What does the last IPCC assessment underline?

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), or the foremost reference on climate change, is an international scientific body which aims to provide an objective analysis of the current evolution of climate change, through a social, economic and ecological lens.  

Society is changing fast, and mindsets even faster. There is a global consensus on the importance of climate change, owing to “youth and other climate movements, climate emergency declarations, SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], increased knowledge and public awareness, NDCs, […], growing climate litigation context and new populations exposed to increasing risk”.1 Clearly, the people have a growing key-role in decision making. Hence why NGOs and activism are of prime importance, and must continue their engagements in spite of the obstacles. The window of opportunity to fight climate change is “shrinking but it exists”: we have entered what politicians call the decisive decade.2  

Global heating continues to evolve in the context of a changing and unequal world whilst being embroiled in an unprecedented global crisis. Many aspects of the world we live in are constantly evolving:  we have entered an unstable period. Along with climate change there are many other challenges such as “biosphere change, population growth, mobility, resource overexploitation, planetary limits, rapid urbanization”,3 all of which are strongly interlinked with each other. Any impact on one reverberates positively or negatively onto the others. In short, to fight uniquely against climate change is not sufficient: to really have a decisive impact on the unfolding of events, the best option is to consider the merging of struggles – a united front against all form of oppression. Thus, not only should we preoccupy ourselves of a carbon neutral human activity, but also consider human interaction between nature and other beings.  

“The climate changes are impacting all of us and ecosystems […] both directly and indirectly, but those least responsible are most impacted”4There are major inequalities in emissionswithin countries as well5, but the repercussions will not be proportional to the emitted pollutions as the biggest polluters are likely to suffer the least. Although with no absolute certitudes, it is assertable that many countries in the southern hemisphere will endure the most from climate change. Droughts will be more frequentwater insecurity will spread throughout the continents, famines of important magnitude may follow, and the subsequent chain reaction would trigger social insecurity. At worst, armed conflicts and mass migration may stem out of this instability.  

The inhabitants of MEDCs are producing a far bigger carbon footprint, but will not be affected as much as the LEDCs’ populations. They will nonetheless undergo many unplanned consequences of global heating. Whether it be social, economic, ecological, or political, the aftermaths will be grave and significant. For example, mass migration may trigger a rise in nationalism and conservatism, with a rise in anti-migrant policy making, which is already observable throughout the EU whether in Italy, Austria, Hungary, Denmark or Poland. Another example could be air pollution which is already the cause of around 400 000 premature deaths in Europe every year, not counting Netherlands, which is at risk of going underwater, etc… One should not fool oneself into thinking that climate change will only touch LEDCs: it is going to strike hard everywhere, without regard to ethnicity, religion, gender or social class.  

That is only if recent milestones in climate policy and financing are not correctly applied and respected. Indeed, there is now sufficient literature and options for decision makers to effectively fight against climate change. Recent advancements such as “Improved data, tools, awareness, literacy, knowledge, innovation, increasing region and sector specific information, climate services to support adaptation and mitigation”6 and “major progress in innovation, mitigation technology roll-out and costs (especially solar, batteries, etc.)”7 will, likely, be of great help in the assessment of some bold initiatives. Mankind is armed to fight for its survival, but is it enough? 

Those milestones are going to be respected if, and only if, the population grasps the “need for a sense of urgency”8. There are “many challenges to effective action”9, including inadequacies “of many present adaptation responses and plans [in the range of] financing, technology access, governance and leadership, observational, informational and knowledge gaps and vested interests”10, and there is also a gap between “ambitions and current actions […]: Emission trajectories and commitments are still far from Paris [the 2015 Paris Agreement] Ambitions”11 As Greta Thunberg states, “the house is on fire”, and even the scientists of the IPCC want humans to act accordingly. There has to be a shift in mentalities as well as in patterns of consumption. 

“Shifting socioeconomic pathways now for a climate resilient and sustainable future”12, is the most viable option to counter the climate crisis. Many conclusions have been drawn from the actions adopted by the current policy makers (none of which respect the aforementioned directives). There is a sense of missed opportunities amongst the scientific community regarding the limitations of emissions below 1.5°C and the shifting towards a sustainable development. The overall development paradigm runs parallel to climate destruction. Public money mostly funds the proliferation of carbon consumption – i.e., after the outbreak of the pandemic, G20 nations have pledged $151 billion in favour of fossil fuels, compared to just $99 billion for renewable energy…13 

There is a growing fear of uncertainty concerning natural hazards directly linked to climate change (such as volcanic eruptions, viruses, etc …), which in a globalized world, inevitably have globalized consequences. The need for changes in consumption patterns can be fulfilled by supportive “conditions and means, including finance and investment, capacity, institutional arrangements, international cooperation, technological innovation and technology transfer, and behavioural aspects across a range of actors.”14 To implement ambitious reform for both adaptation and mitigation, the broadening of prospects, policy instruments and packages, creativity, shift in relative costs of technology and development of alternatives, system transformation, socio-cultural shifts, schooling, and climate awareness are all needed. 

Students feel left out of a system created by unaware or unwilling aged politicians. We want society to be a democracy supporting the people and not the industries. We want to see future generations enjoy life as much as the previous generations did. We want hope for our children. For too long we now have heard friends and relatives unwilling to experience parenthood – because they do not want their offspring to be doomed from the outset. We want change, and we want it now, before it is too late.  

Co-Authors: Brigode Simon, EEB3 student. Kilmathianakis Elli, former EEB3 student – currently studying at Leiden University.