There have been negative predictions about the future of ‘life on Earth’ from scientists, economists, and climate scientists and many of todays’ informed activists (both young and old) as far back as one can remember. Maybe our lack of any real impactful action (personally, socially and politically) capable of creating any long term reversal has in part been due to media overload, superpower ineptitude and the lack of will in leadership to realise integrated actions and goals as part of a vast plethora of failed climate change summit agreements. Climate scientists have been telling us what we need to do for over 30 years. And every new report does so even more precisely. This current report by the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its content and language may seem like the description of ‘Apocalypse Now’ unfolding in our times.
We can watch vast swathes of countries and continents burning, the massive extent of flood damage and death across Europe, and the highest temperatures recorded in Verkhoyansk, a town in northeast Russia about 260 miles south of the Arctic coast and about 6 miles north of the Arctic Circle, topped out at 38 degrees Celsius, or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, Saturday. Siberia, one of the world’s coldest places in winter, just reached 100 degrees (F) this year before Dallas or Houston did.
The 6th Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis (AR6)
Yesterday (August 9th, 2021) one could say was an irrevocable watershed moment. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was founded in 1988 through a collaboration between the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for its efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”. This was in 2007.
The latest warning, then, is the last in a long list. This time it comes in the build-up to COP26, the yearly climate conference organised by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, between 31st October and 12th November. COP26 is seen by many as our last chance to take decisive action. See COP26 in 2021 | Presentation Sisters Union North East Ireland (presentationsistersne.ie)
IPCC: what AR6 has confirmed
According to the 234 scientists from 66 countries who signed the report, to avoid catastrophic and irreversible effects it’s vital to not go beyond a 1.5 degrees centigrade increase in average global temperatures, caused by greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2 and methane. This limit is already well-known, and the Paris Agreement – the first international treaty on the issue, signed in 2015 – translated it to “well below 2 degrees”.
However, according to this report presented on 9th August, which relates to scientific foundations and evidence, planet Earth has already heated up by 1.1 degrees compared to the period between 1850 and 1900, with a drastic acceleration in recent years. The first workgroup used the most accurate data and projections yet to estimate the carbon budget, which is the volume of greenhouse gases we can still emit before any chance of success goes up in smoke.
“Today’s report is a code red for humanity,” declared United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
“The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible. We must act now in a decisive way to keep the 1.5-degree limit ‘alive’,”
Guterres warned in a statement released to the international press.
If things stay as they are, we will reach and surpass the limit in just twenty years. Therefore, the IPCC scientists remind us, acting now means ensuring that the limit is reached but not surpassed. After all, some of the effects we’re currently seeing and living through, such as floods and wildfires, had not plagued the Earth with such force and consistency for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Heatwaves, meanwhile, will continue to intensify until they become almost three times as frequent, going from being extraordinary events to the new normal in the not-so-distant future. Other consequences – such as rising sea levels – should already be thought of as irreversible.
“This report reflects extraordinary efforts under exceptional circumstances,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “The innovations in this report, and advances in climate science that it reflects, provide an invaluable input into climate negotiations [COP26, ed.] and decision-making.”
New findings in the IPCC report
A careful reading of the report reveals some key points, and above all the clear scientific correlation between the activities of human beings and various phenomena linked to global warming.
It is now “unequivocal” that our activities have caused the heating of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land. We are the main cause of glacial retreat globally since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea ice between 1979 and 1988 and 2010 and 2019.
Reactions from the international community
UN Secretary Guterres once again sets out what needs to happen:
“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet. Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy. By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net-zero trajectory by mid-century.”
Stephan Singer, a senior advisor at the Climate Action Network, which unites over 1,500 climate action NGOs, put it more succinctly:
“This report has to be the final nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel industry”.
“The new IPCC report contains no real surprises. It confirms what we already know from thousands previous studies and reports – that we are in an emergency. It’s a solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science. It doesn’t tell us what to do. It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis”.
Greta Thunberg – tweeting @GretaThunberg
Catholic Climate Covenant says, in response to the report:
“The faith community has a major role to play. Grounded in a faith that urges us to be co-creators with God, we must redouble our efforts to educate one another, advocate for policies that protect creation, and make environmental sustainability the heart of our institutions, communities and families”.
They affirm that they will continue to work with national Catholic partners, Catholic leaders and the wider faith community to protect God’s creation, which includes the planet and all its people, saying “We have the tools, resources, and programs to help make all of this happen”.
We are coordinating with the Vatican to implement the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. We have a solar and energy efficiency energy program, Catholic Energies, to provide project management and finance services to Catholic institutions. We have dozens of educational programs available on our website. We are especially encouraging young people to engage locally to urge their pastors, principals, and other ministers to take this call to sustainability seriously. See Catholic Climate Covenant
“I hope that this can be a wake-up call, in every possible way,” Thunberg said of the report, in an interview with Reuters.
“When these extreme weather events are happening, many say, what will it take for people in power to start acting? What are they waiting for? And it will take many things, but especially, it will take massive pressure from the public and massive pressure from the media,” she said. Reuters Report – Greta Thunberg
As the new IPCC assessment lays bare the scale of the climate crisis, The Elders call on governments to take urgent action ahead of COP26. Responding to the new report from the world’s foremost scientific authority on climate change – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders said:
“The latest IPCC report identifies that the opportunity to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C is very slim, but still scientifically possible. The exigency of this situation must not lead us to despair, rather it should propel us into action”.
“Leaders must show they understand the seriousness of the science and turn in stronger national commitments ahead of the COP26 climate talks this November. The big question leaders must reckon with in Glasgow is whether these plans add up to what is needed – and if not, how they will close the remaining gap.
“To those who seek to argue that it’s too hard, or too late, and so not worth trying – the report is a reminder that every fraction of a degree of warming really does matter. The level of climate ambition has never been greater than it is right now and there is still everything to fight for. Governments must do all they can to prevent the 1.5C window shutting.”
See The Elders urge leaders to act on climate following IPCC report
This, the first of the IPCC’s three-part 6th Assessment report, places a greater emphasis on solutions than previous reports and provides invaluable input into government decision-making ahead of COP26.
The complete IPCC Report Content is available with source of Cover Image by Artist, Alison Singer (as above) see HERE
The Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report addresses the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science, and combining multiple lines of evidence from paleoclimate, observations, process understanding, and global and regional climate simulations.
See also AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis — IPCC
Lifegate IPCC Report – 1st Part
Find out about the Laudato Si Action Platform LaudatoSi.org – News