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Are We At The Gates Of Hell?

Updated: Mar 30

Seventy-five thousand young people marched on Sept. 18 in New York City demanding the end of fossil fuel drilling. After a scorching summer with blazing fires in Canada, Hawaii and Greece, catastrophic flooding in Libya, and other disasters they let the United Nations General Assembly know of their outrage. This was one of many global demonstrations held in September to demand change.

Fossil fuel emissions according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are responsible for 89% of global CO2 emissions. Proven killers of plants, animals and people, they are also lethal to air, soil and water. American youth are enraged that U.S. President Biden has not kept his campaign promise of ending this fuel drilling on public lands and federal waters. Other world leaders are meeting similar demands.

Reflecting on these international concerns at the first Climate Ambition Conference (CAC) on Sept. 20 Antonio Gutteres, UN General Secretary said that humanity has opened the gates of hell, visible in 'distraught farmers watching crops carried away by floods; sweltering temperatures spawning disease; and thousands fleeing in fear as historic fires rage. Climate action is dwarfed by the scale of the challenge. If nothing changes, we are heading towards a 2.8-degree C. temperature rise — towards a dangerous, unstable and unsustainable world.'

This Conference consisted of 41 countries with concrete plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero. The United States and China, two of the biggest gas emitters, were not included because they lacked specific plans to get to net zero before 2050. Creating a fair marketplace for all nations, reducing air pollution, providing green technology, changing consumption habits and providing affordable clean energy are some of the ways of cutting emissions being pursued.

The international difficulty of emissions cutting was illustrated by Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, now an outspoken climate campaigner, when she blasted away at the estimated $7 trillion in subsidies that the International Monetary Fund reported that governments worldwide spent in 2022 on new oil and gas drilling. Careless subsidies are making matters worse. Leaders say one thing, but do another.

Restricting fossil fuel leasing and drilling in the U.S. is complicated by a divided government and the politicization of climate warming. President Biden cannot act unilaterally in bringing these activities to safer levels. Our courts through recent rulings and congressional actions have allowed for even more drilling. The Biden Administration’s attempts to cut fossil fuel subsidies by $31 billion to decrease U.S. drilling incentives have also met with resistance.

Biden’s five-year plan of restricting offshore oil and gas leasing to only three sites in the Gulf of Mexico met with immediate opposition from the fossil fuel industry claiming higher fuel prices will result. Environmentalists also criticized it as distracting from the massive change really needed. Our state of Michigan’s emission reduction plan includes a proposal to get utilities off using fossil fuels by 2040, and is due for legislative action soon.

The United Nations founded 75 years ago, is one forum, where international leaders are now acknowledging the need for action to reduce fossil fuel. Governments must act together, and promote measurable change rapidly if life is to flourish on our planet.

Another ray of hope may be the Oct 1 Dubai gathering of 50 oil, gas and heavy industry CEOs to discuss curbing emissions in preparation for the Conference of the Parties 28, to be held from Nov. 20-Dec. 12, 2023. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Carey was among them. Are these titans really signing on to a decarbonization plan to end global destruction? Or is it just another ploy?

In an October 4th letter Pope Francis urged using political systems: 'I cannot deny that the most effective solutions will come not from individual efforts alone, but … from political decisions on a national and international level.'

Risking social conversations on the climate crisis and demanding legislative action are ways we can help close these gates of hell.

— Sister Janet Ryan, IHM, is a member of Stronger Together Huddle, a group engaged in supporting and promoting the common good of all. She can be reached at

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