The 1.5 Degrees Target was not realistic. Let’s try something else.

Smoke spewing in an urban area
Earth’s cancer. Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash
Why climate change is unstoppable and what we can do instead.

I still remember vividly to this day. The sun rises in the horizon of a golden plain somewhere in Africa. All kinds of animals—gazelles, giraffes, meerkats, a solitary cheetah—rouse and look into the morning light. Birds flying in group over a large waterfall, bathing in sunlight. Groups of elephants trudge through the cool morning haze under a snow-capped mountain…

It was the opening of The Lion King.

Even though it was a cartoon, it was the first time for me, a boy raised in the urban area of Jakarta, to see nature in its full glory. It was romanticized, no doubt, but the effect it had on me was everlasting; I fell in love with nature. With the Earth.

So when I found out in COP27 that the world was going to miss its 1.5 degrees target that it had set in 2015 in Paris I was quite depressed. The thought about the world ending and a wavering faith in humanity had entered the chat. It wasn’t hard to be anxious these days with the pandemic, nuclear war threats, and recession dominating the news outlets.

So the 1.5°C temperature rise since the pre-industrial era is going to be inevitable by this decade. The numbers don’t imply much, I’d swing between 16 to 24 degree Celsius to notice a change in temperature with my air conditioner at home, but apparently at a global scale, even a degree matters.

Rising and gathering speed. Data from

According to the IPCC the budget for a fifty-fifty chance to avoid more than 1.5°C warming is 2,890 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. By 2019 the world had already emitted 2,390 billions. Since then the world has constantly emitted 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide up to this point without showing any sign of slowing down. That left us with less than 400 billion tonnes budget left.

More than 80 countries so far have pledged to cut more carbon emissions but have missed the targets. Maybe it is time for us to accept it. Maybe the objective is wrong. Maybe the planetary-scale effort lead by world and industry leaders to save the Earth from global warming by cutting carbon emissions has not failed because of lack of effort, but of realism.

What I mean by lack of realism, for example, is the argument of driving electric car can keep us completely from using fossil fuel. But the truth is, we will always need fossil fuel. There are thousands of products coming out of fossil fuel, not just fuel. There are asphalt, lubricants, and plastic. I mean, how are we going to survive without plastic?

That is why I have not lost faith in humanity over this. I understand that sometimes we are failing because we are chasing the wrong goals. But the key here is not to dwell in the past and move fast to try other things; the clock is ticking.

It is ticking especially for a lot of small island countries like Maldives that sees 80% of its land rising less than 1 meter above sea level. If warming reaches 2 degree Celsius Maldives and most small Caribbean islands will see most of their territories drowned in sea water. The late Tony De Brum, the foreign minister of Marshall Island told the world in 2015 that to accept that the world’s average temperature might rise by more than 1.5°C would be to sign the “death warrant” for his country.

Sea levels steadily rising. Data from NASA

To accept that the world’s average temperature might rise by more than 1.5°C would be to sign the “death warrant” for low lying countries.

Tony De Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marshall Islands, 2015

Of course the world will see temperature rise more than 1.5 degree Celsius now that it is inevitable. The consequences for the rest of us are alike: hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, floods, forest fires, and even subtler impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem (but no less catastrophic)—research found that temperature increase will see reduction in 10 – 18% species of insects and plants. Anyway, you can see the full catalog of post 1.5 degree disasters right here.

I love post-apocalyptic themed movies and games but that doesn’t mean I’d like to star in one. Especially Waterworld. Definitely not Waterworld. I have seasickness…

So what to do now?

If we can’t prevent the world from getting hotter, we need to cool it down.

We are developing technologies to do this. For example, there is a technology to capture carbon dioxide from the air and store it inside Earth. There are more and more companies doing this. One of them is Climeworks.

And then we have Solar Geoengineering, which is a climate engineering to reflect back sunlight to the outer space to limit global warming. Admittedly, I am a bit nervous about this one, because it sounds expensive, invasive, and we are yet to calculate the effect it will have to plants and living beings that depend heavily on sunlight.

Then there is the good old way of planting trees. But sadly, alone, it won’t cut it anymore. But still, do plant trees, it does a lot good for you, especially your mental health.

I believe there will be more technologies and initiatives in the future that can cool down the planets. And this is the sort of thing we need to focus into. This is the more realistic way to prevent global warming. Action will need to be taken, not just slowing down the temperature rise, but also to reverse the cause. We will need to pay more attention in cooling down the planet and give our support.

But by saying this I didn’t mean that we should abandon our effort to cut down carbon emissions. I am just saying that it is alone is less likely to be successful, given the current condition of technological and economic race between nations, companies, and individuals. Humans can be very selfish and individualistic—nobody wants to slow down energy consumption and hamper growth. Only in the face of a grave catastrophe will we work together for a greater cause.

Let’s hope it won’t come to that.

What am I going to do?

What I have always done: trying to cut down my own carbon footprint (funny to think how big an effort and how insignificant it is) and, most importantly, I will be educating children and the future generations through I am currently writing two children books that educates elementary schoolers about waste, global warming, and the importance of planting trees. If everything goes to plan the books will be launched in April 2023.

I am educating my children relentlessly about the importance of preserving the environment. I went camping with my family last year. Basically what I’m trying to do is to expose them as much as possible to the nature to nurture their love for the Earth.

My son and I, 2021

And I will start blogging about it. This is actually the first time I write about anything in a blog. That shows how much I care about this subject. If there is anything I learned from Cosmos, a book by Carl Sagan, is that there is no other place like Earth in the whole universe. Because the Earth made us what we are and not the other way around.

Lastly, I will train my kids to swim, just in case for that Waterworld scenario.

Kevin Costner in Waterworld
Photo from Yahoo!