“It’s already later than you think,” said chemistry Nobel Prize-winner Melvin Calvin in 1988, while testifying before the US Senate.

At the end of the 1970s, science was already pointing to the hazards that the accumulating CO2 into the atmosphere posed. During the following decade, scientists and activists had government officials across the globe to continuously address greenhouse gas emissions. They enacted policies that would impact climate, working together. It was a window of opportunity that might have changed the warming’s course. But they failed.


The 10 years of work are documented in an article published online by The New York Time Magazine on August 1, 2018. “Almost nothing stood in our ways – except ourselves,” says the article’s preamble.

Writer Nathaniel Rich’s “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change,” states in the Prologue the obvious effects of our warming planet:

“If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.”


In the 1980s, the international awareness of global warming was rising. The efforts to gradually but rapidly stop CO2 output and thereby, stave climate change’s impact, were put to good use and everybody was involved. It came to almost work.

Leaders came very close to succeeding, as climate change was increasingly part of conversations – in the US, but also internationally – so the planet’s nations were uniting to restrict carbon dioxide emissions. But “at the end of the decade, paralysis set in,” Nathaniel Rich said at the article’s launch event. And since the 90s, we’ve moved from apprehension to reckoning.

Photographer George Steinmetz presents evidence in the form of bird-eye-view photos and videos, alongside N. Rich’s article. The scenes are grim, showing the aftermath of wildfires in California, desert sand partially swallowing the capital of Mauritania and the monsoons in Bangladesh.

But after nearly 30 years of stalling in their efforts, inactivity and disinterest, the bill is finally coming due. With disasters happening all over the globe, The Paris Agreement is fully enforced by nearly 200 countries, to implement green energy initiatives and stop greenhouse gas emissions.

We just hope this initiative won’t stall also.

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