Written by Sjoerd Bakker
September 3, 2021

The recent IPCC report marks the definitive rhetorical shift from preventing climate change to limiting climate change. While it was widely known that climate change was taking place already, the common narrative was nevertheless that sufficient climate action could still limit global warming to acceptable levels. The new narrative instead tells us that climate change will be disastrous, no matter what we do, but that we still can, and should, prevent matters from getting even worse.

Looking back, we have to acknowledge that the mere threat of climate change was not sufficient to persuade us to take necessary measures. Looking ahead, we can only hope that being confronted with visible and undeniable climate change in the coming years, in the form of droughts, floods and wildfires, will finally result in the institutional and behavioral change that is needed to limit further harm. Most of all, such experiences could lead to concrete and direct action, instead of the long-term goals that have defined climate agreements thus far.

Burning questions:

  • Given the new narrative, can we avoid a sense of climate fatalism that would shift our focus towards (local) forms of climate adaption?
  • How can a so-called “just transition” prevent climate mitigation measures from hurting the poor the most?