Guernica Magazine

David Wallace-Wells: “We Will Need to Learn How to Navigate a New World with New Rules”

The provocative journalist on why we should stop speculating about the “threshold of catastrophe,” and instead ask ourselves “How bad are we going to let it get?” The post David Wallace-Wells: “We Will Need to Learn How to Navigate a New World with New Rules” appeared first on Guernica.
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

“It is worse, much worse, than you think,” is the first line in David Wallace-Wells’s harrowing new nonfiction book, The Uninhabitable Earth, which draws from hundreds of scientific studies to imagine the horrors that await us if we don’t take more aggressive action on climate change.

Wallace-Wells’s book is based on his 2017 article in New York magazine that was criticized by scientists and journalists for fearmongering. But today, some of those same experts appear alongside him on television to support his claims. What they once deemed over-the-top alarmism now seems like a crucial call to action.

This book arrives just four months after the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report, the gold standard in climate science research. Historically, these reports have been conservative in both tone and in their predictions for the future. But the latest one reverberates with unprecedented urgency. According to its authors, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a number just shy of the 2-degree threshold for catastrophe, then we must engage in “rapid and far-reaching” transitions across every sector, including energy, industry, and transport. And not only that, we must also eliminate carbon emissions entirely by 2050. Anything less and we’ll be living in a nightmarish world ravaged by deadly heat spikes, unspeakably high sea levels, widespread agricultural failure, and rampant disease. But that only describes our world at just 2 degrees of warming. In his book, Wallace-Wells imagines what might happen if we reach 3 degrees or morea scenario, he says, that’s increasingly likely.

As he shows, the impacts of climate change extend beyond the irreversible damage to natural ecosystems. They will affect every aspect of human life, including our mental health. “[Between] a quarter and a half of all those exposed to extreme weather events will experience an ongoing negative shock to their

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