IPCC Report Quick Takeaways

...and where do we go from here?

The United Nations (UN) released the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report today. This is the first IPCC update since 2013. The report is 3,949 pages long and synthesizes data from 14,000 studies. Thus, my initial analysis is incomplete, but these are the key takeaways & questions from what I've seen so far.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Temperatures on earth will rise by approximately 1.5C in the next two decades.

    • Context: The last decade is the hottest the planet has been in 125,000 years (since the Ice Age).

    • Context: Experts estimated that current policies put the world on track for roughly 3C of warming by the end of the century.

  • We cannot rule out a near-2m (6 ft) rise in sea levels by 2100.

    • Context: Sea level rise averaged 8 inches over the past century, and the rate of increase has doubled since 2006.

    • Context: Sea level rise is irreversible.

  • We can expect a significant jump in extreme weather over the next 20 or 30 years.

  • While existing levels of climate change are locked in, we can prevent further global warming but we must act NOW.

Sea level rise

Coastal areas are already experiencing the impacts of sea level rise and flooding. At what point do we go from hoisting homes up on cinder blocks to moving somewhere else entirely?

I am heartened to see climate-based infrastructure upgrades included in the bipartisan infrastructure deal. I hope we'll be even more proactive moving forward but I'm not confident about our ability to think long-term and act quickly enough.

1.5C increase

The 1.5C increase over the next 20 years is locked in.

Nearly 1 billion people worldwide will swelter from more frequent life-threatening heat waves. Hundreds of millions more will struggle for water because of severe droughts. Some animal and plant species alive today will be gone. Coral reefs, and the fisheries they maintain, will die en masse.

The report predicts a significant jump in extreme weather over the next 20 or 30 years.

We can stop the planet from getting even hotter, but we would need to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2050, which would require an immediate hard pivot from fossil fuels.

I am not confident in our ability to achieve this.

If we fail in this effort and temperatures rise higher, the list of perils is exponentially more grim by the degree.

The New York Times reports, "a second report, set to be released in 2022, will detail how climate change might affect aspects of human society, such as coastal cities, farms or health care systems. A third report, also expected next year, will explore more fully strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt global warming."

My initial thoughts/questions

We should be planning now for the migration patterns that will inevitably occur over the next century due to sea level rise, fires, flooding, drought, intense heat, and other natural disasters.

  • Where are the ideal climate zones for people to live?

  • How can we encourage land-use policies to disincentivize sprawl and incentivize clean, public transportation?

  • How will we realistically untangle ourselves from the fossil fuel lobby?

  • How will the increase in natural disasters impact agriculture and crop yields, and how will this impact the cost of food in the future?

  • How will this 1.5C increase impact pandemic risk and what steps should we be taking now to prepare?

Many are calling this report a ‘red alert.’ I hope it spurs us into radical action. We must remember that the forces of nature are always stronger than our attempts to dominate them.