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The Era of Rapid Climate Change

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 09, 2021

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released their summary report on the climate emergency, which warns that our climate is now changing rapidly almost everywhere and immediate & massive action is necessary. The press release starts:

Scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, released today. Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion — such as continued sea level rise — are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.

However, strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize, according to the IPCC Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, approved on Friday by 195 member governments of the IPCC, through a virtual approval session that was held over two weeks starting on July 26.

This is a huge deal — all 195 member governments had to approve the findings and language in this report and the report is not ambiguous. From Eric Holthaus:

The report’s main takeaway, put in a single sentence directly quoted from the report’s press release: “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”

That means “immediate, rapid, large-scale” change is what we MUST demand — there’s a vastly limited future for all of us if it doesn’t happen right away.

The most striking part of the report to me is its of use the word “rapid” prominently, which to me is a major change from past reports.

The era of rapid climate change has begun. Both a rapid escalation of consequences, and a rapid escalation of solutions. Time has run out for anything but radical change.

To me, the report is equal parts depressing and galvanizing.

It will take several years, even in the best possible scenario, to see the positive effects of rapidly reductions in emissions. But that’s not so different from every other worthwhile investment we make — from going to school, to going to therapy, to building bike lanes, to forming communities of mutual aid. Every worthwhile thing takes time. And, if we believe this report, the next 20-30 years is the most important time of our whole lives.