IPCC Report Article

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Earlier this week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) published their report Global Warming of 1.5°C. In short, the report tells us that we have twelve years to enact planet-saving measures that keep global warming below the critical mark of 1.5 degrees. That might not sound like much, but the earth has already warmed by one degree since the beginning of the industrial period. Letting warming slip to two degrees could, according to the report, significantly increase the risk of more extreme weather and the resultant social problems — including food shortages. And that’s before we bring up the serious geopolitical problems that would be introduced when whole regions of the world find their natural resources depleted.

And yet, the bigger news story of the week was Kanye West’s rambling, roundabout rant in the White House.

It probably comes as no surprise that our president — who has famously described global warming as a Chinese-invented hoax and has used winter snow as evidence that climate change isn’t happening — has been largely silent on the IPCC’s findings. In an attempt to reassure concerned Americans, President Trump said, “I want to look at who drew it… Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good. But I will be looking at it, absolutely.” That was Tuesday; he’s said nothing since then. But I don’t want this to just be a rant about Trump. We’ve all had plenty of those, and if a group of UN scientists and experts can’t convince the man that global warming is a serious and genuine threat to the country and the world, I don’t stand a chance. The problem, really, is the general apathy toward climate change from politicians across both sides of the aisle.

If it is true that we only have twelve years to seriously correct our course when it comes to climate change, transitioning to a more environmentally sustainable country should be the number one issue in the upcoming elections. But it doesn’t seem that way. The party currently in control of Congress can’t decide if climate change is actually real, and is perfectly happy continuing to act in the interest of numerous polluting corporations. As a result, the bar is set low when it comes to American environmental policy - and it shows.

The Democrats — supposedly an opposition party — acknowledge the existence of climate change, which is a good start, but not much about their stance towards the environment suggests any sense of urgency about the consequences of unchecked climate change. In June of this year, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer went after President Trump, calling on the President to do something to lower the price of gasoline. Because as the earth warms, in large part thanks to the effects of greenhouse gases, the solution is to make them cheaper to burn? And in August, the Democratic party reneged on a promise they made just two months earlier to stop taking donations from the fossil fuel industry. Neither Democratic party leader — not Chuck Schumer in the Senate nor Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives — have made any message on social media regarding the IPCC report. Quite simply, they’re not doing enough. Yes, they’re worlds better than the alternative - but now is truly the time that we need to demand more from our government when it comes to climate. That means that we can’t settle for anything less than a true rethink of the way we produce and use energy in this country.

Our generation has shown before that we are willing to make our voices heard on the issues that matter to us. Crucially, it is our generation that will have to live with the ramifications of today’s inaction. The IPCC report tells us that it is still possible to keep global warming below the 1.5-degree threshold and stave off the most serious environmental, social, and geopolitical problems that climate change would bring. But politicians have made it clear that they need persuading in order to enact policy that looks after the earth rather than oil executives, and it is going to be our job to make the case that the future of the planet is something that matters.