The Atlantic

How to Understand the UN’s Dire New Climate Report

It tries to find hope against a backdrop of failure.
Source: David Mercado / Reuters

People must be burned out on major climate reports, and can you really blame them? Every year, it seems, yet another group of scientists compiles what we know about climate change. And every year, with few exceptions, the broad outlines of that knowledge seem worrying. But nothing ever really changes—and so our ongoing apocalypse becomes not only all the more terrifying, but also all the more tedious.

That burnout is understandable, but I urge you to pay attention to—yes—a new report released this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN-convened coalition of climate scientists from around the world. Whereas previous assessments have warned of our hideous overheated future, this one does something different: It tries to sketch a better one.

The report articulates what seems, from the vantage point of 2018, like a best-case scenario for climate

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