From SNL to Trump: 10 Different Takes on the Terrifying U.N. Climate Report

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The recently released U.N. climate report put the world on notice that it must rapidly reduce carbon emissions to avoid nightmarish consequences of climate change. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Remember when the eminent scientist Jor-El warned the council of Krypton that the planet would explode, and sooner rather than later? And they didn't believe him, but it happened anyway?

Pardon my glib intro, but you have to reach into the world of comic books to describe the kind of global catastrophic negligence the recently released U.N. climate report has now put on the record.

While out of Krypton's misfortune the Earth at least gained a Superman, no such luck here in the non-comic book world. The U.N. report, produced by 91 scientists from 40 countries, analyzes more than 6,000 studies and concludes this: Unless the world radically changes the way it uses energy, its populations are going to be beset by climate-driven crises as early as 2040. The consequences include coastal flooding, food shortages, extreme heat, increased wildfire, and millions upon millions of climate refugees. In other words, like now but much, much worse.

A lot has been written about the report and its implications. Here are excerpts from 10 of the more interesting takes we found:

U.N. climate report shows civilization is at stake if we don’t act now (Eric Holthaus, Grist)

As daunting as all this seems, the alternative — ignoring this report, continuing about our lives as if it didn’t happen — is madness. This isn’t just a science report. This is a few hundred of the world’s best scientists screaming (in terrifyingly politely worded specificity) for the world to step up. By every available measure, this is something we simply must do. ...

In the words of the report itself, although “there is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes that would be necessary, the world has briefly achieved such rapid change at regional levels during previous times of great crisis — like, during World War II or in the midst of the energy crisis of the 1970s. In this new era of climate consequences, quite simply, every idea matters; every individual action has meaning.

The terrifying new climate change report has one silver lining (Erin Blakemore, Popular Science)

Feel tired already? Don’t give up, says [Rutgers associate professor of media studies] Lauren Feldman. “I think fatalism has to be accepted and understood to some degree,” says Feldman. “Certainly, Americans are going to ask what they can really do here. They can put pressure on industry. They can put pressure on government. Individuals can make a difference.”

Confronting the enormity of climate change—and the huge detour we’re going to have to take to stop it—can be scary. But as a planet, we’re in control of our own destinies. That’s very good news… if we’re willing to rise to the challenge. “This is really bad, but it doesn’t have to be as bad,” says [University of Chicago geophysical sciences professor David] Archer. “The story has yet to be written.”

UN Says Climate Genocide Is Coming. It's Actually Worse Than That. (David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine)

Barring the arrival of dramatic new carbon-sucking technologies, which are so far from scalability at present that they are best described as fantasies of industrial absolution, it will not be possible to keep warming below two degrees Celsius — the level the new report describes as a climate catastrophe. As a planet, we are coursing along a trajectory that brings us north of four degrees by the end of the century. The IPCC is right that two degrees marks a world of climate catastrophe. Four degrees is twice as bad as that. And that is where we are headed, at present — a climate hell twice as hellish as the one the IPCC says, rightly, we must avoid at all costs. But the real meaning of the report is not “climate change is much worse than you think,” because anyone who knows the state of the research will find nothing surprising in it. The real meaning is, “you now have permission to freak out.

As recently as a year ago, when I published a magazine cover story exploring worst-case scenarios for climate change, alarmism of this kind was considered anathema to many scientists, who believed that storytelling that focused on the scary possibilities was just as damaging to public engagement as denial. There have been a few scary developments in climate research over the past year — more methane from Arctic lakes and permafrost than expected, which could accelerate warming; an unprecedented heat wave, arctic wildfires, and hurricanes rolling through both of the world’s major oceans this past summer. But by and large the consensus is the same: We are on track for four degrees of warming, more than twice as much as most scientists believe is possible to endure without inflicting climate suffering on hundreds of millions or threatening at least parts of the social and political infrastructure we call, grandly, “civilization.” The only thing that changed, this week, is that the scientists, finally, have hit the panic button.

SNL Weekend Update (Michael Che)

Don't get me wrong, I 100 percent believe in climate change. Yet, I'm willing to do absolutely nothing about it. I mean, we're all gonna lose the planet; we should be sad, right? This whole episode should be like a telethon or something, but it's not. I think it's because they keep telling us we're gonna lose everything, and nobody cares about everything. people only care about some things.

Like, if Fox News reported that in 2030, climate change is gonna take away all the flags from confederate statues, there'd be recycling bins outside of every Cracker Barrel and Dick's Sporting goods. ... You want white woman to care about the environment? Tell them that they don't do something about climate change, they're gonna lose all the yarn. White woman love yarn ...

Slate Political Gabfest (David Plotz, Emily Bazalon, John Dickerson)

Bazalon: I have never seen anyone talk about 2040 in these terms; I have never heard about this kind of dire consequence in my own lifetime, and i wonder if it could have the power to change how we think. Except that the immediate reaction to the report has not generated any of that, and we're obviously still in this incredibly polarized moment, in which, unfortunately, climate change, like many other things, has been a dividing line between Democrats and Republicans in the United States. ...

