chasing answers newsletter #47
AR6 Synthesis Report
“I don’t know what word in the English language - I can’t find one - applies to people who are willing to sacrifice the literal existence of organized human life so they can put a few more dollars into highly stuffed pockets.
The word ‘evil’ doesn’t even begin to approach it.” - Noam Chomsky
We’ve only got one item on the docket today, and it’s a big one.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its AR6 Synthesis Report on Monday. The report summarizes five years' worth of work by the world’s leading climate scientists, and it takes thousands of pages of science and reduces them to a much shorter, more manageable read. Then it reduces that to an even more concise 36-page report for policymakers (because we all know they don’t have time to waste on something as inconsequential as the complete destruction of our planet.)
If you missed the news this week or didn’t have time to read the report yourself, basically, what it said was………we’re fucked.
Ok, maybe not in so few words, but the news wasn’t great.
What the report said
The Synthesis Report made a few things very clear.
The steps we have taken up to this point are insufficient to tackle climate change. We’re currently at 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels with little to no chance of remaining below the coveted 1.5°C threshold.
To have a chance at remaining below 1.5°C, we would need “....deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors.” (Spoiler alert: this isn’t happening.)
We must cut emissions by almost half by 2030 to remain under the 1.5°C increase.
Air quality improvements could have economic benefits for people’s health that would be the same or larger than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions.
Many of those who have contributed the least to climate change are being affected the most. Nearly half of the world’s population resides in areas highly vulnerable to climate change, and in the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts, and storms were 15 times higher in these areas.
Even if we exceed the 1.5°C limit for just a short time and then manage to bring it back down, we will likely have triggered the proverbial climate dominoes and caused irreversible damage to many ecosystems.
If you want to dive deep into the report yourself, you can check it out here.
And here is what some others had to say about what the report contained.
Professor Katharine Hayhoe tweeted the below thread soon after the report was released.
What the report didn’t say
For all that the report did say, it may have been what was missing that was most interesting.
While scientists write the report, others often have the final say about what is or isn’t included. Delegates from countries around the world suggest and lobby for changes regarding items in the report that may have negative economic impacts on their country.
According to leaked documents that contained an earlier draft of the report, several items were noticeably absent from the final version.
A Saudi Arabian delegate lobbied successfully to have a sentence that recommended the phase-out of all fossil fuels removed. In addition, Saudi Arabia and other fossil fuel-producing countries convinced the IPCC to include carbon capture and carbon storage as solutions with essentially the same positive benefits as renewable energy sources.
Believing that carbon capture, carbon storage, and carbon credits are practical solutions to the climate crisis is like believing you can lose weight by eating all the pizzas you want, as long as you always leave one piece uneaten in each pizza box.
Another item, conveniently missing from the final report, was the recommendation by IPCC authors for wealthy countries to switch to plant-based diets. This has been mentioned in many of the reports that led up to the Synthesis Report, with some saying that plant-based diets are responsible for as little as half the greenhouse gas emissions of the average Western diet.
However, delegates from Argentina and Brazil, both large meat exporters, successfully lobbied to remove that fact from the final version.
Michael Thomas, the author of Distilled, has an excellent essay on some of the noticeable exclusions from the report here and also put together the below thread on Twitter if you want the shorter version.
Other issues with the report
This article by Carbon Copy covers some other potential issues with the IPCC reports, like the fact that the integrated assessment models (IAMs) that many of the recommendations in the IPCC reports are based on don’t factor in things like socio-political issues. If you have some time, it’s worth a read.
For all of the excellent information in the Synthesis Report, there was also information that was unclear or seemed to be lacking critical elements.
There is still work to be done, not just in the fight against climate change but to ensure accurate information is getting through to the public.
That is one thing that came across loud and clear.
I hope you all have a great week!
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