Thoughts on the new IPCC Report
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) came out with their latest report this week. This report was in response to the 1.5 degree Paris Accord and details the impacts above this “acceptable” level of warming. At the same time, the Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to an economist who has studied and advocated for a carbon tax to minimize emissions. They both have the same conclusions – we need to address the causes of climate change immediately.
The reaction to the IPCC report was wide ranging from one of extreme alarm to basically “meh” and it’s too expensive to implement changes. I had breakfast with Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, the lead author of the climate change book, Drawdown this morning. When I asked her what the scariest part of the report was, she said “I think what scares me is the reaction or lack thereof. What scares me are the reactions that say, oh well, I guess we’re screwed.” And reactions of “these scientists are crazy” and so we’re doubling down on our denial. It’s not the content that worries me as much as the humans. It is just daunting, the scale and scope and speed of changes is just daunting.”
But of course, the reality is that climate change is happening, whether we choose to believe it or not. I’ve read that we’re past the point of no return, and that the only thing we can do is prepare to be as resilient as possible and minimize the effects. This is confirmed by my wife, Dr. Melissa Booth, “Humanity is in deep manure. There’s no getting around it. We have to collectively face our fears head-on, dig in and start shoveling it. We have to pull our heads out of our clouded ideas, and move into the present moment. This is happening. This is not a drill.”
Reports like this can cause paralysis “What impact can I have, I’m such a small part.” Lots of things – most importantly, you’ve got to start somewhere…
Move to a more plant-based diet. This is a tough one for me as I love meat. The reality is, however, that one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions are cattle.
Fix our air conditioners. What is that you say? Yes, refrigerants escaping into the atmosphere from air conditioners and refrigerators are the leading contributor to climate change. And, in a warming world, this will be a challenge.
And the bigger picture include establishing some kind of tax on carbon, be it Citizens Climate Lobby’s proposal of fee & dividend, or something else. Bottom line is we have to value carbon as more than just a biproduct of combustion.
These are just a couple of ideas. There are over 100 of them at the Drawdown website – check them out.
From our perspective in the responsible investing world, we obviously are looking for companies working on solutions and for companies that take climate change seriously. I believe that is where our future growth has to come from. Stop looking in the rearview mirror to see how we got here. Let’s look ahead see where not just where we want to go, but where we have to go.
Both Dr. Booth and Dr. Wilkinson agreed that the report is probably under-reporting the consequences as these reports are prone to do. They both said that we have maybe ten years to get our proverbial shit together. That’s much faster than the original IPCC reports projected, and not enough time to change the minds of millions of Americans who still believe it’s a hoax despite all of the evidence surrounding them from fires to abnormal hurricanes and beyond
Dr. Booth said, “The other thing that hits me is the coral reef story. With 1.5 C warming, coral reefs are projected to decline by 70 - 90% further than today, and greater than 99% at 2 C. That means gone. Done. Over. And other coastal ecosystems like salt marshes will be irreversibly lost.” These systems are vital to ocean ecosystems and food webs. No coral and marshes, no baby fish and no food for billions. Think about it.
For me, I think the biggest disconnect is from those with children and grandchildren. I can’t quite get my brain around those who deny this crisis exists and who still say that they love their family. It just doesn’t compute. Despite having no children, I believe that I need to do all that I can for those who do.
Dr. Wilkinson said ”One of my PhD supervisors, is one of the authors of the IPCC report. I saw in an interview yesterday that she was quoted as saying that on the plane home from Korea, she just cried, both out of exhaustion from the process and because of the report’s dire results.”
The time to start on this is today. Talk to your neighbor, your congressperson, your minister, your brother, your friend. Make sure they’re on board and doing their part. Educate them and then get them to talk to their neighbors, congresspeople, ministers, etc… Divest from fossil fuel stocks and invest in climate solutions. Switch your diet, even if it’s just one meal per week. Consider getting that hybrid or electric car. Or better yet, take the bus or train. Fix your air conditioner. It’s time to start and time to do your part. Get moving!