Read More: Popular Science
If we want a smooth transition into a sustainable future, we need to act fast. If you want to lose 10 pounds by a certain date there are, broadly speaking, two ways of going about it. You could take it slow and steady, cutting down slightly on your daily caloric intake to achieve a modest weekly weight loss, making your way to your goal weight over the course of a month or two. Or you could wait until a week or two before your target date and then give up as much food as possible, triple up on the exercise, and hope that you’ll lose weight fast enough—without literally killing yourself in the process. Only the most imprudent among us would consciously choose the second option, right? In this regard, stopping climate change is a lot like weight loss, according to a comment article published today in the journal Nature. The article, spearheaded by Christiana Figueres (architect of the process that lead to the Paris Climate Agreement and now vice-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy), says that we only have three years to act if we want a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy—the socio-economic equivalent of losing weight in a slow and steady manner. We have until 2020, say the authors—who include a number of researchers, state and local government officials (including the governor of California), and heads of climate change focused organizations—before achieving the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement become almost impossible. At that point, the actions that we’d have to undertake would be drastic; the equivalent of crash dieting and hoping for the best.