3 Key Takeaways - UN Climate Change Report
This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their 2021 report which detailed the devastating effects of global warming on the planet. For years the IPCC has been warning governments that the lack of action being taken against climate change could destroy our planet. This year’s report was no different. It is being described as a “code red” for humanity. In summary without drastic changes, the earth could experience extreme heatwaves, droughts, and higher temperature records being broken within the next decade. This report was specifically aimed at policymakers who can act against climate change and reduce its effects. The most important takeaways from the 2021 IPCC report can be summarized in the key points below:
Humans are warming the planet
For the first time with evidence, the IPCC can prove that humans are responsible for the warming of the earth. In the opening line of the report, it states “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land” (IPCC, 2021). Even though the earth has natural warming periods, scientists have found that 1.07º C of the 1.09º celsius of warming, is due to greenhouse gasses associated with human activity. The main greenhouse gas being released, carbon dioxide, has a higher concentration in the earth’s atmosphere than any time in the last 2 million years. There are a lot of facts such as these in the IPCC report, but in summary, humans have been the driving force in the earth’s warming. In previous iterations, the report had found that humans were the “likely” cause of climate change, however now they are fully to blame. It is not enough to acknowledge global warming; something must be done because the worst is yet to come.
Extreme weather is coming
With humans continuing to release carbon emissions into the atmosphere, it increases the likelihood that extreme temperatures conditions are on the horizon. The report found that no place on earth is unaffected by the rise in temperature due to global warming. Warming has reached the remote areas of Antarctica, and ocean depths below 2,000 meters. In the last 50 years, global surface temperatures have warmed faster than any other 50-year period in the last 2,000 years. These changes will only continue if emissions are not stopped. Scientists have predicted that by 2040 the earth will have warmed by 1.5 º C if emissions are not reduced immediately. This rise in temperatures will increase the intensity and frequency of heatwaves worldwide, with colder temperatures not staying as long. Drought will increase in more than 90% of the regions and sea levels may rise up to 2 meters by 2100. For the average reader, these numbers are alarming and many we have seen before. It can be frustrating to learn the earth is dying and not seeing immediate changes in how pollution is regulated. However, all hope is not lost, there are ways to change it.
All hope is not lost
The earth may be in a dire situation, but the effects of climate change can still be reduced. Some changes may be irreversible such as global warming or the melting of glaciers globally. However, drastically reducing carbon emissions can stabilize the earth’s warming to about 1.5º C. This goal was originally planned at the Paris Agreement and meeting it will require countries to stick to a “carbon budget.” This term is described as a limit to how much carbon can be released into the atmosphere. This may be a difficult task, but it is the right path. Reaching anything close to net zero is the way to decrease the devastating effects of global warming on the earth. Switching to sustainable energy sources and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is a great first step in achieving net-zero. Harnessing the power of renewable energy such as wind or solar energy can help us power the planet without releasing greenhouse gasses into the environment. Without this change and achieving net-zero emissions, the world will look a lot different in our lifetime.
To conclude it is time policymakers stepped in and did something about global warming. It is a choice that affects everyone on the planet. There is no backup earth, we only have one. If we can come together and achieve net-zero carbon emissions, the earth has a future and so do future generations. Implementing sustainable energy sources, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and advocating for policymakers to reprimand large polluters can be our ways of changing the planet. Without change, we are in the last stages of the earth’s life. It is up to us to change and do better for the planet. The time to act is now.