Policy, Politics, and the Environment
Frogs won’t actually let themselves be boiled to death, no matter how gradually you raise the water temperature around them. Humans? We’ll see.
Long ago, experts started worrying about the potential consequences of man-made climate change. As the plant ecologist Charles F. Cooper wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1978, “The addition of carbon dioxide and particulate matter to the atmosphere through burning of fossil fuels and clearing of land has become a significant agent of climatic change that could measurably raise the temperature of the earth by the end of this century.”
Over time, as theory transformed itself into reality, scientific consensus grew, worries increased, and calls rose for a response. Stated abstractly, the challenge doesn’t seem insurmountable: find a way to achieve growth and development without destroying the planet. But in practice, little has been done to put the world on a sustainable course because of the complexity of coordinating and accommodating all the different players and interests involved.
Many observers regarded the 2015 Paris agreement as a turning point—the moment when the international community finally reached a consensus on how to address the challenge of global warming. But the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the accord, and its attempt to reverse Obama administration climate policies more generally, has put the matter back in play.
We’ve been tracking these issues at Foreign Affairs from the beginning and decided to gather the highlights of that coverage into one handy collection. As always, we present a full range of expert opinion and argumentation, giving readers the information and resources they need to come to their own informed opinions on the seriousness of the problem and the relative merits of alternative solutions.
In the four decades since we published Cooper’s article, things have gotten worse, not better. By this point, the frogs are starting to tell parables about us.