From vengeful fires in the Western United States and Canada, to extreme flooding in Western Europe, this year has been filled with extraordinary extremes—highlighting the increasingly severe effects of climate change across the world. To make matters even more alarming, a landmark climate report was released Monday by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
An Overview of the Report
The report, written by more than 230 of the world’s leading scientists, is part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report and is the most current physical understanding of the climate system and climate change. Monday’s report is the latest addition of research since 2013—marking a pivotal scientific consensus on the current state and projected future of climate change.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the report a "code red for humanity—" a headline that has been splashing across the media this week.
The report states it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land—emphasizing that many of the changes inflicted on the planet, particularly our oceans, will be “irreversible for centuries to millennia—” warning that continued warming will lead to an acceleration of extreme and unprecedented weather events.
In other words, observable increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the mid-17-hundreds were found to be undoubtedly and directly tied to human activity—most notably the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels for energy and deforestation due to practices like agriculture, logging and development over time.
Scientists also stressed that some of these planetary changes are greater than they have ever been and that they are happening much more quickly than expected—with the rate of sea level rise nearly doubling since 2006.
While a major, and frankly alarming finding, the report also states that there remains a short window of time to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
The report previewed five future scenarios in which humans take different actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under most scenarios, warming is still expected to increase beyond 2040, potentially through the rest of the century. If we do nothing, temperatures by 2100 could rise over 3 degrees Celsius—which would be catastrophic.
However, the report found that aggressive, fast and global emission cuts starting now could limit the level of warming beyond 2050. In the best-case scenario, the world would have to achieve net zero emissions—a challenging, yet important feat.
A Reflection: Communal Grief and Resilience
Climate-driven wildfires, droughts, heat waves, tropical disasters, severe rainfall and flooding are being seen in backyards all over the world. These disasters, exacerbated by the 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming that has already occurred, represent the real-time cost of political and systematic inaction on climate change.
While it’s important to stay aware and informed on these issues—it is heavy. It is anxiety-inducing. It is, oftentimes, demobilizing. But more importantly, it is necessary for all of us to remember to take care of ourselves and our mental health during this time of very-real eco-anxiety.
Together, we honor the fear, anxiety, and anger this reality brings.
At Faith in Place, we want you to know that you are not alone. As people of faith and spirituality, many of us have communal expressions of lament and grief embedded in our traditions. We lean on the strength of togetherness as we travel towards uncharted climate and much uncertainty.
We may be uncertain about how our climate changing will impact our future, but we are not uncertain that we have each other.
We have social networks that are growing and building in depth and resilience. We know we can lean on and return to this togetherness during moments of fear, change, and anxiety. In this, we find hope that the news headlines do not embody.
We also believe in unplugging from the media for a day, taking a walk, getting some rest and then continuing to come back together take meaningful action. We know that this movement cannot afford burnout any time soon.
This news is a reminder that we must remain resilient and grounded—continuing to advocate for change. There is a best-case scenario, and together, we can bring it to fruition.
The beauty of our diverse faiths and spiritualities is our mutual support, guidance and care during times of trouble. We are in a time of trouble, and we need to support one another now more than ever.
As we continue to find ways to grow together, heal, and care for our environment, we want to share two upcoming opportunities with you.
First, be sure to join us September 12-14 for a three-night immersive and interactive journey into healing at our virtual 2021 Green Team Summit, where we will explore ways to heal our connection with our land, body, mind, spirit and community through a series of interactive workshops. Visit our website and register here to learn more.
Finally, one of the most impactful ways that we can turn the anxiety we feel into positive action is by telling our legislators how we feel and demanding they take critical action for the climate. If you live in Illinois, we invite you to sign our petition for equitable, comprehensive clean energy legislation in Illinois here.
Thank you for walking with us through these hard times. We are grateful we can lean on each other and we work for a resilient future.