In Twelve Years: The UN's Newest Report on Climate Change

Climate change: we all know the word, as it’s been thrown around throughout the years, and we know it’s supposedly “bad”. We are consistently told to recycle more, drive less and are recommended to use renewable energy sources when possible. A new International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report indicates that catastrophic consequences may be nearing much faster than we thought.

An IPCC headline stated that “global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate (high confidence).” In addition to this, the IPCC, in collaboration with thousands of researchers in the field, have determined that the planet has already warmed by 1°C on average, compared to what it was before the industrial era. One degree doesn’t sound like a lot, and neither does a 0.5-degree increase from that, but for the Earth, this implies some severe repercussions.


Some of these are already being observed, including here in Montreal. Across the world, we already see an increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, not to mention extreme weather conditions, like above 40°C heat waves, and below 40°C snow storms.

Originally, it was agreed upon to target no more than a 2°C increase in global temperature, the approximate threshold for catastrophic environmental consequences. In 2015, it became more clear that a cap of a 1.5°C increase was far safer and still scientifically feasible. This difference of 0.5°C is predicted to mean comparatively lower rising sea levels, some preservation of land and marine species, less impact on human health, food and fresh water supplies, and an overall reduction in risk for our ecosystems.

But now that the information has been made available to us, it is time to actually do something about it. Jim Skea, part of the IPCC, said that “limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.” In the end, the real goal is to reduce our fuel emissions to a net of zero, meaning that all pollution that is released into the air is taken out naturally, by trees and plants for example.

As one individual person, the daunting idea of “saving the planet” may seem like an impossible task. When overwhelmed, sometimes it’s easier to instead turn a blind eye and ignore the problem. But by doing this, we risk even greater consequences than what’s already been outlined in the IPCC report. We need to act now.

How can we help?

Every small action is a step in the right direction. Things like carpooling, taking public transit, and finding ways to drive less, are a great start.

Tip: Don’t speed up really fast when driving just to stop suddenly at a red light, as that actually burns more gas than had you just driven at a constant speed and slowly come to a stop (it also saves you money on gas).

Other simple things like cutting on unnecessary energy consumption, such as turning a light off when you’re not in the room or leaving the heating/AC on when you're not home, will help as well. Moreover, there are hundreds of websites with several tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint, so there is never a shortage of ways to contribute.  

It is so easy to ignore the problem today, but today is the time to actually do something and change the course of the climate for not only ourselves but for future generations. It may be a pretty tall order for such a short time frame, but if we all put in a bit of effort every day, it will go a long way.



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