Everything that matters

I just read this in one of the Economist’s blogs [emphasis mine]:

A HUNDRED years from now, looking back, the only question that will appear important about the historical moment in which we now live is the question of whether or not we did anything to arrest climate change. Everything else—the financial crisis, the life or death of the euro, authoritarianism or democracy in China and Russia, the Great Stagnation or the innovation renaissance, democratisation and/or political Islam in the Arab world, Newt or Mitt or another four years of Barack—all this will fade into insignificance beside the question of whether we managed to do anything about human industrial civilisation changing the climate of Planet Earth. It’s extremely hard to focus on this, because environmentalism goes in and out of political fashion depending on the economy, war, and so forth. But from the perspective of our great-grandchildren, the only thing that’s going to seem important is whether we burned all the fossil fuel on the planet and sent global temperatures up by at least 4 degrees Celsius in the next century, or whether we took collective action, shifted our energy sources, and held the global temperature rise to 2 degrees or less.

It’s the lead-in to a post about the Durban climate talks, and as always you should read the whole thing.

UPDATE: On twitter, Ella pointed out it’s actually rather hyperbolic to say that nothing else will matter a century from now, and gave some examples of things that still will. The distinction between “it won’t matter” and “it will seem far less important than climate change” may seem like hair-splitting at first, but in her own words it’s important because the “nothing else matters” view plays out almost as badly as the “do nothing” one, from a human suffering perspective.

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