Climate Change Environment International Jake Johnson

‘Code Red for Humanity’

A new IPCC report warns that the window for climate action is closing fast.
California wildfires
The Holy Fire at Lake Elsinore, Calif., on August 9, 2018. (slworking2 / Flickr)

By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

A panel of leading scientists convened by the United Nations issued a comprehensive report Monday that contains a stark warning for humanity: The climate crisis is here, some of its most destructive consequences are now inevitable, and only massive and speedy reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can limit the coming disaster.

Assembled by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a team of more than 200 scientists—the new report represents a sweeping analysis of thousands of studies published over the past eight years as people the world over have suffered record-shattering temperatures and deadly extreme weather, from catastrophic wildfires to monsoon rains to extreme drought.

The result of the scientists’ work is a startling assessment of the extent to which human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the climate, producing “unprecedented” planetary warming, glacial melting, sea level rise, and other changes that are wreaking havoc in every region of the globe—wiping out entire towns, imperiling biodiverse ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon rainforest, and endangering densely populated swaths of the world.

“This report is a reality check,” said Valérie Masson-Delmotte, a climate scientist at the University of Paris-Saclay and co-chair of the panel that produced the report. “We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present, and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”

One central finding of the new analysis is that the Paris accord’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is in serious danger as policymakers fail to take the necessary steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Each of the past four decades, according to the report, has been successively warmer than any preceding decade dating back to 1850, atmospheric CO2 has soared to levels not seen in two million years, and “global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered.”

“Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century,” the IPCC panel warns, “unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”

“Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years,” reads the report, which was approved by 195 member nations of the IPCC.

“However,” the report emphasizes, “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize.”

Panmao Zhai, another co-chair of the IPCC working group, stressed that “stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net-zero CO2 emissions.”

“Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” Zhai added.

IPCC report graphic

The new report, the first of three installments, was released just weeks before world leaders are set to gather in Glasgow for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which activists view as a pivotal moment for the global climate fight.

“Many see COP26 as our last, best chance to prevent global temperatures from spiraling out of control,” Dorothy Grace Guerrero of Global Justice Now wrote last month. “Unfortunately, we are not yet on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the threshold that scientists agree will prevent the most dangerous climate impacts. Failure to reach this goal will take a disproportionate toll on developing countries.”

António Guterres, secretary-general of the U.N., said in a statement Monday that the IPCC’s latest findings are “a code red for humanity.”

“The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk,” said Guterres. “Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”

“There is a clear moral and economic imperative to protect the lives and livelihoods of those on the front lines of the climate crisis,” Guterres continued. “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success.”

9 comments

  1. Interesting, there are suddenly all the scientists and experts on climate change weighing in, where are they when the topic is Covid?

    1. OMG, we’re on Code Red! Are the terrorists (aka FBI) coming to get us? Is covid bioterrorism the enemy du jour? No, now it’s the CO2 boogeyman. I can’t believe how many people fall for such BS at this point when it should be obvious to anyone paying attention none of these false flag ops by the corporate state has anything to do with public health and safety and everything to do with population control and all-out fascism. Leave it to the hopelessly lame (pseudo)left to cheer it on. None more asleep than the woke.

  2. “The Special Report is an assessment of the relevant state of knowledge, based on the scientific and technical literature available and accepted for publication up to 15 May 2018. The Report draws on the findings of more than 6,000 published articles.” Taken from the report itself.

    “However,” the report emphasizes, “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize.” From the report above.

    We passed 1.5C quite some time ago. At 3.0C above the baseline of 1750 humans will go extinct. At 5.0C above the baseline of 1750 all life will go extinct. Just where will the temps stabilize in 20 or 30 years? So far, from what I have read, there is no mention of adaptability. In Canada during the last heatwave the crops just withered and died because their inability to adapt. The recent reports of the destabilization of the AMOC due to excessive heatwaves hitting Greenland’s ice is an indication that the last three years not being part of this IPCC report are critical to our understanding of our current situation. Meaning, we are already at the irreversible stage. We are faced with not being able to adapt. Our food sources will not be able to adapt. I find it disingenuous, this claim that there is still time. They know better, those that issued this report. Times up.

  3. Dear Moderator,
    You seem to think that by my posting Comments which include my web pages, that I’m simply attempting to “advertise.” Well, by one strict definition of the word, I am. However, I prefer to think of my actions as attempting to “publicize” my message.

    However, in a broader perspective, I’m trying to show how important it is that EVERYONE (including you, dear moderator) try to comprehend how deep and penetrating into ALL of our human activities we are being directly and indirectly affected by these mentally out-of-balance with the rest of civilization socio-psychopaths. IOWs, I am using my “advertising/publicizing” method to educate as many people as I can, any way I can … for as long as I can.

    Will you please help me with my efforts to save all life on this planet?

  4. I use to be an optimist but given how I saw the US respond to precautionary measures about covid, Trump as well as so many other world leaders including my own Prime Minister I am pessimistic about the environment, pandemics or vaccines. Greed on all levels will prevent Nations to implement polices that will reduce carbon in the air and on that basis we as humans will pay the ultimate price, life.

  5. Humanity is going to hit that climate wall like a bug hitting a windshield at 70mph.

    Could it happen any other way given the psychopaths and madmen we allow to run the planet?

    Every time I see a child my heart breaks for the world they were born into and what they will likely experience in their lifetime.

  6. Quit pussy-footin’ around. We have known about Climate Change since the 1960s (and maybe even before) yet we keep acting like nothing is wrong. If we can’t address this issue head on then we deserve to go the way of the Dodo – and, what an appropriate name for humans…

  7. It’s ludicrous to think of AR6 as “a sweeping analysis of thousands of studies published over the past eight years.” By the time AR6 was released this month, the data and analyses upon which it stood was already old news: that ‘past eight years’ of evidence-gathering, review, and analysis was 2011-2018, so AR6 is a report on two-year old information.

    Among the plethora of truths we aren’t being told is the dismal fact that the climate crisis is now outracing the half-life of our scientific knowledge and understanding. Zygmunt Bauman’s perspective on LIQUID MODERNITY (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0745624103/) clearly demonstrates this, not only for the sciences but for our cultures, societies, and civilizations, such as they are. No sooner do we formulate an idea, a conception, a theory, a model, etc. than it becomes anachronistic.

    From this perspective, ‘code red for humanity?’ I think not. The medical mortality marker CODE BLUE seems far more apt, accurate, timely, true, and realistic.

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