IPCC report: it’s time to put the brakes on climate change


If you are not a fan of heat waves or hurricanes, or you would still like to show your children a map with an icy Arctic, you might be interested in a major report being released in Stockholm in a few hours.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, known as the Fifth Assessment Report, or AR5, will be the first assessment from this group of hundreds of scientists from around the world since 2007.

The report will confirm what most people already know: global temperatures are going up, oceans are rising and extreme weather events are increasing in number and intensity.

Most importantly, its research reveals that – without a doubt – humans are the cause of these problems.

The IPCC is far from being a bunch of green fanatics. We are talking about here is hundreds of scientists analysing thousands of peer-reviewed research for more than five years.

As well as concluding, by consensus, on the origins and trends of man-induced climate change, the report also looks at the impact of climate change and emission reduction policies.

In response to the report, some of the world’s largest environment and development NGOs have teamed up with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to release a statement.

But it seems that despite the alarming nature of this report, which follows last year’s World Bank report and thousands of articles showing the link between natural disasters and global warming, we seem unable to put the brakes on climate change.

This is not because people are bad or don’t care or don’t believe the problem exists.

Even if we managed to get rid of all the climate change-sceptics (aka industry-funded lobbyists) from the media, we would still face a critical problem: in order to prevent the climate from changing, we have to change.

If we do nothing, we will have to pay the price for climate change, anyway. And yet, people somehow think that the fight against global warming is going to be tough, expensive and scary.

Fighting climate change could be tough. We’ll have to change everything from our energy supplies to transforming the way in which we move, work and consume.

Most people in the developed world, and increasing numbers in the Global South, live in an unsustainable way.

We buy cheap goods and services that pollute the environment and our health, we eat strawberries in the winter and our dependency on oil means that it runs through the veins of our daily lives.

It might be expensive.

Unsustainable production has been subsidised by years of public support – either through direct support to companies, or by the fact that pollution is rarely integrated in taxation systems – so every attempt to promote more sustainable options in any sector tends to be more expensive.

And yes, it could be scary. Change often is.

In these times, where social protection systems and collective bargaining are under attack all over the world, who can blame workers for fearing that if changes happen in their sectors that they will be left on their own?

However, there’s a huge ‘but’ here.

The fight against climate change doesn’t need to be that way. It all depends on how we plan for change and it also depends on the vision and commitment shown by our leaders.

Can we as a society build a better future? Can we work together to make our lives more climate-friendly?

Can we define the policies which will help workers and families in the transformation we will all have to make, anyway? Can we avoid that cliff?

I still believe we can. This IPCC report confirms we must.