UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “S.O.S. to the world”*
We know that each one of us, to varying degrees, has an impact on the environment and contribute to the global concern of climate change. And while each one of us is also deeply affected by climate change, that impact is felt differently throughout the world.
This past Sunday, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the second installment of their fifth climate report. The IPCC, which is sponsored by the United Nations and represents the brightest minds in climate science, released the first installment of this report back in September. In that first report, the IPCC concluded that it is “extremely likely,” (a measure of 95-100% likely) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed global warming since the mid-20th century. Being that our impact is the primary problem, we must be part of the solution.
This latest report draws attention to the very real and very observable effects of climate change, particularly delving into how climate change is anticipated to affect individual regions and continents. This report invites us to consider how climate change does not just have consequences for our natural world but also detrimental societal effects. All over the world, the health and well-being of the most vulnerable and poorest of nations are disproportionately affected by the threat of climate change.
But, the IPCC report presents the implications for North America, highlighting that we are not immune to the dire consequences of climate change. The report determines that there is “high confidence” of the links between climate change and the observed temperature rises, ravaging downpours that have contributed to catastrophes such as the recent landslide in Washington state, and declining water supplies. As a result, coastal regions will continue to face flooding, warming, ocean acidification, extratropical cyclones, altered upwelling and hurricanes. Unless we make serious moves to curb our carbon emissions, we are likely to see more severe heat waves and droughts on the West Coast, debilitating snow storms in the South and destructive hurricanes in the Northeast. As we have witnessed, such aberrations in the weather tend to affect agriculture, water and economic activities.
As indicated in the IPCC report, climate change has local and personal effects. Our Jewish traditions call on us to be stewards of the earth and to “choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:20). In considering the IPCC’s report that we are the cause of climate change and feeling the effects, we must act and call on our leaders to enact meaningful measures to reduce our nation’s impact. Further, we must continue to see and respond to how humans are affected by the climate crisis, so that we are motivated beyond our planet and our own needs to the needs of the most vulnerable among us and the world to be.