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IPCC Climate Reports Clarion: Call for Action
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IPCC Climate Reports Clarion: Call for Action

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a group of experts created by the United Nations) has released the most recent report. It provides a stark analysis on global climate change.

The ReportWritten by 270 researchers from 67 nations and approved by 195 countries, it warns of dangerous and widespread disruption. There are increasing threats from wildfires and heat waves, rising sea level, and natural disasters. People are being forced from their homes and food and water supplies are in danger. With limited funding, the worst of the damage is being borne by the world’s poorest countries.

It should be listened to as a call for action by all countries and peoples.

Daniel EstyHillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale School of the Environment and Yale Law School

More than a billion tons of carbon dioxide have been released into our atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. This has caused global temperatures to rise by more that one degree Celsius. The Paris climate agreement, signed by world leaders in 2015, aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The panel’s third report, the third of three, is a call for action. It notes clearly that the dangers from a warming planet have been mounting rapidly and that if left unchecked, the loss of biodiversity, heat, flooding, and pollution will continue their rise.

Daniel EstyHillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale School of the Environment and Yale Law School discusses the key messages and next steps. Esty, who is the editor of the prize-winning book A Better Planet, 40 Big Ideas for Sustainable Future, has been working on climate changes since the 1980s. He held several senior positions at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including as a negotiator in the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. He was also the Commissioner of Connecticuts Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. His efforts included the creation of Connecticut’s first energy strategy and the launch of a Green Bank that promotes clean energy.

What are the key takeaways?

The main takeaway, consistent with previous IPCC findings as well as emerging climate science is that climate change is real and serious. It poses substantial risks faster than we might have thought. Another important point is that a global response to climate change must be achieved with every country contributing.

Will the IPCC’s message reach the public in an actionable way?

The IPCC must launch a public outreach campaign, not just in the U.S. to communicate the report’s conclusions to communities, but all over the world, explaining why it matters, what science has revealed, and how we can implement the policy conclusions to make our lives more sustainable. This kind of effort to explain science to the public in layman’s terms is a major challenge for the IPCC, but crucial to changing the politics surrounding climate change in many countries, including the U.S.


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What should policy makers and government officials take away from this study?

It should be heard by everyone as a call to actions for all peoples and countries. It answers critical questions for all Americans: What climate impacts can we expect? How can they address vulnerabilities? What kind of adaptation investments are needed now?

There are certain parts of the U.S., especially the Southeast and Gulf Coasts, where the threats are becoming ever more real. These areas, in particular, face increasing risks from extreme weather and hurricanes. This means that there must be a strong focus on adaptation, including investments and infrastructure, moving some vulnerable facilities away from the threats of sea-level rising, and efforts to consider how our future development patterns will unfold to reduce community vulnerability.

What gives you hope for the future in the face climate change?

The private sector is responsible for some of the most important climate change actions in the last few years. Many companies are now making net-zero pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in response to the Glasgow Climate Pact. My recent book Values at Work: Sustainable Investing & ESG Reporting was co-authored with a Yale School of Management colleague. Todd Cort, spells out, lots of sustainability-minded investors are also demanding better alignment between their portfolios and their values adding to the logic for companies to regear their business models.

What message does this report convey to the younger generation inheriting this issue’s problems?

Many young people, particularly those who are concerned about climate change, feel that they are not being heard or listened to when it comes to the need for transformative changes. But I believe the younger generation has been taken seriously. At the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, the most repeated phrase I heard was Greta Thunberg (a Swedish teenage activist) calling for no more blahblahblah. It meant, of course that the time for talking has passed and it is time to take action. And let me clarify: these people were not just young people. They were corporate CEOs, top political figures, and senior officials from international organisations. I believe they all recognized the need to make fundamental changes in the global economic system to accelerate the transition to deep decarbonization. I believe that young people are leading this charge to incite innovation, reduce greenhouse gas emission and move society toward a sustainable tomorrow.

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