The debate has been over for some time now: humans are responsible for climate change. But if anyone needed some significant body to make it official, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has done just that. What’s more, they have now proclaimed that much of the neglectful devastation we have done to our blue home is now irreversible.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described the report as a “code red for humanity.” The IPCC report says we no longer have any time to delay and we must act immediately to salvage what we can. “The alarm bells are deafening,” Guterres said in a statement. “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”
The IPCC report says that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have caused global warming to happen at a rate not seen in at least the past 2,000 years. Human-caused climate change is responsible for approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming since 1850-1900, the earliest period with reliable measurements of global surface temperatures, the authors wrote.
Meanwhile in the United States, Pennsylvania gets 11 inches of rain causing residents to flee their homes, out west historic heat is causing fires that are zero percent contained. So far this year there have been 8 different billion dollar weather disasters, from the deadly freeze in Texas in February to the heatwave that devastated the Pacific Northwest. Extreme conditions are creating extreme concerns.
In California 2020 was a record fire season, but already in 2021 there is more than twice as much scorched earth than there was this same time last year. So the record set in 2020 is already on track to be broken.
“Scientists have been predicting this for the last 70 years,” says Josh Willis, a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climate scientist, “but it’s actually happening more quickly and it’s more intense than we realized.”
I think I can say without consulting anyone or anything that Republicans will obstruct any effort to save our planet. They will dismiss the disasters we are witnessing with our own eyes as “natural” and having nothing to do with what we have done as a species. This is why Democrats must enact sweeping reforms to drastically scale back and finally eliminate the coal and fossil fuel industries while we still have time to make a difference and while we still have the power to do so. We must also draft laws making the spreading of climate science denial propaganda by government officials a federal crime.
Greta Thunberg was right all along and we are now reaping what we have sown. The IPCC report notes that if nations begin sharply cutting emissions today, total global warming is still likely to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades. This hotter future is now essentially locked in.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that the IPCC report should compel leaders to take aggressive action to put the planet on a path toward net zero emissions by midcentury. “What the world requires now is real action. All major economies must commit to aggressive climate action during this critical decade,” he said. “We can get to the low carbon economy we urgently need, but time is not on our side.”
Yet still this climate disaster very much remains a page three issue with the mainstream media and with many politicians of both parties. It’s time for everyone to wake up, stand up and roll up our sleeves and get to work. We cannot know what we are doing to the weather feedback loops that control temperatures. There is nothing to stop local temperatures from getting higher than human beings can survive at any time. These are the deadly fruits of our neglect and they are happening right now. We must act soon, or the time will come when nothing we do will make any difference at all. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.