Today is a big day in climate. The IPCC dropped its first framework (the most comprehensive and large) report in almost a decade. I’m here to help you navigate it. As we navigate the IPCC together, though, I think you will find that we are really looking for ways to navigate a new world.
Navigating the IPCC Report
For those who haven’t heard of the IPCC, it is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It’s closely associated with the United Nations… hence the wordy acronym. You can read more here, but, basically, it was created by the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Program to make sure that member countries (all 195 of them!) have the scientific understanding to make climate policy.
Things to know:
- The IPCC does not actually do science. It compiles it. In collaboration with scientists all over the world, the IPCC issues reports that synthesize thousands of research studies to present the general state of global scientific knowledge.
- It’s a rigorous process. The Summary for Policymakers (a roughly 40 page summary aimed to be used by those in a position to make policy) is approved by government officials and scientists LINE BY LINE. Reports must be adopted by all member countries.
- The report released today was from Working Group 1, which deals with the scientific basis for climate change. Reports from Working Groups 2 and 3, which deal with adapting to impacts of climate change and how to stop it are due out in 2022. These will be followed by a synthesis report (September 2022) that combines information from all 3 working groups, as well as special reports that have been released during this writing cycle.
- You can access today’s report in different formats, depending on your needs. If it’s your first time delving in — check out the Headline Statements. These 2 pages give you all of the major takeaways presented to policymakers, without getting into specific numbers, graphs, and confidence levels. For something more, check out the Summary for Policymakers. Since it is written for policymakers, it presents the major takeaways and detailed graphs, without delving into too much detail or scientific language. Next, is the Technical Summary, a 150 page stepping stone between the summary for policymakers and the full report. A summary — but one aimed at those with more time and scientific understanding. Lastly, you have the full 1000+ page report.
- When you’re reading, understand that the phrases in italics have a scientific meaning. They refer to levels of confidence (how sure scientists are in this finding), and likelihood (how likely scientists understand an outcome to be). So, if you read that something is likely, understand that this is not being used lightly. It specifically refers to a 66-100% probability. The full description of different qualifiers is found on page 4 of the Summary for Policymakers.
- You can also look at the science on a map! A new map lets you examine various projections for the future climate and records of the past.
Navigating the New World
No matter where you’ve been this summer, you’ve likely already witnessed first-hand the disasters discussed in the new report. This is our world now, and it’s getting worse. However, we also live in a world full of reasons to hope and things to save. This report makes clear that while the clock is winding down — we still have time to reach our goal of limiting warming to 1.5º! And even if we miss it, we still need to act now, because the dangers don’t stop at 1.5º or even 2º C. Ending up with 2.1º of warming will be immeasurably better than with 3º. We need to learn to navigate this new world where today does not look like yesterday, where everything is on the line, and where opportunities are found in the unlikeliest of places.
We each have the opportunity today to send this blog to one person, to call one legislator, to designate one day to take to the streets (for specific action ideas — check out weekly newsletter, Inside the Movement). We each have the opportunity today to believe in ourselves and a movement that is bigger than any one of us. We each have the opportunity today to be the architects of our own future.
Never in our history has humanity had such a universal experience, a time so ripe for coming together. That is how we navigate this new world. Both to withstand the sea changes we’re seeing and to stop them in their tracks, we need to come together in a community of action. Today, I’m saying that I will be here for you, and so I am asking, will you be here for me?
Take the opportunity to ask this question of everyone you know. Keep asking until we can glance around and see millions of people standing beside us. Keep asking until our voices are so loud and so constant as to be undeniable. Keep asking until we have the movement to meet this moment. Because that’s all the time we have left — a moment.