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Climate emergency: awareness is not enough, it’s time for action

The Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC/AR 6, presented last August by the IPCC, has coincided with a whirlwind of extreme weather events that have sown the planet with disasters. Billions of people have experienced the reality of climate change and its seriousness. It is urgent to move from concern to action.

This is something most scientists have been repeating for decades. Since 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasingly known as IPPC, has published five comprehensive assessment reports.  Last August it presented a preview of its sixth report, the AR 6, long awaited since its predecessor, the AR 5, was the scientific basis on which climate change was addressed at COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. The new report corroborates the anthropogenic change in climate that scientists started detecting in the 1970s, and reaffirms with overwhelming evidence the urgent need to curb atmospheric warming, the main driver of the climate crisis.


Redundancy as (good?) news

It is precisely this reaffirmation of the conclusions of the previous AR that is the most important aspect of the document, at least in terms of its impact on public opinion.  All these conclusions have been repeated for decades. Here is a summary:

  1. Climate change is REAL and the scale of the recent changes is unprecedented in millennia or even hundreds of millennia.
  2. It is mainly caused by global atmospheric warming due to the effects of greenhouse gases generated by human activity.
  3. It directly affects the water cycle, which generates the most tangible and harmful phenomena: droughts, floods and environmental deterioration.
  4. Changes affecting the ocean, ice and sea level will be irreversible for centuries.
  5.  It is a global EMERGENCY that threatens the attainment of the SDGs and the future of the existing and future generations.
  6. It demands URGENT global action on mitigation and adaptation from governments, companies and each and every inhabitant on Earth.  


Scientific evidence is reaffirmed and some communicators see this redundancy as relatively good news, as it provides additional support to fight denialism in any of its facets.


An alarming… and predicted summer

Another factor that has silenced many denialists is the coincidence of the IPCC report with the worst climate news in the last few years. The global community was stunned by the unprecedented temperature of 49.6 °C registered in British Columbia (Canada). Extreme heat, perhaps the most tangible and oppressive meteorological phenomenon for the largest population areas, was unleashed in most countries of the northern hemisphere during the summer. Record temperatures were reached in the Mediterranean, northern Europe and Asia, which resulted in devastating forest fires in Greece, Turkey and Siberia, where the melting of permafrost continues unabated. The smoke of the fires in North America crossed the Atlantic, filling the skies over northern Europe. Many alpine glaciers melted their last remnants of ice, and northern Greenland has seen rain instead of snow, something that had never been recorded before.

The hurricane season in the Atlantic (1st June to 30th November) marked the seventh consecutive record year with activity prior to the official start of the season, and the NOAA redoubled its initial seasonal forecast early August, announcing that the probability of an above-normal season has risen from 60% to 65%, leaving only a 10% chance of a below-normal season and a 25% chance of a normal season.

The heat waves are followed by floods. In Spain, the late summer floods have broken records for intensity and devastation. The same has happened in many areas of the United States, China, Belgium and Germany, where water flooded unimaginable areas. The harsh reality of climate change is manifesting itself in real time before our eyes and billions of us are experiencing it in our daily lives.

All this has been predicted with startling accuracy in the IPCC reports. UN Climate Change advocates that the only way forward must be to accept and face the challenge of increasing the level of ambition. This requires:

  1. To raise the awareness of every one of us of the reality and seriousness of what is happening.
  2. To mobilize governments, institutions, companies and consumers without delay to take immediate action.

The next COP 26 in Glasgow must mean once and for all the triumph of science over governance and the definitive step from awareness and concern to action.