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The Climate Change Report Warning of Devastating Future

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Jonny Rogers breaks down the IPCC’s latest report on climate change, explaining why scientific evidence is invaluable in an age of hypocrisy and disinformation.

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The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its Sixth Assessment Report, reviewing and consolidating the latest scientific evidence on climate change. “It is unequivocal”, the report confidently declares, “that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”.


With contributions from 234 scientists across 66 countries, the report tracked a wide range of changes and patterns in the Earth’s atmosphere. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres described its conclusions as “code red” for humanity:


“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.”


The IPCC Report


The Earth’s climate has seen a lot of changes throughout its long history, though the present rate of change is the primary cause for concern – global surface temperatures have risen at a faster rate over the past 50 years than at any other point in the past two millennia. The last five years have been the hottest since at least 1850, and sea levels have risen faster since 1900 than any other century on record. In 2019, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was the highest it has been in at least 2 million years.


Without large-scale reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, the coming decades will see the global temperature increase to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial levels (temperatures recorded in 1850-1900). This revelation highlights the importance of the Paris Agreement – which aims to keep the global temperature rise beneath this range – and illustrates the catastrophic consequences of our failure.


If we continue on our present trajectory, sea levels will continue to rise and extreme weather events will become more frequent. We will see an increase in flooding in low-lying coastal areas, which will severely impact both oceanic ecosystems and the people who rely on them. Arctic permafrost will continue to melt, releasing more methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and thereby further accelerating climate change. Many of these changes will be irreversible for centuries or even millennia.


Even if, however, we never reach the 1.5-degree temperature increase, the impact of our changing climate is already evident. The past few weeks alone have seen wildfires breakout in the United States, Canada, Greece, Algeria and Turkey, while much of Western Europe and China have experienced unprecedented rainfall and catastrophic flooding.



Truth in an Age of Hypocrisy


Prior to the publication of the IPCC report, Alok Sharma, who will be leading the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, said that the next decade will be “absolutely decisive” in terms of climate action.


“[The IPCC Report] is going to be the starkest warning yet that human behaviour is alarmingly accelerating global warming and this is why Cop26 has to be the moment we get this right. We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years – this is the moment.” – Alok Sharma, President of COP26

However, the UK has recently come under criticism for its apparent hypocrisy. In May, the International Energy Agency (IEA) called for governments to end all investment in oil, gas and coal, and to terminate the production of fossil-fuel cars beyond 2035. However, the UK has recently permitted exploration of the Cambo oilfield near Shetland despite promising to end new oil exploration licences, justifying this development as an expansion of an existing oilfield. In addition, the government has failed to rule out both the exploration of the North Sea for oil reserves and the construction of a new coal mine in Cumbria.


Although it may be easy to feel powerless when the biggest decisions are made by only a handful of people, many of whom do not seem to have the interests of the planet in mind, journalists and activists must remain vigilant in observing and pointing out the hypocrisies of world leaders and corporations.



Unearthed - Greenpeace UK’s investigative platform - recently posed as head-hunters to stage an interview with Keith McCoy, a senior lobbyist from fossil fuel conglomerate ExxonMobil. He revealed to them that the company has lobbied US senators (both Republican and Democrat) to weaken Biden’s plans for green infrastructure, and has fought against legislative action using ‘shadow groups’ which undermine the scientific evidence on climate change.


Nevertheless, the IPCC report will hopefully go a long way to dissuade climate change denial, and will instead motivate the drastic action which is urgently needed. We still have the chance to minimise catastrophic suffering in both the near and distant future if we act in accordance with the scientific evidence.


“If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe.  But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success.” – UN Secretary-General António Guterres

 

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