The adult in the room

The adult in the room

We’re wrecking the world to the point where we won’t be able to live on it anymore.  Does no one see the numbers?  Is everyone asleep?  Who will stand up and be the adult in the room?

In the video below, Professor Kevin Anderson makes a good effort toward being that adult.  He eviscerates the state of world climate policy using only consensus figures and basic arithmetic.  His assault is relentless and damning, and you may find your mouth agape as you try to process the stark realities of our situation.  His presentation is a much more technical and well-put-together version of the climate talk I do, where he crushes the audience with facts and then builds them back up with hope.

The video is long (23 minutes), but seems much shorter because Professor Anderson has that charming British accent we Americans love so much.


  • It is pointless to set targets based on years (2°C by 2050 for example).  That approach assumes stable and predictable rates when they will be anything but.
  • The only thing that matters is cumulative emissions.  We need to reframe debate to focus on a “carbon budget”, a completely different and scientifically robust way of thinking about climate change.  This change clearly illustrates our need to reduce carbon emissions not in a constant, steady way but in an urgent, radical way.  A carbon budget is the logical bridge that helps people understand.
  • It’s likely too late for the world’s agreed-upon target of 2°C.  It’s going to be a stretch to hold it to 4°C, which could be here by 2060 or sooner.
  • A 4°C world is a terrible, awful, miserable place to live.



Professor Anderson does a great job being unflinchingly realistic.  The world definitely needs this slap in the face to clear out the cobwebs and move forward with our eyes open.

Still a nice dream...However, when he talks about how badly the world will miss its targets, I think what’s missing is a vision of the world that meets those targets!  The task is so monumental, think about how organized, efficient, and cooperative a world that accomplishes that task would be.  The threat is so dire…think of the unity and partnership the world’s citizens would feel as they band together in defense of that threat.   What’s missing from this talk is a real lust for the opportunity that climate change affords humanity: the opportunity to unify the entire world.


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