Climate change is one of the most pressing (and polarizing) issues in today’s society. A curious 19-year-old took to an online forum to ask if they’ll ever see a day when it’s easy not to pollute and there are no climate-change-related natural disasters. Responses ranged from optimistic to downright depressing.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
1: Seeing the Consequences
A realist explains humans are well on the way to curbing pollution as long as it keeps being profitable to repair, reuse, and recycle. But natural disasters are a different story. “You will experience many, many more extreme weather events and disasters related to those than your parents ever did,” they warn the 19-year-old. “And possibly worse as well.”
2: Adapt and Overcome
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” one optimistic commenter shares. It may take several generations to undo the current damage, but they believe humans must adapt. “If we acknowledge and face the problem, there’s a lot we can do to reduce human suffering and loss of life.”
3: Preparing for the Worst
One climate change prepper reassures the original poster that while things seem extreme, experts are successfully preparing for the worst. “We’re tending to our forests better, strengthening sea walls, and even prepping emergency cooling and fresh air shelters,” they said. “We’re going to make it, and more than that, we’re going to build a future so much better than our present.”
4: Fight for Mother Nature
One person tells the 19-year-old that answers to their questions don’t matter. “What matters is that you fight and involve people around you.” Someone added that it’s helpful even if you’re less than optimistic. “Fighting for all living beings is the right thing to do, even if there is no hope.”
5: Slowly But Surely
“The next 20 years will be extremely tough going,” one environmentalist explains. “But the world is starting to steer in the right direction, even if it feels like turning an oil tanker, and the action cannot come quickly enough.” They said we have a long way to go, but people are already taking up numerous adaptation pathways to help us.
6: Baby Steps
Although things may seem all doom and gloom, we’ve come a long way. “20 years ago, futures of 4°C warming and even up to 8°C warming were not only deemed possible, but also plausible,” a commenter points out. Now, the likely path is just over 2°C warming. “It’s progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it.”
7: Hard Times Ahead
While one person says humankind will survive “this man-made climate change,” they think it’ll take thousands of years to return to something similar to pre-Industrial Age living. “The next few hundred generations will be living through crappy times.”
8: Never Going Back Again
An environmentalist thinks whether humans will overcome climate change depends on whether we’ll start fighting it. “If we do, we could eventually beat it,” they said. But now, non-electric cars, airline demand, coal-fired power plants, and more are pushing us past the tipping point. “During your lifetime, you will not ever see a return to what we called normal up until about 2000.”
9: Not Gonna Happen
Unfortunately, one commenter thinks overcoming climate change is out of the question. “The evidence so far seems that we’ll be deep into trouble before people are encouraged/scared enough to cooperate.”
10: New Normal
One person is confident that we’ll stabilize CO2 levels by 2050. We’ll be able to adapt to the new climate, even with the damage done. “Even if it means a large amount of people need to relocate. It’s not really climate change anymore; it’s the new normal weather patterns.”
11: Unprecedented Natural Disasters
“It[‘s] pretty clear that climate pollution will be dramatically reduced over the next 20-30 years,” one person said. But with the current state of things, we’re guaranteed a century or more of all of the fires, floods, drought, hurricanes, famine, etc, that come with additional global heating. “It’s not extinction, but probably larger scale death than any plague or war in recorded history.”
12: Undefeated Opponent
“We have to stop trying to ‘beat’ nature,” says one realistic person who thinks we’re good at coming up with the correct answer to the wrong question. “We won’t be able to fill all the ecological niche roles of all the species we cause to go extinct. It’s pointless to even think about trying.”
13: Toxic Relationship
Even at 16 years old, one person comments that climate change gave them an existential crisis, and they have low hope for the future. “As government positions are gradually replaced by younger folks over the decades, we will begin to see progress and change truly. However, we’ve locked in our relationship with disaster, and it’s not going anywhere soon.”
14: It’s up to You
One person says they’re optimistic that society will overcome climate change, but they point back at the original poster’s generation. “It is going to require your generation to get involved because you are tomorrow’s leaders,” they said. “It’s now up to individual consumers to step up and take action.”
15: Oversized Egos
“Nobody knows how to grow from 1000s of years of entrenched cultures based on the pursuit of ego and shiny things” which will continue to push us to our downfall, one person guessed. Their solution? Look at the bigger picture instead. “Be kind to all living things. Forgive others and yourself. Love genuinely as best you can.”
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