Guardian warns ‘last chance’ on climate change, after many other ‘last chances’


If we do not heed this latest last chance, I’m sure there will be another last chance in the near future, just like all the previous last chances we’ve been given in the past 30 years.

The Observer view on the climate catastrophe facing Earth

Observer editorial

Thirty years ago we were warned. Now is our last chance to listen

Thirty years ago this week, the population of Earth was given official notification that it faced a threat of unprecedented magnitude. Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, spewed into the atmosphere from factories and vehicles burning fossil fuels, were pinpointed, definitively, as triggers of future climate change. Melting icecaps, rising sea levels and increasing numbers of extreme weather events would be the norm for the 21st century unless action were taken, warned the authors of the first assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Three decades later, it is clear that we have recklessly ignored that warning.Fossil fuels still supply 80% of the world’s energy, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to rise and global temperatures are still increasing. According to Met Office statistics, there was a 0.14C increase in global temperatures in the decade that followed publication of the first assessment report. This was then followed by a 0.2C increase in each of the following two decades. The world could easily heat by 3C by the end of the century at this rate, warn scientists.

The impact on the world will, by then, be catastrophic. …


In case you think this is really the “last chance”, here are some previous last chances for your entertainment.

New York 1989

The Grandaddy of Climate Last Chances? In 1989 the United Nations gave us 10 years to save the world. WUWT celebrated the 30th anniversary of this 10 year warning last year.

 A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. …

Bonn 2001

A Global Warming Treaty’s Last Chance. That teetering edifice that is the Kyoto Protocol gets some emergency repair work this week as delegates from 180 countries gather in Bonn to work out problems that threaten to scuttle the deal altogether.

Time Magazine, 16 Jul 2001

Montreal 2005

In an open letter to delegates at the Montreal environmental summit, beginning today, campaigner Mark Lynas explains why action on climate change can no longer be stalled.

“I’m scared. For 15 years I’ve watched international progress on climate change get slower and slower, even while the pace of global warming seems to get ever more rapid. With time running out for the global climate, your meeting in Montreal represents a last chance for action.”

The Independent, 28 Nov 2005

Bali 2007

World leaders will converge on Bali today for the start of negotiations which experts say could be the last chance to save the Earth from catastrophic climate change. Bali could be the last chance to avoid the worst effect of global warming, said Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth.

The New Zealand Herald, 3 Dec 2007

Poznan Poland, 2008

The world will “suicide” if it cannot strike a strong climate pact soon, Australian environmental scientist Tim Flannery has warned. Professor Flannery, who is attending a UN climate summit in Poland, expressed dismay at the slow progress.

“Resistance is a suicidal tactic,” the former Australian of the year, scientist and author told reporters in Poland. “This round of negotiations is likely to be our last chance as a species to deal with the problem.”

The Age, 9 Dec 2008

Humanity is approaching the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change, according to WWF’s analysis of the latest climate science.The warning comes during UN climate talks in Poznan, Poland.

“Governments in Poznan must agree to peak and decline global emissions well before 2020 to give people reasonable hope that global warming can still be kept within limits that prevent the worst,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s global climate initiative.

WWF, “Poznan provides last chance to curb climate change” 5 Dec 2008

Copenhagen 2009  (the real last chance, we really mean it this time!)

The world faces a final opportunity to agree an adequate global response to climate change at a U.N.-led meeting in Copenhagen in December, the European Union’s environment chief said on Friday.

It is now 12 years since Kyoto was created. This makes Copenhagen the world’s last chance to stop climate change before it passes the point of no return, European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told a climate conference in Budapest on Friday.

Reuters, Feb 27 2009

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, has warned of “catastrophic consequences” unless a new international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions is reached.

Climate change is “simply the greatest collective challenge we face as a human family”, Mr Ban said in a speech on Monday in Seoul. He urged international leaders to reach a deal to limit their countries’ carbon emissions at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

The Telegraph, 10 Aug 2009

“No one said the road to Copenhagen would be easy. But the agreement we all hope to reach in Copenhagen next year represents the last chance to bring climate change under control before it is too late. There is progress, but we need to step up the pace. With resolve, cooperation and imagination, we can conclude an agreement at the end of next year, delivering the ambitious global action that is needed.”

Speech by Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner responsible for environment at a Climate Change Conference, 31 October 2008, Prague

The Copenhagen summit is the world’s last chance to save the planet from “catastrophic” global warming, according to a major study led by Lord Stern of Brentford, the country’s leading authority on climate change.

Without an international agreement to limit global warming, temperatures are likely to rise by 9F (5C) by the end of the century – triggering mass migration, warfare and world hunger, according to the report.

The Telegraph, 2 Dec 2009

Cancun 2010

A sense of foreboding is one of the few points of general agreement among the 15,000 participants congregating for the next two weeks on this long thin strip of land, marooned between a wide lagoon and the Caribbean Sea. Jairem Ramesh, the Indian environment minister, sees it as the “last chance” for climate change talks to succeed; Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate chief, believes a disappointing outcome would “put the whole process in danger”.

