Sustainable Living

A New Report Confirms That Humans Fuel Climate Change. And That Only Humans Can Stop It.

Isadora Baum

Photo: Getty Images / Jason Arbour / EyeEm
We are to blame for an “unprecedented” pace in greenhouse gas production—and if we don't do something about it, the planet and all of its occupants will suffer the consequences. In October 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that humans have already caused the Earth’s global average temperature to increase 1°C over pre-industrial levels (which includes the years between 1850 and 1900). And that meant that the increase would continue unless further action led to a reversal.

Released Monday by the IPCC, the Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, shows that there’s no way to refute the science behind the fact that humans are the direct cause of climate change—and now it’s a matter of stepping up the game to see if we’re able stem the damage or if we’ve simply reached a point of no return.

Further, the new report shows that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas and prevent climate change from worsening over time have proven inadequate.

“What the world requires now is real action,” John F. Kerry, the United States's first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said in response to the IPCC report. “We can get to the low carbon economy we urgently need, but time is not on our side.”

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen to levels not seen for 2 million years, according to the IPCC report, and it’s polluting the oceans, causing them to turn acidic, and contributing to steady rise in sea levels.

Throughout the world, weather-related disasters are more prevalent and more catastrophic. At 2°C above preindustrial levels, air can retain much more moisture than it does now, so it’s more likely that Earth will experience more droughts or flooding. And at 4°C (7.2°F), intense heat waves expected every 50 years or so might become annual occurrences.

"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," wrote climate activist Greta Thunberg on Instagram. "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."

 

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A post shared by Greta Thunberg (@gretathunberg)

Individual choices make a small but meaningful difference. Walking is better than commuting in a car. More sustainable products like cleaning and cooking supplies have an impact on the local and global environment. Eating less meat as part of the plant-based movement is one solution for slowing climate change and its catastrophic consequences. But it’s going to take corporations and politicians to turn things around in any significant way. Contact your elected officials to let them know you're concerned for the future of our planet.

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