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We Have 12 Years to Save—or Lose—Our Only Home

We Have 12 Years to Save—or Lose—Our Only Home

Olivia Alperstein

Pull on the seat-belt in your gas-guzzling car, folks, and strap in for the worst ride of our lives.

This fall, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a critical report warning that humans have about 12 years — until 2030 — before global warming reaches a catastrophic level.

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“Call on the federal government to implement the recommendations of the IPCC report, and commit to working with the rest of the world to act swiftly.”

The US is more likely to drop a hydrogen bomb down the vent at Yellowstone to induce a release of ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to cool the planet–that plan has panache.


The US government has already decided that rather than work together with the rest of the world to ameliorate global warming they will continue with business as usual hoping through force of arms to be the last “man” standing. There is no administration at this point who will force Americans to bite the bullet and clean up the mess they helped create. To do so would be a fast ticket to the dust bin of history. Unfortunately the American people are just as unwilling as the US government to do anything significant to address global warming especially if it means giving up any of their unsustainable and undeserved standard of living.


If the scientist’s predictions are right then it seems for sure that catastrophe is coming. The goals of those state and local governments that are taking action are largely based on staying below 2C not 1.5C. And most with goals to stay below 2C are not on track to do so. There does not seem any way politically to flip to a WWII type effort. Therefore, adaption strategies are critical. Not only is Trump a major problem but now there are big concerns about Brazil and pretty much everywhere that fascism is spreading. There have been many reports urging fast action but none of these reports seem to have had much of an effect.

Unless the organization Alperstein works for, Physicians for Social Responsibility, has renounced their adamant opposition to any nuclear power development, then their position is not in accord with the IPCC, not in agreement with the views of James Hansen, and their view is instead that things are rosy enough that this is merely a some-hands-on-deck situation.

YAY me. Ayn Rand would die of envy.

There is the type of nuclear power that is dangerous and provides weapon fuel, and there’s the type that isn’t dangerous, provides no weapons, and gives us a way to use current nuclear waste as fuel to provide clean, safe power after we shut down fossil fuel until cleaner energy catches up. It’s called a molten salt reactor and several ventures plan to build them.

I am as against current nuclear power as anyone, and I would shut them down as fast as possible. I’m hopeful the molten salt reactor provides a power solution because there is no way we can replace fossil fuel power in twelve years unless we have a way to have some sort of parity with what we’ve got.

Americans won’t choose to freeze in the dark. Molten salt reactors only produce power, and we can retire them as we choose. I would at least burn the nuclear waste we have before retiring them.

There’s bad nuclear power, and there’s good nuclear power technology available now. Something has to fill the void after we shut down fossil fuels, which we must, and we must restore the green plants that can sequester carbon and provide oxygen.

All life forms have minds, and if they have a mind, they have a soul, and souls can communicate with each other, after we learn again how to do that, and that’s the way our relations with others of the life system will need to be so that life without polluting has meaning, and grows our souls, the real work. Living things are sacred. We’ll need to learn to treat ourselves and Others appropriately.

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The fissiles for nuclear bombs do not come from power reactors. They come from production reactors.

Shutting down the nuclear power we have as fast as possible would result in a large increase in fossil fuel consumption and CO2 output. This would be even worse than existing nuclear. Even shutting them down slowly enough that non-fossil alternatives could replace them would still mean that those non-fossil alternatives were not replacing fossil fuels. This is the approach Germany took, which is why their huge investment in renewables has yielded such paltry emissions reductions.

That said, I concur there is every indication we could develop much better kinds of nuclear than what we have, and I would like to see them replace current tech nuclear just as soon as it could be done without creating an opportunity for fossil fuels. But Physicians for Social Responsibility is opposed to developing them. Any of them. No matter how good they could be, and even if developing them could help to retire the reactors we have that much sooner.

