Climate change has been around for decades now. Throughout the years it has caused rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, and numerous extreme weather events. It’s definition varies depending on the individual: a fact, a myth, a hoax. However, as the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the information accumulated at their August 9 panel, the facts can no longer be denied.
At this point in time, it can be said with almost complete certainty that a large portion of climate change can be blamed entirely on human activity. The time for doubt and skepticism is long gone as effects can be seen from any part of the world. The U.S. west coast is being plagued with extreme wildfires and drought, in Europe people are experiencing heat waves like never before, in Asia flooding is occurring more frequently than they have in decades, and in general, the past 40 years have been the hottest on record since before the industrial revolution.
The report includes multiple possible futures and scenarios. The best of these is that the world reaches “net zero” carbon emissions by the year 2050. This means that all the carbon emitted will be removed naturally from the atmosphere, resulting in no excess carbon dioxide. However, even in the most optimistic circumstances, some effects are irreversible. Even if net zero emissions are achieved, sea levels will still continue to rise until around 2300. This is caused mostly by the melting of Greenland, which has already reached a point of no return.
Similarly, a report released in 2013 and 2014 had similar effects on both the science community as well as the general population. It outlined the effects of climate change and claimed, for the first time, that carbon emissions from humans was the cause of global warming. This information catalyzed a meeting in Paris of 195 nations, all in the effort to lower emissions. The Paris Agreement set a goal to prevent global emissions from rising two degrees above preindustrial times. However, island countries as well as other nations heavily affected by climate change thought this number to be too high. Instead, the IPCC agreed to set the limit to 1.5 degrees. The report highlighted how dangerous an increase of even half a degree would be to the Earth. Ko Barret, vice chair of the IPCC, shares, “Even for me, a person who has dedicated my entire professional career to addressing climate change, the report caused me to rethink my personal contribution to the climate problem. Climate change was not some distant temperature target to be hit in the ethereal future. It was close; it was now.”