Act now or forever suffer.
The IPCC's newest climate report is clear; it's a "code red for humanity."
The alarm bell has been rung, over and over again. Now, it’s “unequivocal.” There can be no more excuses, and hindsight will tell us that now is the time when ignorance can no longer be feigned. Action is necessary. Its lack can only be appropriately called suicide, homicide, ecocide.
This past Monday, the IPCC’s Working Group 1 released the first of a new set of climate reports that will constitute the organization’s sweeping and comprehensive Sixth Assessment Report, or AR6. Climate science, future projections, mitigation methods, and adaptation strategies will be distilled and presented from the wide body of current research in the field. AR6 will be a radically up-to-date review of what our global climate research can tell us. This first report, though, focuses chiefly on the physical science of our climate crisis. It is aptly named, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
The report is unambiguous, direct, and clear. You can read the relatively accessible Summary for Policy Makers here. While the full report includes thousands of pages of detail that you can scroll through, if you feel so inclined, the SPM’s key, bolded findings provide the gist of the report. The very first such highlight sets the tone for the whole report:
It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.
A few other stark conclusions:
Climate changes, weather changes:
Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since AR5.
A takeaway (bold mine):
Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
When it rains, it pours:
Under scenarios with increasing CO2 emissions, the ocean and land carbon sinks are projected to be less effective at slowing the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.
The contagion is highly infective:
Then, a simple mantra:
Every tonne of CO₂ emissions adds to global warming
Last, a final graphic:
So, there’s a bit of what the report says. Our best scientific research telling us what our current situation is and what will likely occur in the future depending on the action we take today.
The subtitle’s quote comes from the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres, commenting on the report:
Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity. [sic]The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: [sic]greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.
For those of us who are steeped in the climate world, and even for those who aren’t but see the headlines often enough, the constant news about how bad the climate crisis is can too easily become normalized to the point of banality. If it always sounds terrible, “terrible” soon loses its terror. But, in trying to push back against that banality, let me ask, did you really internalize the above language? Reading can often be a semi-passive glazing over of ever-so static text, so let’s stop. Now, try to let the words arrest you.
Code: it is not colloquial, or casual. It is technical, but not boring. It is a brief call for immediate attention. Listen, what comes next dictates how you act.
Red: danger, immediacy, alarm, emergency. It is a harsh demand; no room for argument or discussion. There can only be action, predetermined action that must be followed else doom descends.
A code red is not something to deal with later. It does not let you pack up your things. It is not ignorable. It is alarms blaring, lights flashing, all hands on deck, rushing. A code red, in whatever world it presents in, is the worst of the worst. The most immediate issue. The paramount problem.
That’s what the climate crisis is. The issue. The problem that has the potential to make nearly every other problem on Earth worse. I would say it demands action, but, actually, it doesn’t. Verily, it is ignorable.
For the most part, we have ignored it up to this point and we could very well continue to do so. We could just ruin the Earth. Melt our ice caps, kill our reefs, destroy so much of our biodiversity, decimate our crops, burn our forests, parch our rivers, acidify our oceans, raise our seas, ransack our world. We could do it. After all, we’ve been doing it.
The only right course of action is reducing our emissions, now.
Do you see that line? That almost vertical line? That’s how quickly we need to drop these heating, suffocating emissions. Blindingly fast. Fast-as-the-Flash fast. Not instantaneous, but as close to it as humanly possible.
Alarm is the name of the game, the game being the attempted survival of our world in anything close to the state humanity has been afforded its entire existence.
Or, of course, we could just not. Meander along as we have been with some platitudes and a lack of radical action.1 And our world would be all the worse for it.
If you ever have any questions about how you can help in the fight to reduce emissions and further progress climate action, feel free to reach out. I don’t include resources on every article, but I try to write enough about ways to help that people aren’t wanting for ideas. That said, here are a few:
Call/email your elected officials.
Right now is an especially good time in the US as you can help support strong climate action, like a price on carbon or a Clean Electricity Standard, in the upcoming congressional budget reconciliation package
Talk to your friends and family about climate. Research shows conversations with f&f is one of, if not, the best indicator that someone will vote for climate policies.
It’s been a while! Things have been a bit busy for me, and I have a job I’m starting soon! But I should be more active here in the next two-ish weeks. Maybe another hiatus then, but for now there are a few ideas I wanna get written down/typed out/set in stone.
If you enjoyed, make sure you:
We have had lots of good action. Renewable energy investments and large scale projects. It’s just that, globally, we need so, so much more.