Even if we start to fix climate change, the proof may not show up for 30 years

New findings put a brief emissions drop during the coronavirus pandemic into perspective.

Students march as part of the Global Climate Strike in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, in September. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

The young climate activists clamoring today for rapid cuts to the world’s fossil fuel emissions could be well into their 30s or 40s before the impact of those changes becomes apparent, scientists said in a study published Tuesday.

As if curbing climate change wasn’t tough enough already, the new research finds that even if humans sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions now — cutting carbon dioxide, methane and other pollutants by at least 5 percent or more a year — it could still take decades before it’s clear those actions are beginning to slow the rate of the Earth’s warming.
Headshot of Chris Mooney
Chris Moone  is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter covering climate change, energy, and the environment. He has reported from the 2015 Paris climate negotiations, the Northwest Passage, and the Greenland ice sheet, among other locations, and has written four books about science, politics and climate change.Follow
Headshot of Brady Dennis
Brady Dennis  is is a Pulitzer Prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on the environment and public health. He previously spent years covering the nation’s economy.Follow

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