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IPCC report: the science is irrefutable, political inaction is inexcusable – what we all must do next

This week’s most comprehensive report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is
unequivocal in its findings: human activity is causing our planet to warm to unprecedented levels –
already we’ve caused global average temperatures to rise by 1C.


A 1.5C rise is inevitable in the next 2 decades.

Carbon dioxide levels have not been this high in 2 million years.

Our oceans have not been this acidic in 2 million years.

As the Guardian’s Environment Editor, Damian Carrington, states: “If emissions do not fall in the next
couple of decades, then 3C of heating looks likely – a catastrophe. And if they don’t fall at all, the
report says, then we are on track for 4C to 5C, which is apocalypse territory.”

He warns: “The scientists have now spoken, louder and clearer than ever before. Now it is for the
politicians to act.”

This has been the reality for many years, decades actually. Since my parents were children, scientists
have been warning about the dangerous levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the Earth’s
atmosphere, the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, the unprecedented decline in the natural world
which is witnessing the Sixth Mass Extinction.

There is no cliff edge to this crisis though. No percentage of a degree past which we are doomed.
Certainly, we’ve never been in such a perilous position. Yet against the threat of climate breakdown,
searing heatwaves, devastating floods, agricultural collapse, hundreds of millions of climate refugees,
we can, and must create our own feedback loops – those which drive, accelerate, and inspire urgent,
fundamental, and transformational positive action.

As a History and Politics student , perhaps I appreciate the centrality of politics to all of our lives more
than most – if history is a seemingly infinite and complex tapestry of people, places, and events, then
politics is the weaver.

Indeed, politics is central to the IPCC report – which, let’s not forget, has been agreed upon and signed
by each and every member of the UN. The world’s governments have thus accepted, and supported,
the findings. As the secretary of the IPCC, Abdalah Mokssit, puts it: “Unless there are immediate rapid
and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5C will be beyond
reach.

Political action on a scale and with an urgency never seen in human history is thus required within this
decade if we are to avert climate and ecological breakdown. That should place an Atlas-like burden
not just on the shoulders of world leaders, but every single one of us. None of us can afford not to act,
to sit in the back seat whilst our politicians drive us down the road to catastrophe.

Political participation, political action, has never been as incumbent on every one of us to engage in
as it is today.

Now that statement might scare you, might even discourage you, but you must be emboldened by it.
In the days, weeks, months, and years to come, we’ll all hear those ‘two c’s’ of ‘climate change’ more
times than we’ve heard that other now famous ‘c’ – COVID. First off, let’s change that second ‘c’ to
‘crisis’. Secondly, let’s change that to the ‘climate and ecological crisis’ because the two are
fundamentally intertwined.

Now is the time to tackle the climate and ecological crisis with our own trio of c’s: confidence, courage,
and commitment.

It takes confidence to have a conversation with your family and friends about the climate crisis.
Perhaps because you worry it will turn into an argument, or that you will be lambasted as a hypocrite,
doomsayer, bunny-hugger, or whatever other distraction critics throw at us.

It takes confidence to join a protest, to make a personal change in your life and to encourage others
to join you.

It takes confidence to join a political party that is serious about tackling the climate and ecological
crisis and to encourage others to do so, or to volunteer with local organisations and groups who are
taking empowered, collective action.

All of these things take courage too, but the courage really comes in when you don’t see things
changing, when you don’t feel listened to, or perhaps, when you don’t feel like your vote matters.
The climate and ecological crisis is the greatest collective action problem we’ve ever faced: individual
actions are only destructive because they take place within an inherently destructive system. That is,
a system which prioritises profit over people, and people over planet, which is obsessed with
economic growth and thus ecological demise, which promotes the competition of supposedly
‘naturally selfish’ individuals over the cooperation of truly selfless communities.

Therefore, it takes courage to commit yourself to positive collective action – that which also depends
on the actions of individuals but whose actions are cumulative, creative, and collaborative. When each
vote does effect change, when the presence of each person at a march amounts to a whole greater
than the sum of its parts. We must have the confidence, courage, and commitment to stay the course,
to attend meetings, to educate ourselves and others, to write letters to politicians, and hold banners
at protests.

Collective actions do and will work, a cursory glance at history shows us that. They work when driven
by these three c’s of confidence, courage, and commitment. Only when we all act, inspired by these
values, and inspired by a desire to protect our home and the millions of species we – as just one –
share the earth with, will we succeed in not only overcoming the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced,
but in grasping the opportunity to transform our current destructive relations with ourselves and our
planet into constructive, cooperative, and thriving ones.

Even if, as Tuesday’s Guardian front-page headline said, the global climate crisis is “inevitable,
unprecedented, and irreversible,” inaction is inexcusable, and that goes for all of us.

Max (he/him) was formerly Environment News Editor and Climate Columnist at The Blue. He is in his final year studying History and Politics at Balliol.