Monday’s release of the latest grim assessment from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear that global warming will continue to intensify over the coming decades and that, as a result of human inaction to curb greenhouse gas emissions, extreme weather events will continue to worsen.
In a year that has already seen deadly heat waves, raging wildfires and unprecedented flash flooding that have all been linked to rising global temperatures, there’s been ample evidence to back up the IPCC’s conclusions.
The landmark new assessment, however, was compiled by 234 scientists and based on more than 14,000 recent studies. It concludes that human activity is largely at fault for a rise in average global temperatures of 1.1 degrees Celsius.
But humankind still has the power to keep the mercury from rising even further if a concerted effort is undertaken at once.
“If we reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, we can keep temperatures close to 1.5C,” climate scientist Valérie Masson-Delmotte said during a Monday press conference.
Other IPCC members were also quick to note that time is running out.
“Unless we make immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5C will be beyond reach,” Ko Barrett, a senior adviser for climate at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and vice chair of the IPCC, said in a statement. “Each bit of warming will intensify the impacts we are likely to see.”
While those “large-scale reductions” require a concerted government plan to curb emissions, the report also stresses that individual actions are needed, as well as a shift in the global mindset about the challenges that scientists and activists have long warned lie ahead.
“We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis,” climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted Monday.
While it is easy to slip into climate despair, there are steps to be taken that, though insufficient to solve the problems posed by climate change, attempt to keep the worst consequences at bay.