Tue Aug 24 2021
The human impact on the environment is growing and requires our attention immediately, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s latest climate change report, released on August 9, shows that climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying.”
However, the prognosis is not entirely grim. The IPCC report says we may be able to curb the effects of climate change if we can reduce greenhouse gases over the next decade.
The report, which the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called “a code red for humanity,” comes in a year where we’ve already seen record-breaking and life-threatening temperatures, wildfires, and floods. For example:
According to the IPCC, human-induced climate change is the driving force behind these higher temperatures and more severe hurricanes as well as the drought conditions that increase the likelihood of wildfire. And these extreme weather events do more than impact homeowners insurance rates. They are likely to affect everything from our food supply to our healthcare system. Most importantly, more people will find themselves in harm’s way.
The IPCC looked at the atmosphere, ocean, and cryosphere (or the frozen areas) for key indicators of climate change and our impact on it. Many of its key findings reveal changes to the earth’s climate accelerating at a rate that outstrips previous eras:
The key findings above squash any notion that climate change isn’t happening. But the most important takeaway from the climate change report is the argument that human-caused greenhouse gases are the reason for our climate woes.
The two biggest problems are our reliance on fossil fuels and deforestation. Burning fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal is how most American get their energy, producing heat and electricity and powering cars. But it also produces carbon dioxide which is the greenhouse gas that’s the primary reason earth’s temperatures are rising.
Forests are supposed to filter out CO2 from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, more than 10 million hectares of forest per year were taken down between 2015 and 2020. While this is down from 16 million hectares each year in the 90s, the number is still alarming. More importantly, the reduction in forests means there are fewer filters in the world to pull CO2 emissions out of the air and release oxygen back into the atmosphere.
According to the IPCC climate change report, we can take steps to stabilize the environment. Specifically, the authors mention:
The 2015 Paris climate agreement sought to achieve many of these things and to keep global warming under 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Currently, most of the world’s major economies are falling behind in their efforts. However, if dramatic changes can be made, we can limit greenhouse gas emissions and limit the effects of global warming. If that happens, the IPCC postulates that earth’s climate could start to cool in a few decades.
Humans have to understand that without hard work and a change in our mentality the ramifications of climate change will be with us through this century – or longer.
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