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Now or Never

Robin Steedman-Braun

Science and Environment editor

Credit: NASA

“The time for action is now”, reads the headline of the IPCC’s website. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commonly known as the IPCC, is the United Nations body that evaluates the science of climate change. Every six years, dozens of scientists from around the world publish a mass document which is essentially an analysis and summary of all major scientific studies that have taken place in those years. However, with the climate crisis becoming more and more dire, the reports have become more frequent as they try to keep up with our overheating planet. In 2913 pages of dense data, the IPCC has conveyed the immediate need for global greenhouse gas concentrations to lower, stressing the transition to green energy and the independence from fossil fuels.

Nonetheless, the most recent report is the most alarming yet. In a way, it’s a fire alarm for Earth, as we will most likely have burned through our carbon budget by the time the IPCC publishes its next report six years from now. This is precisely what the document is trying to tell us- we only have three years left to completely shift our way of life, in hopes of avoiding detrimental consequences to humanity.

The IPCC raises potential solutions to our climate crisis, but starts off its report with dire news: greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2025, only two and a half years away, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as targeted by the Paris Agreement signed in 2015. However there are ways of avoiding further global temperature elevation. Indeed, according to the IPCC, “having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles” can assure a reduction of 40 to 70% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

For the first time ever, the report has gone beyond the realm of scientific facts and statistics to focus on humans themselves, including a chapter that explores the social aspects of “climate mitigation”. In simple terms, climate mitigation is reducing the emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to avoid global heating. In their report, the IPCC discusses examples of how we can reduce our society’s energy consumption and production of carbon emissions, such as developing public transport, building energy-efficient homes, switching to renewable energy sources, just to name a few. The report also explores the effect of climate action on human well-being and happiness. Indeed, the planet’s health and ours go hand in hand. For example, designing cities that are pedestrian and cyclist friendly encourage citizens to be more active, while also reducing their carbon footprint.

Within its pages, the report has also introduced the idea of a new type of energy, stemming from “clean” hydrogen (H2) gas. The element could provide long-term electricity storage and power vehicles, and even replace fossil fuels in the shipping and aviation industries, both heavy polluters.

While alarm bells sound worldwide for the health of our planet, we can and must turn to solutions provided by the IPCC before it really is too late. Now or never is unfortunately not just a clever title.



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