I also agree it would be a good thing to consume spent fuel, DU, and surplus and decommissioned bomb fuel, and maybe some bomb production waste in reactors that could burn it efficiently. That would be enough energy for a couple of centuries, at least. That should be ample time to develop more options.

We need more people communicating this message in many different ways. But the things recommended still don’t come up to the level that we need. Local and state actions aren’t enough; the US government needs to act massively and immediately, which means we need a peaceful revolution to make that happen.

We need a WWII climate mobilization; we need to nationalize the fossil fuel industry to shut it down while coordinating with increasing efficiency, wiser lives and clean safe renewable energy; we need to link the US’ grids together; build a national high speed rail network and revitalize rail, light rail, EV bus systems; eliminate emissions in transport, concrete and steel. To do all that we’ll need to radically equalize in the US and across the world, both politically and economically. We’ll probably have to outlaw the Republican party and prosecute its officials in both major US parties that have committed the treason of delaying action on the ecological crisis. That’s a lot to do in the next 7 years, because as many critics have pointed out, there’s no way we have 12.

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the rich people have 12 years to get to the moon or mars. ever wonder about the spaceforce?


In the 80s, when climate change first made the news, we had a few decades to change our ways or the distant future (say, 100 years off) would be challenging. What did we do? We engaged in a decade of “greed is good.”

In the 90s, when the science became established and incontrovertible, we still had decades to change our ways. What did we do? We became fully and officially neoliberal, destroyed the EPA, and ramped up consumption while externalizing pollution through globalization (can’t dump waste in American rivers?–no problem! Can’t breathe in Beijing? Not my problem!). Oh, and we went to Kyoto, after which people could pretend we were responding.

In the aughts, when the scientific models were found to be gross underestimates of the rate and magnitude of change, and mega-storms and coral bleaching and melting ice screamed warnings that we had less time than we thought, what did we do? We went to war. And we’re still at war.

Now, as we find ourselves in the midst of climate chaos and extinction, we have 12 years (at most) until the cataclysm. What will we do, especially in an ascendant, neoliberal plutocracy? We will collapse.

Pardon my pessimism but, to quote the old cartoon cliche of the bearded prophet with the sandwich board: “The end is near.”


If you understand Dr. Guy McPherson at Nature Bats Last and others as well concerning the 6th extinction combined with GW/CC we have 9 years left. In those 9 years chaos will rein supreme. Live the life of excellence. This is The End beautiful friend. Be humble, be kind.

Sorry to pop your bubble thinking there is something you can do to advert chaos and extinction.

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Imagine a billion rooftops covered in solar panels.
Imagine a billion cars running on electricity instead of fossil fuels.
Imagine that something like this is done because it is actually comparatively easy for us to accomplish.
Imagine open air parking lots were covered or ‘shaded’ by solar panels and allowed the electric cars parked underneath them to ‘plug in’ automatically and recharge.
Imagine all new office buildings were constructed using ‘solar’ exteriors and solar window glass.
Imagine all new office buildings are constructed with wind turbines.
Imagine also the immense number of jobs that our doing this would then create.

Imagine that we tried to save ourselves by doing something!


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Imagine we all thought we were one family ,one for all and all for one .
In a matter of months all problems would be solvable.

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Please teach others that…all of our shadows are the same color :-)))


I sincerely appreciate the author of this article (Olivia Alperstein) for reminding her readers of our desperate situation and our urgent timeframe and need for action – but I regretfully feel that her hope is pollyanna-ish, and therefore, that her words are too gentle. (I think she is probably a very sweet-natured person.)

But tragically, given how hard and far the U.S. corporate-state (and many of the world’s corporate-states) have moved to the right in the last 50+ years – and given how little has been done to stop global warming in the past 50+ years – I think there is absolutely no chance that worldwide governments will act effectively together “in a WWII-level effort” to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The selfish, greedy, sociopathic, and obsessive-compulsive corporate-state mis-leaders (and profiteers) are not going to radically change “business as usual” until environmental, political, economic, and social conditions become unbearable. (Like when the costs of hurricanes and floods run up into trillions of dollars – or when large parts of, say, Miami and New York City are under water!)