Plotz: I've reached the point that this is a collective-action problem which is actually insoluble, that there is no possible way that the world can muster the political will and the sacrifice required to make the changes that are necessary. That we will keep burning these fuels until it is cheaper not to. And therefore ... we can't look to politics to solve it. ... I think the time and energy we spend seeking a political solution would be better spent saying we need massive funding for R-and-D,  massive funding for energy experimentation, massive funding for ways to make alternative fuels cheaper and thus more attractive in the marketplace. ...

Dickerson: I think the question is: Are sensible measures possible in the current American political climate on this particular question, where sensible is defined as the acts that you would take to ameliorate the effects of something that  the president doesn't believe exists, or he believes that trying to combat will only hurt all of the constituencies he cares about. And we should also mention  of course that the Koch brothers actively fund politicians who take positions that are opposite of any kind of collective action that would be taken to ameliorate this.

President Trump responds to the climate change report (Donald Trump and Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes)

Lesley Stahl: Do you still think that climate change is a hoax?

President Donald Trump: I think something's happening. Something's changing and it'll change back again. I don't think it's a hoax, I think there's probably a difference. But I don't know that it's manmade. I will say this. I don't wanna give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don't wanna lose millions and millions of jobs. I don't wanna be put at a disadvantage.

Lesley Stahl: I wish you could go to Greenland, watch these huge chunks of ice just falling into the ocean, raising the sea levels.

President Donald Trump: And you don't know whether or not that would have happened with or without man. You don't know.

Lesley Stahl: Well, your scientists, your scientists--

President Donald Trump: No, we have--

Lesley Stahl: At NOAA and NASA--

President Donald Trump: We have scientists that disagree with that. ...  I'm not denying climate change. But it could very well go back. You know, we're talkin' about over a millions--

Lesley Stahl: But that's denying it.

President Donald Trump: --of years. They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael.

Lesley Stahl: Who says that? "They say"?

President Donald Trump: People say. People say that in the--

Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but what about the scientists who say it's worse than ever?

President Donald Trump: You'd have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley.

Lesley Stahl: I can't bring them in.

President Donald Trump: Look, scientists also have a political agenda.

Donald and the Deadly Deniers (Paul Krugman, NY Times)

Climate change is a hoax.

Climate change is happening, but it’s not man-made.

Climate change is man-made, but doing anything about it would destroy jobs and kill economic growth.

These are the stages of climate denial. Or maybe it’s wrong to call them stages, since the deniers never really give up an argument, no matter how thoroughly it has been refuted by evidence. They’re better described as cockroach ideas — false claims you may think you’ve gotten rid of, but keep coming back.

Fixing the Climate Requires More Than Technology (Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, NY Times)

We can still do this. According to the new report, emissions from fossil fuels must be phased out by 2050, so there is still time to get this job done. But here’s the catch: None of the major technological transformations of the 19th and 20th centuries were the product of the private sector acting alone and responding only to the market. Railroads, radio, telegraph, telephone, electricity and the internet were all the result of public-private partnerships. None was delivered by the “invisible hand” of the marketplace. All involved significant interventions by the visible hand of government.

What does this mean for us? Right now, government is widely seen as inefficient and ineffective, and our needs are thought to be best addressed by the private sector, through entrepreneurship, venture capital and Silicon Valley-style “disruption.” But unless we acknowledge the need for a substantial government role, we are going to be stuck, because change driven solely by the marketplace is unlikely to suffice.

Why isn't the media covering climate change all day, every day (Katrina vanden Heuvel. Washington Post)

Last week, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a watershed report on climate change, warning that a bigger crisis could come sooner than we thought.

Last week, The Post and the New York Times ran front-page articles with the news as well as analyses and reactions about the report over the days that followed. But if you flipped on your television, you likely didn’t hear much, if anything, about it. You might have heard about President Trump’s latest rally or Kanye West’s visit to the White House, but this earth-shattering story was buried. As Politico’s Dan Diamond tweeted Sunday, “The landmark report has essentially disappeared from the news.”

When Climate Change Broke My Heart and Forced Me to Grow Up (Mary Annaïse Heglar, Medium)

Whether we admit it or not, we’re all in the middle of one big, giant mourning process. We’re mourning our futures. We’re mourning the children we’re afraid to have. Our bucket lists. Our travel plans. Some of us are mourning homes already lost to fires or flood. Or savings accounts wiped out helping relatives recover from hurricanes. Some of us are mourning our todays, even our yesterdays.

Denial is part of the traditional mourning process, but we have collectively spent way too long there. It’s time to snap out of it.Given the sheer enormity of climate change, it makes sense to be depressed. It makes sense to bargain. It’s okay. But, please, don’t stay there too long. Join me in anger. Pure, unadulterated anger. Righteous anger.