IPCC Report: The Time is Now

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released another report today centered on how to mitigate the climate crisis (the first two being about the physical science of climate change and the current and future impacts of climate change). The report is a kind of a hot mess, and I mean that in pretty much all senses of the phrase:

  • First off, it was released late. Scientists (who are the main authors of the report) and government officials (who have the final say over policy recommendations) were arguing late into the night on Sunday evening, delaying the release of the report. 

  • It describes a world that is getting very heated– it is now “almost inevitable” that we will blow past the current goal of limiting climate change to a 1.5˚C rise in temperature. And the main refrain coming out from scientists who helped the report is that the time to take big action is “now or never.” Put another way, “The time of reckoning is now.”

  • And it’s messy! Countries are trying to figure out how to act in concert on this global issue, and there aren’t easy answers. Countries that have poured more carbon into the atmosphere thus far (like the USA and countries in Western Europe) should bear more of the load of adapting to and mitigating climate change to be fair to developing nations, but what should the specifics of this look like? Especially since no country is currently on track to reduce emissions to stay under the 1.5˚C goal.

  • The conflict in Ukraine and growing inflation have thrown in another layer of complexity to the issue, with the US and the UK opening up new fossil fuel sources. As the UN secretary general António Guterres said: “Inflation is rising, and the war in Ukraine is causing food and energy prices to skyrocket. But increasing fossil fuel production will only make matters worse.”

  • Honestly we’ve heard most of this before, but it’s being said by more and more people with ever more urgency. 

Is there any good news to come out of this? Well,

  • “It’s not too late to stave off the climate crisis”

  • We have the technology to stay under 1.5˚C of warming. But we need to deploy those technologies in faster and bigger ways. (And we still need to take action to mitigate climate change even if we do go past 1.5˚C of warming–degrees (of degrees) matter!)

  • Our actions as individuals and societies matter: Stephanie Roe, scientist and co-author of the report, said: “There is a really amazing role that we can play, not just as consumers, but also as professionals,” Roe says. “If you’re a builder, if you’re an urban planner, if you’re an influencer or a role model, you have a role to play. And it’s not about individual actions necessarily. It’s about individual actions that make cascading impacts across society.”

  • Last but not least, the climate movement has a big role to play. Sec. Guterres made a pretty compelling appeal to all of us to take action: “We must build on their work to create a grassroots movement that will be impossible to ignore.If you live in a big city, rural area or small island state; If you invest in the stock market; If you care about justice and the future of our children; I speak directly to you: Demand that renewable energy be introduced now, quickly and at scale. Demand an end to the production of electricity from coal. Demand that fossil fuels are no longer subsidized.”

On that note, here are a few ways to take action this week:

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