What the IPCC Special Report Is and Says – In Short

XLIIIThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific body.

It deals in facts not policy; facts not politics. It is to help policy-makers and politicians to make policy.

This week the IPCC released its report that will be guidance for CoP24 , the Council of the Parties (countries) meeting for the 24th time. In 2015 the meeting was in Paris. It was called CoP21.  That is where the Paris Accord was signed. Nearly every country in the world agreed to goals keeping global warming to “well-below 2 degrees centigrade.”

CoP24 is in November in Katowice, Poland. There the leaders of countries who are party to the Paris Accord will tell the world what changes they will make to stay within the limits of global warming contributions that they committed to in 2015.

They’ll hear from economists, nonprofit protectors, investors, philanthropists, and for-profit consumers and producers. And they’ll talk with each other about what each will commit to in the race to avoid too many degrees warming. This is where they talk about degrees centigrade, and the years 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050.

Now, setting a goal in 2015 and announcing the plan to the goal in 2018 may sound counter-intuitive to individuals or institutions used to simultaneously developing goals and the steps to achieve them.  Yet for complex geopolitical entities, and highly-complex problems, setting goals while the path remains unfocused is how you establish ambitionthe contagious desire to achieve more than ever before.

You’d be wrong if you considered ambition-setting to be merely egging-on the competition.

You’d be right if you saw it as establishing extreme goals required to create widespread and lasting change for the benefit of all.

You’d be right if you saw ambition-setting as bravery. It requires strength, patience, diplomacy, and hope to

  • wade through and satisfy, or at least address, the competing interests of countries and peoples,
  • attempt to anticipate and support the interconnectedness of ecosystems and economies as you plan radical change, and
  • navigate painful reconciliation between the greatest contributors  and those most affected.

Bravery is announcing these ambitious commitments to those who could not be in the meeting rooms, access all the data, witness the losses of others, or make the choices to accept new policies and create new partnerships. Bravery is fielding all the push-back that stalls solutions, threatens the commitments, and tries to undo all the strength, patience, diplomacy and hope.

And the push-back is huge because the order is so tall:  the report summary says through “transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities…global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air” (and we don’t know how to do that effectively yet).

Here is a summary of the summary of the report, and I (mostly) paraphrase:

  • The global temperature has risen 1 degree centigrade since the Industrial Revolution
  • This is already causing damaging change we can see and feel
  • Keeping warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade makes it possible to avoid the worst  cascading impacts of drought, floods, storms, and fires and ecosystem break-downs that foster increased human pain and suffering
  • Keeping warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”
  • “‘Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.’” (Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III)
  • “‘..some of the kinds of actions that would be needed … are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate.'” (Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I)
  • But the commitments made so far won’t get us there. We need greater commitments – even braver ones
  • All sectors need to participate
  • And, all those changes could have “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems…” and “could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”

So, when the leaders set ambition to achieve goals that limit warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade, they have to be brave. Anything else would be dereliction of office.

So, how are you going to help them meet these goals despite not having been at the table? You are going to be strong, hopeful, and brave, too. You will be brave and choose NOT to despair with the latest news, but to say “I will make ALL my choices matter.” The alternative is to be irresponsible. So, keep on keeping on trying to figure out how to make choices with greater, and greater ambition:

  • find out where your energy comes from and what kind it is, then use a lot less of it, buy or build renewable energy instead, and vote for policies that make efficiency and clean energy business as usual
  • choose shared and alternative-fuel transport to work and other activities more often, and vote for making those options prevalent in your community and elsewhere
  • be intentional about your food and product purchases, steadily seeking and supporting the sources and processes that prioritize local, clean, durable, and efficient, and then openly support businesses, organizations, policies and laws that incentivize these choices
  • learn how your watershed works and how to reduce your impacts on it while supporting practices, policies, and regulations that protect it for science-based greater good, and
  • care about how the land around you is managed and controlled; reduce your impacts, and support policies and laws that protect it for science-based greater good

Then, please, please, please be brave enough to always talk about climate, climate change, and how you are taking action.

You’ll create ambition in others, too. And that really, really matters.



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