The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss the brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.
On Monday, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the anticipated report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, described by U.N. secretary general António Guterres as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” The report collects findings from more than 34,000 scientific papers to explain the vulnerability of our communities, economies, and natural systems to climate change, but most importantly, it emphasizes our options for action and adaptation.
Our key takeaway, summed up by Guterres: “Now is the time to turn rage into action.”
Both new and veteran climate scientists and activists can agree: these reports are frightening. We invite you to be present with us in what the report is calling us to do: look up and onward toward the solutions we have available, right now. We must do what science and justice demand.
Climate science tells us that the impacts of a warming world are already being felt deeply and that climate change is contributing to intense, more frequent extreme events including flooding and wildfires. Climate justice tells us we must act swiftly to support the most impacted communities and center their firsthand knowledge and lived experience in decision making.
At the global level this means the United States and other rich countries must deliver and increase funding to scale up transformative, effective, and feasible adaptation needed by frontline communities. (Read more about what this can look like.) Rising sea levels, extreme heat, and more frequent flooding demands infrastructure to protect frontline populations.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme shares, “[We need] to let nature do the job it’s spent millions of years perfecting: absorbing and channeling rainwater and surging waves, maintaining biodiversity and balance in the soils, providing cooling shade under leafy canopies…backing nature is the best way to adapt to and slow climate change while providing jobs and boosting economies.”
Alongside adapting, we must center Indigenous and community-led solutions and mitigate our emissions to zero. Without immediate measures to limit global warming to 1.5°C, adaptation will become costlier, inefficient and in some cases impossible. Losses and damages caused by the impacts of climate change will increase, and in some cases irreversible impacts will get locked in.
This report is important because it is one of the first that localizes climate impacts by regions, while still emphasizing across global sectors and regions the effects on the most vulnerable people and systems. Climate change has caused widespread and in some cases irreversible damage to ecosystems and human systems including species range shifts; increases in water scarcity and food production; and adverse effects to the physical and mental health of people.
This report also lands as the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalates — we are reminded that climate change is the greatest threat multiplier exacerbating conflict around the world. We have already seen climate driven conflict impacting lives and resources in every region, and will increasingly see more dangerous and dramatic impacts. We are in difficult times, but this is our critical decade to take necessary action.
“The consequences of ignoring another long-standing threat – the threat of human-caused climate change – were made just as obvious in the newly-released IPCC Sixth Assessment Report on climate change impacts,” said Dr. Ben Santer, climate scientist and Climate Generation Advisory Board member. “If we care about the preservation of democracy, we must be equally concerned about the preservation of a planetary life support system in which democracy can flourish.”
The IPCC releases these reports not to instill fear and resignation. They are meant to be tools of action to inform world leaders and policymakers of the necessary changes to ensure this a livable planet for “nature and people.” In other words: do not panic or disengage—act.
Dr. Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC described the report as “…a blueprint for our future on this planet…most importantly it emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an action.”
This report solidifies that adaptation within this decade will save lives now and in the future, while mitigation will continue moving the global community towards eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
This will require political commitment and follow through across all levels of government. As we deepen our understanding of solutions, we open new opportunities for innovation. No matter our roles in society, whether a scientist, teacher, youth, elected official, farmer, storyteller, or city planner, wherever you are, we all have a role to play in stewarding the equitable, renewable energy transition.
Every action, every decision matters.
Take Action With Us
- Read and download the report.
- Watch the press conference releasing the report.
- Check out our resources for taking action, from curricula for the classroom to toolkits for action and conversation.
- Keep the IPCC report in the conversation. Take to your social media with #IPCC and #ClimateReport to share the need for action!
What we’re reading to understand the key findings of the report:
- Transformational change is coming to how people live on Earth, UN climate adaptation report warns: Which path will humanity choose? — The Conversation
- EXPLAINER: UN ‘house on fire’ climate report key to action — AP News
- In-depth Q&A: The IPCC’s sixth assessment on how climate change impacts the world — Carbon Brief
Header image credit: Pramod Kanakath, Climate Visuals Countdown