On Monday, August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its first installment of the sixth assessment climate report, revealing devastating news about humanity’s progression regarding climate change.
The IPCC is located in Geneva, Switzerland and is made up of 195 countries devoted to accurately providing scientific information regarding humanity’s role in climate change.
In the IPCCs newest installment, 66 out of the 195 countries gathered to release a nearly 4,000 page report on the climate crisis. This installment comes after an almost 8 year long wait, and to this day is the most extensive report ever to be released, with 234 authors drawing from nearly 14,000 already existing scientific studies.
To read the newest installment of the Sixth Climate Report visit AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
The report is jam packed full of information, but what does it mean? What should we take away from this?
For starters, the information isn’t new. The point of the report was less about introducing new ideas, but instead reiterating the information we already had.
The only difference between this report and previous ones is the fact that it’s definite.
Before now, reports on climate change have used language that shows confidence, but not certainty. This report is certain; “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” The Earth is heating up, and it’s our fault.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a known heat-trapping element that is released into the atmosphere when burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil. With the increase of burning fossil fuels comes the increase of CO2 being released.
As of 2019, the Earth emits almost 43 billion tons of CO2 yearly. The average surface temperature has increased by .8°C (1.4°F) in the past century, which is directly connected to the 90% increase in fossil fuel consumption.
By 2040, the Earth’s temperature is expected to increase by 1.5°C. While this number seems insignificant and small, it will have drastic effects on the Earth.
Here are some ways a 1.5° increase will affect the environment:
- Extreme heat waves can be expected to hit anywhere from 14–30% of the population. Living in Texas already comes with extreme temperatures, with our highest ever being 120°F (48.8°C), but temperatures like this are expected to happen more frequently. While 1.5° is the average expected temperature increase, temperatures will get even hotter in places closer to the equator.
- Coral reefs are expected to decline anywhere from 70–90%, which results in billions of marine species losing their homes.
- Poverty due to extreme weather is expected to increase. Extreme weather will lead to the destruction of homes, communities, and resources, displacing hundreds of millions people.
For more information on how the 1.5°C will affect the Earth, visit “1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius of additional Global Warming. Does it make a difference?” on https://yaleclimateconnections.org/.
Code Red is a term used to overall describe the diminishing living conditions of our planet. So what does that look like?
Well, we’ve already begun to see the effects of climate change, from dramatic weather patterns to wildfires. Whether it’s in your backyard or across the country, the effects of climate change are not to be ignored. One of the major changes we’ve seen right here in Texas is the February snow storm.
During February of this year, Texas underwent an extreme snow storm for the first time in 10 years. The last snowstorm of 2011 brought only 7–8 inches of snow, while the 2021 snow storm brought at its highest 9–10 inches.
Families were left without running water, electricity and access to resources. The roads were completely covered in ice, making it impossible for people to easily find a place to stay.
But how was this related to climate change?
Higher atmospheric temperatures in Texas lead to higher amounts of evaporation, which leads to higher amounts of precipitation.
Because climate change is also causing a shift in air currents, temperatures in Texas reached their lowest point of -2°F right before the snowstorm hit, which caused the usual rain to turn into hail and snow.
More examples of major events brought to the extreme by climate change:
- Wildfires: With a hotter, drier environment, what started off as a bushfire, was fueled into a wildfire.
- Australian Wildfires, 2020
- California Wildfires, 2020
- Hurricanes and Cyclones: Due to higher temperatures, there is a higher amount of evaporation across the oceans. When storms are going over these oceans they pick up that heat and water vapor, causing higher winds and heavier rainfall.
- Hurricane Ida, 2021
- Cyclone Idai, 2019
- Droughts: Due to higher temperatures, there are higher amounts of evaporation. In places that do not see a lot of rain yearly, this will lead to extreme droughts.
- East Africa Drought, ongoing
While natural disasters are of course natural, meaning they will occur anyway, conditions caused by climate change make these disasters harsh and unpredictable.
With the progression of climate change, events like these are expected to increase in frequency and severity. While this is a scary thought, it is important not to shy away from it. We still have time to make changes.
The report indicates that if we start to show real progress in controlling CO2 emissions, we can begin to reverse the effects of climate change, and even stabilize the Earth’s temperature in the next 20–30 years.
For starters, we must recognize how we contribute in our everyday lives. Sometimes even the smallest things have a big impact.
Here are a few examples of things we do everyday that contribute to the climate crisis:
- Leaving the lights on when they’re not in use
- Using plastic grocery bags
- Throwing away junk mail
- Leaving the water running
For more information on how to change your daily life to better help the climate crisis, visit “How to Fight Climate Change at Home — Curbed.”