Just a few days ago, the Facebook feeders, top-news scrollers, tree-huggers, and climate scientists all over the world welcomed (and cringed at) the latest IPCC report. The IPCC, or the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was started in 1994 to be the lab coats and number-crunchers behind the world’s mission to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Spoiler alert: we’re failing.
So here’s what our friends from the Panel had to say in their Special Report:
- Climate change is anthropogenic (caused by human activities).
- Perhaps you’ve heard of the goal of limiting warming to 2ºC? Well, the planet is already about 1ºC hotter and if we keep doing what we’re doing (using fossil fuels like they’re going out of style, farming unsustainably, planning mass deforestation events, making babies, etc.), we’ll reach about 1.5ºC of warming between 2032 and 2050. That’s well within most of our lifetimes.
- This 1.5ºC warming will result in an increased temperature for most land and ocean regions.
- At around 1.5ºC of warming, there’s a high risk that we’ll experience more extreme weather events.
- An atmosphere that’s holding 1.5ºC more heat will also mean that most inhabited regions will experience extreme hot temperature events. Not only does this sound uncomfortable, but it will also have very serious consequences on the increasingly urbanized world.
Did anyone hear about the 80 people that died in Japan this year? Or the 70 in Canada? All from extreme heat? What about the fact that Oman experienced the world’s highest low temperature in July of this year—when it was a staggering 108ºF AT NIGHT?!
So, 2ºC is great and all, but 1.5ºC is much more practical for human survival.
We know that the world needs adaptation strategies, and we need them now. But we also need to up the ante on our adaptation plans to minimize our warming to 1.5ºC, instead of the 2ºC that was emphasized in the Paris Agreement.
These necessary changes require immediate (more like 10 years ago) changes in land, energy, urban infrastructure, and industrial systems. These amendments will be “unprecedented in terms of scale” and will require more than just empty commitments with timeframes for completion 10, 15, or 40 years from now.
Why does this require changed beliefs?
My contribution to environmentalism is through food. I am an eco-warrior fueled (literally and figuratively) by my dietary choices. Many of the decisions I make are done so on the basis of what’s best for the environment, followed by what’s best for me (sometimes the priorities are reversed 🙂 ).
My new favorite podcast mixed things up for me a bit this morning. Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg‘s most recently welcomed guest, Tamar Haspel, is a quite contentious figure in the food movement. Writing on the intersection of food and science, Tamar appears to have one thing every environmentalist, foodie, scientist, human should have—an open mind and a willingness to be proven wrong. Positioning herself ready for a plethora of angry comments when it comes to issues like GMO’s and vegetarianism—amongst others—in her Washington Post column, Unearthed, Tamar does what we all should be doing. Taking time to reflect on her many biases (we all have them), Tamar seeks out experts who could challenge those biases—all in the name of learning.
Really though, what better knowledge to obtain than that in which your previous conceptions are falsified and done away with?
Needless to say, listening to Tamar speak about her somewhat unusual and certainly criticized approach inspired me to look outside of the box, think about how I seek black and white facts in a world of gray.
As a sustainable foodie, I have certainly fallen into some of the various ‘tribes’ of the food movement. Organic advocates, vegans, permies, vegetarians, locavores, food sovereignty activists, sustainable intensification proponents, anti-GMO defenders, pro-GMO ‘feed the world’ champions… and the list goes on and on and on. These groups are all crucial in fixing the environmental and social sustainability of the global food system. But how is this possible when in many times they don’t collaborate—or worse, publicly refute the positions of the others.
With a problem as wicked as climate change, of course, we certainly should be working in our respective niches to make this world a more just and habitable place, but we should also be aware of the sometimes-problematic tendency of social grouping. We don’t know everything but should take solace in the fact that other people know things that we don’t (or better understand things that we think we know).
I’m constantly learning new things about food sustainability. I’m continuously evolving in my viewpoints. At the same time, I’m growing in my humanity and appreciation of what other people have to bring to the table. Not everyone’s going to think one girl can do her part by releasing a blog post into the world every so often. Just like I’m not so sure that Monsanto is going to feed the world by improving yields. But perhaps each of us DO have something to contribute to the way in which a growing population will eat in a manner that doesn’t totally destroy the planet.