“Emergency. Gravity. Hope.” World climate report highlights urgent need for climate action
On March 19, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) endorsed the summary for policymakers of the synthesis report of its Sixth Assessment Report. This document incorporates six reports that the IPCC has published in recent years and highlights the current and future disastrous effects of climate change around the world. It also paves the way forward that can protect us and limit the harms of climate change, but only if governments are willing to take it.
THE The IPCC was created in 1988 speak United Nations Environment Program And World Meteorological Organization provide governments around the world with scientific reports that they can use to develop effective climate policies. The IPCC currently has 195 member countries and their reports are written for use by governments at all levels, from municipal governments to multinational governments like the European Union. In recent years, civil society organizations and private companies have also increasingly used the reports.
Since its creation, the IPCC has published six assessment reports, covering “the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is happening.” According to them website. Nine years after the previous report, the summary report is released this week on March 19 after three years of work by scientists, climate organizations and governments.
The report production and approval process is long and laborious. First, the scope and outline are defined by experts and approved by governments. Then, experts are appointed lead authors and chapter leaders (called “coordinating lead authors”) who work on writing and editing the chapters of their report. Finally, a Summary for Policymakers is created based on the report, and the governments do a line-by-line approval of the summary. Zinta Zommers, one of the lead authors and head of human affairs at the United Nations, said in an interview with GlacierHub that “there were a total of 1,433 hours of meetings to get this report approved”, not even counting the time spent writing the report. She also pointed out that these roles are unpaid – meaning experts have to work on these reports on top of their already busy lives – but it’s worth it to create a more livable future for young people like her daughter. .
On Sunday, after a full week of negotiations that took place two days after the scheduled end of the IPCC session, delegates from each IPCC country approved the last line of text of the Summary for Policymakers and voted to approve the evaluation summary report. During the approval process, says Zommers, “scientists have to defend every phrase to governments and push back against any claims that aren’t supported by science.” As soon as the last line has been approved, the applause broke out delegates, followed by a standing ovation for the lead authors and IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee of South Korea.
Zommers said the theme of the report can be summed up as follows: “Urgency. Gravity. Hope.” The report outlines the catastrophic point we have reached with climate change and the failure to adequately address climate change, but it also highlights actions we can take to mitigate the damage and protect our communities. Debbie Ley, contributing author and head of economic affairs at the United Nations, echoed this in her interview with GlacierHub, saying that “the pace and scale of climate action is insufficient to tackle climate change” but that “Adaptation options are feasible and effective today.” As long as we start now. Going forward, Ley says, these options will be more expensive and less effective.
According to Zommers and Ley, humanity is not on track to stay within the 1.5°C target, and we will likely exceed it by the early 2030s. Exceed the 1.5 degree threshold will greatly increase the risks of food and water shortages, extreme weather events and sea level rise. For comparison, 1.5 C of warming is equivalent to 2.7 F. In a meeting with The New York Times, climatologist Katharine Hayhoe used a fever as an analogy: “Think how much worse you feel when you have a fever of 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.7 degrees above normal. This fever is the equivalent of what the planet is facing.
Ley pointed out that we have already seen more deadly weather patterns like hurricanes and floods, wildfires that increase in intensity and frequency, and an increase in climate refugees as a result of these changes. The retreat of glaciers and the melting of ice caps lead to a rise in sea level which is displacement of coastal communities. According to the report, “above 1.5ohC of global warming, limited freshwater resources pose potential difficult adaptation limits for regions dependent on melting glaciers and snow.
However, Ley and Zommers point out that the final section of the report offers hope. Since the previous report, “policies and laws related to (climate) mitigation have been constantly developing,” Ley said. Yet, development that is more climate resilient and grounded in diverse knowledge, including scientific, indigenous and local knowledge, is needed to address the climate crisis. Zommers explained that “by 2050, comprehensive strategies across sectors (transport, industry, building and food) have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70%,” making the innovation in these sectors vital to addressing and mitigating the harms of climate change.
Although individual actions alone are not enough to tackle climate change, Zommers stressed that they can accelerate action. “Of the 60 actions assessed, the greatest individual contribution comes from walking and cycling as well as using electrified transport,” she says. Effective climate action is not just limited to national or international governments; city and state/provincial governments can make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change by move away from the use of fossil fuelsmaking their region more friendly for walking and cyclingAnd divestment of companies that support the use of fossil fuels.
While the climate situation is dire, the IPCC report offers concrete solutions for governments and individuals to fight climate change. We have an ever-shrinking window to fight climate change, and action must step up now if we are to deliver a livable planet for current and future generations. This report is a warning, but it also provides a lot of options that countries can use to create a way forward. The path is difficult, but many governments around the world have already started it. If followed, it can lead humanity to a better future.
Glacier Hub is a climate communication initiative led by Ben Orlove, an anthropologist at the Columbia Climate School. Many GlacierHub writers are students or alumni of The Climate School.