You might have noticed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  just released a new landmark report on global heating and the science of the climate crisis. It’s not pretty, but there’s some hope. Here are a few points to break it down for you, starting with the bad, then the ugly, then the good.

  1. A few data points to start:
    – Carbon dioxide concentration is the highest in TWO MILLION YEARS
    – The last decade was hotter than any period in 125,000 YEARS
    – Sea level rise is the fastest in 3000 YEARS
    – Arctic ice level is the lowest level in 1000 YEARS
  2. IPCC scientists say that it’s “indisputable” that human activities are causing climate change, and that almost all emissions of greenhouse gases come specifically from the extraction, transport and use of fossil fuels as well as agriculture and farm animals.
  3. Carbon dioxide is bad, but methane is the worst, at least in the short term. Methane (fossil gas) is 88 times more climate altering than carbon dioxide in the short term. Fossil gas is what fuels a lot of our boilers, but it’s also what fracking and gas pipelines leak – all the time.
  4. We need to do all the homework and some more in order to stay under 1.5C of warming. If emissions don’t decrease sharply we’ll burn through our carbon budget of 500 GtCO2 within the next 13 years.  There is no way to fix this that does not involve stopping fossil fuels now.
  5. Sea levels are likely to keep rising under all scenarios. Minimum rise projected at 2100 is 0.5 meters, maximum is 1 meter. But the IPCC does not rule out sea level rise of over 15 meters by 2300 with high emissions.

  6. Are we doing anything to reverse or at least slow this down? Well, current emissions trajectories put us at above 3°C, and national climate plans (if implemented) would get us somewhere around 2.4°C. You can see more warming projections associated with different climate plans here.
  7. But what about the infrastructure bill, Next Generation EU, recovery funds? The truth is that only 2% of recovery money has so far gone into a green transitionIt’s almost as if a powerful lobby had captured our democracies and were preventing real action…
  8. The fossil fuel industry has known about this for decades. They swept the information under the rug, lied to us and invested billions of dollars in lobbying and advertising to confuse, seed doubts about the science, and delay real action.

  9. The climate crisis didn’t come from nowhere and its progression is not inevitable. Half of the carbon dioxide currently in the Earth’s atmosphere was emitted over the last 30 years. We’ve known about it since the 1980s. The fossil fuel industry has been wasting our time with misinformation, just to make profits at the expense of peoples lives.
Now, to the good part:

Can we stop it from getting considerably worse? Yes. In fact, while some climate impacts are baked in, if we decarbonize rapidly and bring methane down to zero too, there’s a good chance that most climate impacts will go away fairly rapidly: decades, not centuries. It will get worse, and then it will get better.

So, what do we do now? Well, let’s start by saying that we refuse to let the world burn. We can stop the fossil fuel industry within this decade. Starting by stopping all fossil fuel finance and all new fossil fuel projects. Anywhere. And in re-imagine a new way forward without fossil fuels, we follow the lead of indigenous and frontline communities that have been put our planet and climate first for centuries.

In less than three months, countries will meet for COP26. They need to hear that a climate plan that doesn’t include phasing out fossil fuels is not a real climate plan. “Net zero” pledges are not going to get the job done, we need real zero.


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