In the last week of June 2019 and the first week of July, across three cities in Europe, the politics and the science of climate crisis were clashing in a game for immeasurably high stakes. While Daily Maverick was in Lausanne with some of the world's leading climate scientists, over in Vienna the secretary-general of OPEC was fudging the link between fossil fuels and global heating. And the week before in Bonn, at the UN climate talks, the South African delegation was holding a document that sold out the entire country.
I. The reluctant scientist
"The feasibility, in the end, depends on how society accepts the consequences of certain decisions."
So said Dr Hoesung Lee, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in response to the opening question from the BBC's Pallab Ghosh. It was the afternoon of Wednesday 3 July 2019, the venue was the convention centre at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and the question came straight at it: Was it feasible, as per the call in the IPCC special report of October 2018, that humanity could limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and thereby keep the fabric of modern civilisation intact?...