As the father of a five year old, it infuriates me that Hansen’s warning, and countless subsequent ones, has gone unheeded. As a journalist, I have helped expose some of the tactics that energy companies and their allies employed to block action. Often the cynicism has been breathtaking. For example, the science advisers to the corporate-funded Global Climate Coalition privately told the group’s board of directors — way back in 1995! — that the science behind climate change was “well established and cannot be denied,” a fact the board then censored from the group’s public outreach materials. Last July, lawmakers in Washington refused to pass modest climate legislation even as the northern hemisphere sizzled under what will likely be the hottest summer on record.
“This was a crime,” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the climate adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told me, referring to the past two decades of global inaction. But the wrong people are being punished. My daughter and her peers in Generation Hot have been given a life sentence for a crime they didn’t commit; they will spend the rest of their lives coping with a climate that will be hotter and more volatile than ever before in our civilization’s history. Meanwhile, the perpetrators of this crime continue to reap record corporate profits, win political re-elections and get invited onto national TV and radio programs.
The battle to prevent climate change, feeble as it was, is over. Now the race to survive it has begun.