The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report puts an exclamation point on a generation’s dread.
Perhaps, our fundamental danger is not so much the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that threaten us as a species as it is the tendency of people, especially perhaps Americans, to focus on the instant, the easy, the familiar, the local and the non-threatening over the long-term, the challenging, the unknown, the global and that which requires us to radically and immediately change our lifestyle and our politics.
Many older people of my generation do get it but it will be young people like your newly married friend who will have to proselytize and seize the leadership roles locally, nationally and internationally. We are about to run out of time for the continuation of a livable world for humans and we are squabbling over the need for public health and public order. The fundamental problem may just be that so many of us have become incredibly selfish. When I was born, during WW II, this was not the case.
On a note of optimism, I can say that I believe that, at least theoretically, we still have time to stop squabbling over partisan, racial and religious differences and turn our global attention to jointly confronting climate change as one small planet in a universe where, as far as I am aware, we are the only form of "intelligent life." If we all, or most of us, agree to do this like passengers in a sinking lifeboat, then we have a chance. If not, we could all be responsible for the extirpation of intelligent life in the universe!
For my part, I see the problem as inherently simple: we have too much greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, and we are adding to it daily. The solution, I suggest, is equally simple: immediately and dramatically begin to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. I have come to believe that the single best way to do this, for the US and most other countries, is to place an annually increasing national fee on carboniferous fuels where they first enter the economy and then transmit the entire net proceeds to every household in the country to offset the predictable increase in the cost of fossil fuels. This will quickly eliminate, almost entirely, the use of fossil fuels as well as creating new employment and higher standards of living particularly for those on the bottom of the economic pyramid. And, it must be remembered, a dramatic decrease in morbidity and mortality. [For more detail, see for example: https://energyinnovationact.org]
Shortly after I was born, this country, with almost no preparation, defeated the Axis Powers who had seized militarily most of the globe. This was possible because we and our allies all decided that we simply had to win against fascism and to do what ever was necessary to do so, no mater how long or how costly in lives or funds. So too, we can confront the escalating scourge of climate change today if we create the political will for a livable world.