As climate-fueled forest fires, floods, and heat waves decimate communities and ecosystems the world over, the newly released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), confirms what we already knew, conditions will only get worse.
On August 9, 2021, the IPCC issued a special report that evaluates the scientific knowledge on climate change, shaped by hundreds of scientists who assess evidence from scientific, technical, and socio-economic research and publications. Widely regarded as the most comprehensive and authoritative body of scientific research on climate change to date, the report contains irrefutable evidence to back climate movements across the globe, and builds upon the foundation of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which has shaped global climate action and UNFCCC climate negotiations since its release in 2014.
Building on the AR5, the newest report examines the severe impacts climate change is having on our natural world. The newest IPCC report confirms what many of us have been saying for decades, that climate change is unequivocally the result of human action and that it is accelerating far more rapidly and unpredictably than previously thought.
The report assesses outcomes for both 1.5°C and 2°C global warming above pre-industrial levels; the numbers are sobering.
Globally, extreme heat waves currently occur five times as often as they did historically, and they will hit fourteen times as often if warming reaches 2°C. The frequency of heatwaves is already increasing faster than predicted. Even planetary warming of just 1.5°C will deliver an increasing number of unprecedented extreme events.
Globally, droughts that used to occur once every 10 years, now occur 70% more frequently. Such droughts will arrive between two and three times as often if warming increases to 2°C.
Heavy downpours that used to occur once every 10 years now occur 30% more frequently. They will arrive 70% more frequently if warming increases to 2°C.
These are just a few of the severe climate impacts that will occur in the coming years. The report states that global warming is now 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, and we are rapidly hurtling toward 1.5 degrees.
As the world warms, many climate impacts will be irreversible for centuries to come, including rising sea levels and melting ice caps, all of which will change the very nature of our society and planet.
The report also confirms that greenhouse gas emissions have increased unabated since the Paris Climate Agreement. Specifically, the report states that increases in methane emissions, largely caused by fossil fuels and agriculture, are driving global warming and climate change.
Yet, there is a path forward for securing our collective future— however we must act rapidly. We know solutions exist to combat the climate crisis because frontline communities have been demonstrating them for years, but we must also address root causes to the crisis and dismantle barriers to community-led solutions.
The ideologies and societal norms of white supremacy, patriarchy, colonization, and capitalism continue to be at war with people and planet and interfere with the healthy and just world we seek. Governments, financial institutions, and corporations have been and continue to operate within these ideologies and a paradigm of ‘exploit and extract’, leading us to our current climate crisis. Millions have suffered the consequences, particularly BIPOC communities who bear the brunt of socio-ecological harms. “Business as usual” must not be our path forward.
When we analyze root causes, it is also clear that women experience the climate crisis with disproportionate severity precisely because their basic rights continue to be denied in varying forms and intensities across the world. Enforced gender inequality reduces women’s physical and economic mobility, voice, and opportunity in many places, making them more vulnerable to mounting environmental stresses.
Indigenous, Black and Brown women; women from low-income communities; and women from the Global South carry an even heavier burden from the impacts of climate change because of the historic and continuing impacts of colonialism, racism and inequality; and in many cases, because they are more reliant upon natural resources for their survival and/or live in areas that have poor infrastructure. Drought, flooding, and unpredictable and extreme weather patterns present life or death challenges for many women, who are most often the ones responsible for providing food, water and energy for their families. In many frontline communities, gendered and sexual violence against women and environmental racism is added on top of other dire impacts perpetuated by the extractive industries that bear down on their homelands.
However, against great challenges, women, gender-diverse people and frontline communities are demonstrating every day that they have unique and essential ideas, solutions and skills to offer at this turning point in history, as humanity faces a crisis of survival and must make crucial and rapid changes and decisions about how we are living with the Earth and each other.
For decades women, feminists, BIPOC and frontline communities have been informing governments, financial institutions, and corporations of what needs to be done; and it is far past time to listen to these calls to action.
Uphold Indigenous Sovereignty and Rights. Indigenous peoples are the most effective and best stewards of their territories, with 80% of biodiversity remaining on Earth in Indigenous lands and territories. Respecting Indigenous knowledge, ways of life, and Indigenous rights, including Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the right to say no to continued extraction, is not only the morally right thing to do, but also paramount to any effective sustainability strategy. Respect and learn from Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
Implement a rapid and immediate decline off fossil fuels. We’ve been shouting this one from the rooftops for years. Due to political influence, greed, disinformation, and lobbying of the fossil fuel industry, the necessary rapid and robust switch to clean energy has been tragically delayed. And now our communities and the Earth are paying, dearly, for those decades of delay. We must transition from an extractivist, colonial paradigm of “exploit and extract” to a sustainable, globally-conscious one of “respect and restore.” We must rapidly halt the extraction and burning of coal, oil, and gas, while simultaneously building a new economy predicated on community-led solutions and women’s rights, Indigenous rights, rights of nature, and rights of future generations.
Invest in community-led solutions. At this time of urgency, we need real solutions operationalized quickly, not false solutions like carbon trading schemes that are being promoted by too many governments and fossil fuel corporations. These mechanisms are not new, and studies repeatedly have shown that these mechanisms fail to reduce emissions while also often violating human and Indigenous rights and causing further harm to biodiverse ecosystems. We need rights-based solutions grounded in justice and ecological integrity. Globally women are leading community-led solutions that are building new economic models, defending old-growth forests, ensuring food sovereignty and security, protecting oceans and biodiversity, developing regenerative and just energy systems, and much more. The solutions are there and now we need to implement them at a global level.
Implement progressive feminist climate policies and frameworks. For decades movements have been developing robust frameworks for climate action and policies. Yet, governments, financial institutions, and corporations continue forward with stagnant and halfhearted climate commitments that do little to curb emissions and cut pollution at a scale commensurate with the science and the climate crisis well underway. Countries that have contributed most to global warming are busy creating loopholes to avoid desperately needed commitments to deep cuts in their carbon emissions, while actively dismissing the demands and solutions of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis. We need policies and frameworks that commit to not only addressing the climate crisis but also dismantling the very systems of oppression that caused it.
In the era of Climate Emergency, we must be unwavering in our honesty and our fierce dedication to call for justice and action to halt a trajectory toward irreparable climate chaos. As the world prepares for the most important UN Climate talks since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, we are not waiting for governments - we are taking action now! As climate disasters worsen worldwide, it is imperative that we move at speed and scale with the necessary urgency required; far faster than governance is moving, and faster than the media is reporting.
From September 25-30, the international community is welcome to participate in the Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice: Solutions from the Frontlines and the Protection and Defense of Human Rights and Nature, public forum organized by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) to take place virtually in the lead up to COP26 and in parallel with the UN General Assembly.
During the Assembly, grassroots, Indigenous, Black, Brown, and frontline women leaders, global advocates, and policy-makers will join together in solidarity to speak out against environmental and social injustice, draw attention to root causes of multiple interlocking crises, and present the diverse array of visions, projects, policy frameworks and strategies with which they are working to shape a healthy and equitable world.
The voices, analysis and leadership of global women and feminist leaders are critical to the years ahead, and as we head into one of the most important climate negotiations since the Paris Climate Agreement, the UN Climate Talks in Glasgow. The Assembly will call for urgent action within a climate justice framework and produce an online collection of actions, policy frameworks, and solutions presented at the Assembly to be delivered to global governments, financial institutions and media outlets.
We are not waiting, let’s rise for the Earth and all generations, there is no time to lose!