Did you hear about the NDC Synthesis Report that came out last week? No? Neither did I until I heard about it this morning while listening to a fantastic podcast called Outrage and Optimism Unfortunately, there wasn’t much optimism to be had.
NDC stands for Nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement synthesis report by the secretariat. The report looks at all the climate plans that are currently available from the 191 parties to the Paris Agreement as of July 30, 2021. At that date there were only 164 reports available for review. Notably absent are China and India.
COP26 in Glasgow is coming up in just over a month and allegedly everyone who is not meeting their carbon reduction promises are to be called to account. The NDC report is the first accounting. And it’s bad. Very bad.
So, ya’ll probably know that globally we need to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 if we have any hope of keeping warming below 2C. It’s 2021 and 2022 is only a few months away, which means we have barely over eight years to make this happen. Now keep in mind, the NDC report is based on plans, not actual things that have and are happening. Based on the plans, carbon emissions will go UP 16% by 2030.
Yes, you read that right. We need to reduce carbon by 50% but based on the 164 plans, it will go up by 16%.
I can’t say I have been optimistic humans would get our shit together in time to stop the worst of global warming, but I have been hopeful that maybe, just maybe we could pull it off. It wouldn’t be pretty by any means, and we definitely wouldn’t hit the 1.5C target, but 2C-ish seemed doable. After hearing about the NDC report, all my hope died.
Just because my hope for 2C-ish died doesn’t mean I have given up. Far from it. There is work to be done people! Every tenth of a degree matters and we all need to do everything we can, right now, today, and every day to make sure we have a future on this planet.
A global youth study was released about two weeks ago. 10,000 youth ages 16-25 across 10 countries were asked about climate change. Just less than half of them, 45%, said that climate anxiety and distress is affecting their daily lives. Overall, 75% of them said the future is frightening. 58% said they felt betrayed by government, and 64% said government is not doing enough. These young people said they feel afraid, anxious, angry, and helpless, and that when they try to talk with others about climate change they are ignored or dismissed.
I grew up at the end of the Cold War and regularly had nightmares about being at school when the bombs started falling and never getting to see my family again. I also held a running debate in my head about whether I wanted to be immediately incinerated or try to survive in a radioactive wasteland. But the Cold War ended and my nightmares stopped. Climate change is not going to end and these kids, their nightmares are going to be only too real. One 23-year-old in the Philippines says she has grown up being afraid of drowning in her own bedroom. This breaks my heart.
The kids are not alright.
If we can’t get our shit together to save the polar bears, or the whales, or the wolves, or ourselves, can we get it together to save the kids? I don’t even have kids of my own, but I think young people are pretty amazing and don’t deserve any of what is coming their way.
Remember a couple weeks ago when I wrote about climate change being only a symptom? I suggested the root problem was overshoot, too many people consuming too many things beyond what the Earth could sustain. I have since revised that to something I think goes even deeper than overshoot.
I am reading Jeremy Lent’s fascinating book, The Patterning Instinct and he had one sentence in passing about how humanity’s relationship with the earth is out of balance. That’s it! That’s the root cause as deep as we can go. We wouldn’t have overshoot unless our relationship with Earth was out of balance.
Then, in a different podcast this morning (Scene on Radio’s new season), I heard about Enrique Salmón. He is the head of the American Indian Studies Program at California State University East Bay in Hayward, and a member of the Rarámuri (Tarahumara) tribe of northwestern Mexico. He coined the term “kincentric ecology,” and you can read and download his beautiful essay Kincentric Ecology: Indigenous Perceptions of the Human-Nature Relationship that explains what he means.
Kincentric means all life is kin, and life includes everything that breathes–plants, animals, humans, stones, the land. Breath is not just inhaling and exhaling, it is the breath of life, what some might call soul, or chi, or, if you are a Star Wars fan, the force. Because we all share this breath, we are all related. With kinship comes responsibility. You wouldn’t want toxic waste dumped at your Auntie Em’s house. If the nearby river is your Auntie too, you wouldn’t want toxic waste dumped on her house either. If it were, you’d be outraged–how could this be allowed? And you would do everything you could to help your Auntie.
So as we go pell-mell into our warming future, as the kids become increasingly anxious and their mental health–and ours–degrades, let’s start thinking kincentricly, let’s work to restore balance in our relationship with Earth. And let’s start talking about it and living it. Let’s start listening to the kids, and let’s stop telling them lies and pretending like everything is just fine.