The Cover Story
2020 Is Our Last, Best Chance to Save the Planet
By Justin Worland
Correspondent, TIME

As a climate reporter, it’s easy to become fatalistic. For years, I’ve tried to avoid that trap: I've cited the science to say that there isn't a hard and fast deadline for cutting our emissions, even though clearly we need to act urgently. It remains true that the issue of addressing climate change does not necessitate a binary decision; we will need to compromise, make advances where we can, and think about how to reduce our emissions and adapt to climate change for years to come. But the coronavirus pandemic changed the timeline. We've already spent trillions of dollars to respond to the economic fallout of the virus, and have plans in place to spend trillions more. How we use that money could end up locking us into a crash course with dangerous levels of warming—or it could help us build a new social and economic infrastructure designed to adapt and mitigate climate change. My cover story this week explains the significance of this moment and explores how the world is responding.

The story is one piece of an incredible package about how the earth-shattering events of the first half of 2020 have changed and will change the momentum around climate change. Ayrn Baker writes from Antarctica about the urgent need to protect the world's oceans, Ciara Nugent writes from London about the struggles of maintaining the Extinction Rebellion movement amid a pandemic and, in another story, I write about why the climate movement is beginning to think about racial injustice. We also have contributions from Greta Thunberg, Stacey Abrams, the Dalai Lama and many more.

This has been a crazy year for the world; TIME’s last 11 covers have all focused on either the coronavirus pandemic or the growing cries for racial justice. In the middle of this moment, climate may seem less urgent. But we may well look back at 2020 not as the year of the pandemic, but rather the year humans set our course—for good or ill—on climate change.

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