(CNN)For years now, people like environmentalist and journalist Bill McKibben have been screaming from the treetops that we need a World War II-scale mobilization to fight the scourge of climate change.
We're losing the war on climate change
They're right, of course. And on Earth Day -- that 24-hour sliver of the calendar when we talk about the fact that humans exist on, and because of, a living planet -- it's clear not only that we are losing this war but that we still are failing to recognize it's taking place at all.
I mean, yes, I've met Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen who is "schooling world leaders" on climate policy and who started a global school walkout movement. I've read the Green New Deal and seen the videos of young people demanding that US reps adopt it. Just this month, protesters in London shut down parts of the city in their calls for a reckoning. It's true that clean energy sources keep getting cheaper. Electric cars are more popular than ever.
But the scale of the outrage in no way matches the magnitude of this disaster, which, like WWII, threatens to cripple or even obliterate human life on the planet as we know it.
We've known the truth about climate change -- that people are burning fossil fuels and warming the atmosphere, with potentially catastrophic consequences -- for decades now. James Hansen testified about the dangers of global warming when he was an NASA scientist in 1988. The New York Times headline: "Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate."
Since then, the eco-woke among us have created more than enough deadlines to try to force change. In 1990, as George Marshall wrote in his book "Don't Even Think About It," the magazine Ecologist published a book called "5,000 Days to Save the Planet." About 5,000 days later, the Institute for Public Policy Research declared that there were "Ten Years to Save the Planet." In 2008, he wrote, the New Economics Foundation said it was "100 Months to Save the World."
As a journalist who's been covering climate for years, I've been part of that deadline trend. In the leadup to the Paris climate talks in 2015, I wrote that there were "100 days to save the world."
The deadlines aren't the problem. It's our failure to heed them.
The situation gets only more dire with years of inaction.
Last year, the world's climate science experts -- the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- released a report issuing some deadlines based on the harsh realities of science and math. They said global carbon pollution must be cut in half by 2030 and reduced to net zero by 2050 to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, which include drowned coastal cities, worsening storms and the virtual end of coral reefs.