On 9th August 2021, the sixth annual report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was released, entitled ‘The Physical Science Basis’. Coming ahead of the COP26 discussions in Glasgow in November, this report would help to shine a light on the current state of the planet’s warming, and the knock on effects of climate change. In some ways, we did not need a report to see this – the news of the release rubbed shoulders with news stories of devastating floods, fires, drought and loss of life. Climate change was no longer an if, but already here.
You can read the whole IPCC report here, but here are five of the key takeaways…
1 – Yes, human activity has definitely changed the climate of earth. The summary of the report even begins with “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
2 – We are already set to pass 1.5C warming by 2040. The 1.5C figure is the target cited in the Paris Agreement as being the limit of warming we would be safest within. Many countries stated they would be carbon ‘net zero’ by 2050 to obtain and keep that 1.5C. That will be far too late.
3 – Yes, climate change is responsible for the increasing amount of extreme weather we are seeing across the globe. Siberian heatwaves, fires across Europe, extreme heat across Asia – many studies have shown this is directly linked to climate change. And it will get more common, wherever you are.
4 – Sea level rise and changes to the oceans are now irreversible. One of the tipping points has now been reached, and with increasing ice sheet melting, sea level rise is now inevitable, along with an increasing level of ocean warming and acidification.
5 – As well as cutting CO2, we need to dramatically cut methane as well. Methane is a much more impactful greenhouse gas when it gets into the atmosphere, with a warming potential 80 times larger than carbon dioxide, so it needs to be tackled at speed. This means addressing fossil fuel production again, along with livestock rearing.
So – those are some of the key (and to be frank) quite alarming points outlined in the latest IPCC report. They are big, and quite scary. But even in the face of such a huge amount of terrifying data about the future of the planet, there is stuff we can all do now. Here are five key things you can do, as an individual.
1 – Reduce your meat intake. This does not mean going fully vegetarian, or vegan, but reducing your meat intake helps to address that methane we were talking about. And it’s not just about the burps and farts of the livestock itself, less meat production means less land given over to growing animal feed – so less land clearing.
2 – Look where your money is sitting. Money makes the world go round – and the money that you hold in your bank accounts and pensions is being used, without your knowledge, to fund and support all kinds of industries around the globe. Choosing banks and pension providers that are transparent with how they use your money is key. Do they fund fossil fuels, or other industries linked to deforestation for example? Swapping your money into responsible locations can be 21 times more impactful than going vegetarian.
3 – Flying less does have an impact. We only have to look at the large drop in emissions when the entire world was in lockdown in 2020. Changing how you get to your holiday destination is still a valid action. Covid times certainly makes this trickier, but trains and public transport are preferable. Or, can you holiday closer to home?
4 – Lobby your politicians to create change. Sure, this is a little list of things that you can do as an individual, but being blunt, as much as the fossil fuel industry will try and encourage us to ‘do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint’ we need to realise that this is a monumental problem that is beyond the scope of our small changes alone. Policy change is critical. Demand more from your politicians.
5 – Engage more in a circular economy. Ok ok. We’re a little biased of course, but engaging with all elements of the circular economy can lead to a reduction in the resources that you will actually consume. From Refusing and Reduction, to Redirection and Renting – all these elements really do add up, in a very good way. And of course, don’t forget Renewables. If you are able to upgrade your home to be less reliant on fossil fuels, that will really help your individual impact.
AND LASTLY – don’t panic. Sure, we have a lot of work to do, but the IPCC Report is not all bleak inevitabilities – there is still plenty of points where we can turn things around. And once you know where you are going, sometimes the path gets a little clearer… let’s all travel in the right direction.