrees Celsius (PDF) (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by early next century. The difference between these two scenarios is dramatic. As World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has explained: “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today.”

Luckily, there’s an extensive list of meaningful actions we can take today to limit the amount of warming we’ll see in the future. At the most basic level, we should take measures to reduce the amount of energy we burn overall. If we’re smarter about how we use energy and design our cities, buildings, and appliances, we’ll be able to do just as much or more than we do now, only using less energy. 

Then, of course, we need to do whatever we can to quit burning dirty energy (like oil, coal, and gas) and use clean energy (like wind and solar) instead. This could be accomplished by passing laws to ensure the market accounts for the fact that carbon pollution is damaging and expensive (what we call “putting a price on carbon”). We can also set limits to how much carbon pollution we can emit. And, we can support clean energy research and projects. Meanwhile, we should continue to have a conversation with our leaders and with the public about the real cost of carbon pollution and what we can do about it. Our options are many. But doing nothing shouldn’t be one of them.