Will the new IPCC report change anything?

The new report from the IPCC is, understandably, getting a lot of press coverage today. It is the result of a global collaboration between scientists to assess the available evidence for climate change and the message is pretty clear. The Earth is warming, it is caused by greenhouse gases and humanity is making a major contribution to this increase.... Haven’t we heard this before?

I admire the work of the IPCC and it is an amazing effort to pull together all the information that they do. But will the fact that scientist are now a bit more confident about the role humanity are playing in warming the planet really make any difference? I wish that I had the optimism that some show; the belief that finally this level of certainty must spur us to the kind of action required. Will we wake up tomorrow and find that world leaders, having digested the report overnight, are suddenly pushing for urgent action? Will CEOs suddenly be free to pursue radical reductions from their business free from the need for action to be justified against strict financial criteria? Will those people who are sceptical of the need for anything to be done be convinced? Or will things be pretty much as they were before? Has it changed your views?

We might talk about the ‘debate’ over the science and what this new report contributes to that. But is there really any ‘debate’? The fact that the vast majority of scientists believe that climate change is happening and it is caused mainly by the action of humanity (or a small proportion of us) hasn’t changed for years. Lack of action on climate change is little to do with the science; it is mostly about belief and values. Do you think that government should play a role in regulating business? Do you think that main focus for business should be profit? Do you think that you should be allowed to do whatever the hell you want? How you answer these kinds of question will effect what you choose to ‘see’ when confronted by the science of climate change, and what action you think is appropriate in response to that.

This report won’t change that. What will? Sadly nobody knows. There is no silver bullet and no right answer. Yes we need new technologies, but we also need to  challenge the way we run our economies, how we do business, our concept of democracy, how we choose to live our lives (and the kind of lives that those choices force on others) and many other issues. It is a huge challenge made even bigger because there are a lot of entrenched interests and they can't be allowed to control the terms of the discussion. We all need to be involved. Will we be up to it? Will we act in time? Let’s find out...


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