New in sustainability: IPCC climate report leaves little room for interpretation

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report this week. It features nearly 4,000 pages worth of studies, citations, and evidence, all of which show that humans are responsible for the current climate disaster. It also predicts what will happen if the world doesn’t come together to fight climate change.

Key findings

The report features tons of information, all of which is valuable. That said, three claims stand out amongst the rest:

1. Human impact on the planet “unequivocal”

For years now, the vast majority of scientists (around 97%) have recognized that humans are exacerbating climate change. The 2014 report, for example, claimed that “human influence on the climate system is clear” (1). 

 

The 2021 report goes a step further, emphasizing that the human impact on the environment is “unequivocal”. Such language highlights the severity of the situation, as scientists often shy away from absolutes. 

2. The effects of climate change are (and will continue to be) visible everywhere 

The IPCC highlights the fact that every part of the world will experience changes in the coming decades—if they haven’t already. As temperatures climb even higher, these changes will become more pronounced. 

 

North America is already experiencing hotter temperatures than in the past. In the coming years, however, parts of the country may experience more than 30 additional days of 95+ degree days. 

3. The warmest decade in history

The 2014 report found that the previous three decades were warmer than those of the past 1,400 years. With access to better methods and data sets, the 2021 report concludes that the temperatures have actually warmed the climate at a rate unseen in the last 2,000 years.

 

The report also emphasizes that at this point, the recent temperature increases will persist for centuries. There’s no chance of getting the climate back to how it was in the past. 

How to fight climate change

It’s easy to feel hopeless when reports such as these come out. But instead of seeing them as something scary, we should use them to embolden ourselves into action. 

 

So what can you do to help fight climate change?

Educate those around you

Nobody likes a Debbie Downer, but discussing these topics with people who might not know about them is essential. Climate change will affect all of us one day—there’s no point shying away from it. 

 

Your goal shouldn’t be to scare people. Instead, try to just present the facts. By discussing the problem, you can work together to try and figure out what you can do to help. 

Be an informed buyer

Many of the companies we buy from are directly responsible for the current climate crisis. Don’t listen to oil executives and CEOs who try to convince you that your personal carbon footprint is the problem. 

 

One of the best ways to help fight climate change is by supporting companies that you know care about the environment. At the same time, don’t be afraid to ditch those that don’t. 

Hold your leaders accountable 

We also need to demand that the institutions around us do better. Politicians might have a lot of power, but they’re not invincible. In a democratic system, we elect them into power. We can also vote them out.

 

Call your representatives and demand that they help fight to protect the environment. If they care about their constituents (or at least their chances of reelection), they’ll respond to collective pressure. When that happens, we can then all come together to fight the problem at hand.

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