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Code red: what next?

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After the latest report from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that declared a Code Red for climate change, spreading an atmosphere of dread and hopelessness around the world. This article analyzes the report, the reactions to it, and how we ought to proceed. 

The moment we were dreading has finally arrived — the death bell has sounded for climate change and the consequences of our actions are finally catching up with us. Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sent out a Code Red for climate change as part of a comprehensive report and the findings of the report were grim. Following the release of the report, however, there was an understandable and considerable wave of panic that swept over the globe, which resulted in an atmosphere of despair and hopelessness. In many ways, this reaction to the report might have been the very opposite of what the report hoped to achieve: an organized and collective effort to hold accountable the main culprits behind the rapid and unprecedented acceleration of global warming. 

The Report 

The report was published on 6 August 2021, after 8 years of intensive research and collaboration amongst experts. It represents the most comprehensive research conducted about the physical basis of climate change so far and has unequivocally assigned the blame of climate change to human activities. The report established that, so far, the Earth has warmed 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, a bit close for comfort to the 1.5°C mark set by the Paris Climate Agreement.   

The findings of the report were devastating for several reasons, largely because it led to the discovery that climate change has been progressing far more rapidly than scientists initially predicted. The most alarming finding was that, if we continue down the same path, global temperatures will exceed the 2°C mark before the end of the century, which will result in increased extreme weather events and rising sea levels that contribute to certain coastal cities going underwater. Just three years ago, scientists were predicting that the 1.5°C would be reached sometime between 2030 and 2052 but this too has been brought forward to sometime between 2021 and 2040. Thus, the report essentially sent out the message that climate change is much worse and proceeding much more rapidly than we thought it was. 

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There are some changes that are certain to be irreversible: the Greenland ice sheet will continue to melt and raise sea levels, for example. Even if emissions are slashed significantly over the next decade, average temperatures will likely still rise 1.5C by 2040 and possibly even 1.6C by 2060 before they stabilize. 

The Reaction 

After the report came out, there was considerable panic worldwide over the repercussions of its finding. Unfortunately, many people took ‘Code Red’ to mean that the worst had already arrived and that climate change is completely irreversible. Although the report should certainly cause a certain degree of alarm, this level of widespread panic will only create an atmosphere of fear that will encourage inaction and hopelessness. Most importantly, it takes away from the rightful anger that global netizens ought to have towards the main players behind this rapid global warming, namely big companies that consistently ignored the previous research on the matter. 

In actuality, there is still a window to limit global warming to 1.5°C, although that would obviously require immediate and drastic action. 

The Next Steps 

In November 2021, world leaders from 197 countries will be assembling at the Cop26 meeting in Glasgow to decide on the next steps for climate change. Each leader is expected to present new plans for limiting climate change to 1.5°C. This meeting is instrumental because it is the first time since this report that world leaders will meet to decide on one strategy.  

Individual efforts, while admirable, will simply no longer cut it. At the same time, however, climate change is a reality that will affect all of us, as is evidenced by the growing numbers of natural disasters we witnessed across Europe this summer. Federal and international effort is the only thing that can guarantee a safer future at this point and we, as citizens, must push our individual governments to pursue it. Whether that comes through the form of carbon taxing or making corporations pay for the damages they have caused thus far, it is time for us to band together and put pressure on local representatives to create a comprehensive plan to limit climate change to 1.5°C. 

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I'm a third-year student in the BIG program from Lahore, Pakistan. I enjoy learning about and discussing politics, history, and religion, and particularly the interactions between the three.

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