The Telegraph (UK), 29 Nov 2010

Durban 2011

Rev. Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, who leads the World Council of Churches, says the upcoming climate conference in South Africa is mankind’s ‘last opportunity’ to address climate change. This week the World Council of Churches general secretary, Reverend Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, called the United Nations UNFCCC COP 17 meeting a “last opportunity for the international community to be responsible in addressing climate change”, and called on the meeting to “act now for climate justice.”

Spero News, 27 Nov 2011

Durban climate change meeting is “the last chance”. Attended by over 200 countries, this week’s major UN conference has been described by many experts as humanity’s last chance to avert the disastrous effects of climate change.

Together with around 20 000 delegates from nearly 200 countries, Ferrial Adam, the climate change and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, will be attending the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which gets under way in Durban in the next two weeks, towards negotiating a new climate regime.

UCANews, 28 Nov 2011

Doha 2012

Tomorrow: the earth’s last chance with climate change? Tomorrow, the whole world talks about irreversible global warming as this year’s international climate change summit begins. Participating are 195 countries (almost all of the United Nations).

There are two concurrent meetings: the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol; and the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They will take place from Monday, November 26, 2012 to Friday, December 7, 2012 at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar.

The Examiner, 25 Nov 2012

Warsaw 2013

Is the Warsaw Climate Change Conference a last-chance summit? The Warsaw Climate Change Conference opened on Monday 11th November. After the 2012 failure of Doha, this summit could represent a turning point in the fight against global warming.

“Global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak this decade, and get to zero net emissions by the second half of this century,” announced Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC in a press release dated 8th November. “We have the money and technology, the knowledge and the new economic models to get the job done in time,” she confirmed before describing the next two years as “a critical period to act faster on climate.”

Sustainable Mobility, 14 Nov 2013

Lima 2014

Last chance: Change needed for climate negotiations in Lima 2014. WWF issued the following statement today from Samantha Smith, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, as the UN climate talks drew to a conclusion:

“A repeat performance next year would be disastrous, not just for the progress of these negotiations, but more importantly for vulnerable communities everywhere and the natural world on which we all depend…By the time we get to next year’s meeting in Lima, we urgently need to have political will, real commitments, and a clear path to a comprehensive and fair agreement in Paris 2015, where a new global agreement on climate change has to be signed.”

WWF Global, 23 Nov 2013

Paris 2015

Scientists are calling on world leaders to sign up to an eight-point plan of action at landmark talks in Paris. The key element is the goal to limit global warming to below 2C by moving to zero carbon emissions by 2050. The UN meeting in December is “the last chance” to avert dangerous climate change, according to the Earth League.

BBC News 22 Apr 2015

United Nations 2016

New study says that unless nations ramp up their carbon-reduction pledges before 2020, it will be nearly impossible to keep warming to 2 degrees.

‘Last Chance’ to Limit Global Warming to Safe Levels, UN Scientists Warn

United Nations 3 November 2016

South Korea 2018

Last chance to curb greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to limit catastrophic effects, international panel says

Policy responses to be discussed in December, methods to assess interactions of climate and innovation with economic growth win economics Nobel

South Korea, October 8th 2018

Leeds 2019

There’s Still One Last Chance to Avoid Total Climate Catastrophe, Says Study 

We’ve had chances. Lots of chances. But humanity has a history of squandering chances, despite everything we know about climate change. Despite everything riding on us addressing it.

Science Alert 16 January 2019


This list was originally published on in 2015, and updated to reflect more recent “last chances”.

Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website


  1. A few thoughts: Fossils of trees have been found hundreds of miles north of the current tree line in Canada, so it must have been a great deal warmer at some time in the past. T-Rex bones have been found in western North Dakota – they lived in a fairly warm areas where temps probably didn’t drop much (if any) below freezing. If one looks at charts of temp compared to CO2, they show temps rising prior to CO2 rising. I’m not a climate scientist, but…

  2. The most urgent requirement is to educate people, especially the media and educational authorities, about the history of climate. Until this understood rubbish will continue to totally confuse the issue.

    The medieval warm period was some two degrees warmer than the present. The Roman warm period accounted for a sea-level rise of about one metre. The Minoan warm period accounted for a sea rise almost three times the Roman period.

    Warm and cold period interchange at approximate intervals of 350 years. The last cold period lasted from about 1500 to 1850 since when the world has slowly been warming again.

    Everything is normal. Know your history!

  3. All these “last chance” warnings precede international conferences that are supposed to arrive at effective accords. But the effective accords never happen, Paris being an example of the carefully worded agreement to do nothing specific. If the participants to these meetings really believed that this was the last chance to save the planet from “catastrophic climate change” they would agree to enforceable terms for international emission reductions. The fact that no such agreements have ever been made tells us what is really going on: an elaborate game of let’s pretend.


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