Director’s Dispatch: Stop looking for hope on the climate crisis. Try this instead

If we want to save our world — and ourselves — it’s time for an attitude shift, TNH Director Heba Aly argues, as COP25 talks unfold.

The New Humanitarian
7 min readDec 4, 2019


Students take part in a demonstration of the Fridays for Future movement for climate protection in Athens, on 29 November 2019. (Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP)

by Heba Aly, Director of The New Humanitarian

Those who understand the severity of the climate crisis often embrace one of two attitudes: hope or despair.

Both are rather dangerous.

Hope suggests “this is a race we can win” — as UN Secretary-General António Guterres put it at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September.

Guterres reiterated that sentiment this week as world leaders gathered in Madrid for the latest UN Climate Change Conference, COP25. “Our war against nature must stop,” he said. “And we know that that is possible.”

For all intents and purposes, that’s a lie. It’s possible in theory, but impossible in practice.

Despite the attention paid to the climate crisis in the last year, and the decades of scientific knowledge warning of the risks, we’re nowhere near limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — the level scientists say is needed to maintain life as we know it today. Instead, as the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation announced last month, greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere reached record levels in 2018.

At The New Humanitarian, we see the devastating effects of climate change in our reporting every day. They have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, plunged farmers into poverty, flooded remote communities, and increased the frequency and severity of life-threatening storms from the Bahamas to the Pacific islands, from Mozambique to the United States.

Yes, there has been some positive progress. A few countries have turned the tide: New Zealand’s gross emissions peaked in 2006. And parts of the private sector are waking up: a third of the global banking industry has agreed to shift lending away from fossil fuels.

But, according to projections released by the Climate Action Tracker a few months ago, even if governments fully achieved the emissions cuts they have committed to in policy pledges —…



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