Likewise, the common people are not going to give up their cars, electricity-use levels, eating of meat, and other lifestyle behaviors – or radically pressure their corporate-states to stop global warming – until the harmful effects and losses from climate changes are felt to be painfully unbearable.

In short, for many reasons, human nature resists radical changes until it is too painful not to change!

And even then, many people still aren’t able or willing to change! They just keep doing what they like, and accept the harmful results! (For example, cancer patients who don’t stop smoking cigarettes and heart attack patients who don’t stop eating fatty foods and diabetic patients who don’t stop eating high-sugar foods, etc.)

Therefore, I think the best we can realistically “hope” for is for mis-leaders and common people to start making radical changes to our current way of living to stop global warming after conditions get terribly harmful and unbearably painful – and then to LIMIT the worsening damage, as much as possible.

I’m afraid that the realistic “hope” is that although humans will most likely severely harm the life-supporting environment (and will likely cause millions of people to die (and will likely cause million of other species to die or even go extinct!) – humans might be able to preserve human civilization and prevent total extinction of all life on Earth.

Hi Trog. I think your enthusiasm for nuclear has led you to overlook the fact that a switch to nuclear, in this time, frame is not feasible.

Even if the impossible were to happen, and molten salt reactor technology is perfected, and nuclear plants are fully licensed, financed, built, and put into operation, at the scale necessary within the next 12 years, this will do nothing to mitigate the devastating environmental impacts (such as habitat loss, fresh water depletion, waste generation, etc) that are associated with the present excessive rate of energy consumption.

What is feasible within this time frame, but almost assuredly unlikely to occur, is meeting the targets without nuclear power, through:

  • Reduction in excessive energy consumption
  • Switching to energy efficient devices and practices including passive solar cooling/heating and lighting
  • A switch high level of combined solar, wind, wave, geothermal energy
  • Promotion of locally based energy generation rather the exceedingly wasteful practice of centralized distributed energy.

Mark Jacobson, from UC Berkeley, has an outline for how to achieve such a transition: https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CountriesWWS.pdf


Great articles on what we can expect. What I am not seeing is how radically we will have to change our society to get to a sustainable path. We the people have to do it because wisdom is not part of politics or profits!

  1. Government is employer of last resort. Everyone has a job and a paycheck.
  2. Nationalize the fossil fuel industry and plan an orderly phase out.
  3. Nationalize our energy infrastructure in order to maximize implementation of renewable energy.
  4. Confiscate all wealth above a certain level. If that level were $100 million for instance, that would $10 trillion, and that would impact 36,000 people.
  5. Restructure key industries to manufacture solar panels, wind turbines, carbon capture equipment, large scale batteries, etc. to quickly transition toward CO2 reductions.
  6. Remove all fossil fuel vehicles from the highway ASAP. Subsidize electric vehicles as needed.
  7. Convert large scale military computer systems toward global climate modeling and prediction.
  8. Re-structure military toward responding to natural disasters, providing food, housing, medical aid and resources as needed.
  9. Re-structure political decision making to ensure a diversity of opinions, and means of making decisions based on best available science. Move toward artificial intelligence systems to propose/make objective decisions.
  10. Move cities away from rising oceans levels.
  11. Close all meat and dairy operations ASAP.

This list is far from comprehensive but would at least start moving us toward a sustainable future.
More details here: Plan to Save Humanity

We do not have 12 years that’s for sure! From now to the 2020 election is it!

True to some extent. Remember, the American public has been propagandized for 50 years and all social movements undermined at every turn. Some are trying to get them aroused but Trump is doing a great job of getting people to pay real attention to politics!

I got a plan: Democratic Socialism - because the priorities of the corporate/political class are not the same a We, the people!

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