Key takeaways from the recent climate change report | Local 20/20

Laura Tucker
Posted 9/22/21

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recently published their sixth report on climate change. Thousands of scientists worldwide have been reviewing climate data since the previous …

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Key takeaways from the recent climate change report | Local 20/20

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The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recently published their sixth report on climate change. Thousands of scientists worldwide have been reviewing climate data since the previous report in 2014.

 As you might expect from reading the headlines, the news is not good. You are invited to attend the next “Climate on Tap” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6 at FinnRiver Cidery that will focus on this report and what we can do to make a difference. See Local 20/20’s web page for more info, l2020.org.

Here are the five main takeaways from the report:

1. The last decade was hotter than any period in the last 125,000 years. This is due to CO2 levels that are higher than they have been in two million years, with an increase of over 30 percent since 1950. CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap heat next to the Earth. A small amount of CO2 is beneficial as it keeps our planet from turning into an ice ball, but too much causes our Earth to heat up, resulting in huge extremes in the weather making sobering headlines about heat waves, deep freezes, fires, droughts, floods, and serious hurricanes.

2. Scientists can now link specific weather events to human-made climate change. This hasn’t always been the case. As recently as 20 years ago, we couldn’t say for certain that Hurricane Ida’s intensity was a result of climate change, but the record number of intense storms we are seeing now statistically could not occur without the effects of a dramatically changing climate.

3. Scientists have narrowed the estimated range for how temperatures respond to greenhouse gas emissions. They have drawn on research from ancient climates and advanced satellite technology to create new models of temperature projections for the rest of the century. Their strong message is that if we don’t act quickly to curtail emissions, we are in for big trouble.

4. The Earth rewards good behavior. If we can get to net zero with our CO2 emissions (i.e. if we remove as much CO2 as we generate, through planting trees, sustainable agriculture, etc.), heating will cease to increase and temperatures will stabilize in a couple of decades. We will still be dealing with the severe weather effects we see now, but we will limit even worse effects. Unfortunately, some effects like sea level rise will remain irreversible for centuries. But it is clear — reducing emissions and increasing removal of CO2 in the short term will leave future generations with a better planet. 

5. The IPCC’s volunteer scientists build consensus with all UN governments before releasing these reports. There are heated scientific arguments over the data, but in this unusual system, there must be an unanimous agreement by the scientists and their governments that the report accurately represents the data. This is what makes the IPCC the most authoritative and respected body on climate change. The new report begins with a definitive statement: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.”

The fifth report heavily informed the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015. It is hopeful that this report will result in the creation of drastic measures and policies when the UN members convene in Glasgow, Scotland this November for COP26. Our future depends on it.

Source: Bloomberg Green,
Aug. 9, 2021 and NOAA
climate data

(Laura Tucker has been a lifelong science educator and is the author of curriculum on understanding climate change. She is a member of the city/county Climate Action Committee and of Local 20/20’s Climate Outreach group in Jefferson County.)

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