It's The End of The World as We Know It - Part 4: The Report

Updated: Nov 17, 2018

This is Part 4 in a mutli-post series/rambling. It will make a lot more sense and have a lot more context if you have a look at the preceding parts:

Part 1: Between the Smudges (what it means biblically to be made from the earth)

Part 2: Unearthing Responsibility (the biblical mandate for caring for the planet)

Part 3: The Railroad Switch (the two options we have for the future of our planet)


I know you probably didn't wake up this morning hoping to read a blog post about the ins and outs of climate change...


But as you might have seen in the previous parts to this blog series, I think this issue is worth leaning into and understanding.


So, this post is maybe pretty information-heavy compared to other posts I've written, but

if we want to participate with humanity in making sure we head to a good-future-planet, then we'll need to engage with this stuff.


What is climate change?



It's not difficult to investigate this online yourself, but it can get pretty technical and jargony. I didn't really understand the basics of it until recently. I started writing this blog with LOADS of background info... Then, realising I'd bore you to death with that, I've changed it and tried to distill things down to a palatable size.


(if you want lots of detail about the science of climate change, one great resource is this Wait But Why post about Elon Musk and Tesla).


So, the ABC's of climate change:


1) We're adding 'Greenhouse gas' into the atmosphere.



We do this mainly by burning fossil fuels (releasing CO2), and things like farming/agriculture (releasing methane - the second most significant greenhouse gas and cows are one of the greatest methane emitters).





2) More Greenhouse gas means the average global temperatures go up


The atmosphere of our planet works a bit like a greenhouse. It lets in energy from the sun but then traps some of it after it 'bounces' off the earths surface. This keeps us warm and snug. Planets without an atmosphere like ours are FREEZING!


The Greenhouse gasses (including CO2 and methane) play a big role in this, which is all fine and hunky dory and how things are meant to be... until we start adding more and more to the atmosphere.


It's like being perfectly snug in bed with one blanket.


Then adding another blanket.


Then another...


Then another...


3) Only relatively small increases to the global average temperature result in a lot of bad things


This heating up of the atmosphere then impacts almost everything on earth.


Land, sea, air, winds, currents, weather patterns, nutrients in soil, fire, hurricanes, melting snow caps at the poles, increasing water levels...


Everything is interconnected and affects other things and a few degrees scales into big problems surprisingly quickly. For a while now scientists have been telling us that this process can't go on forever. Plus, we have a limited amount of fossil fuels available in the ground anyway. But, we've still been developing our economies in a way that is dependent on these fossil fuels. (80% of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels)


Perhaps you can see why Elon Musk calls this:

“the dumbest experiment in history”


Who can I trust?


I get it it. With different voices shouting different things, it can be hard to know who to trust.


Some of you are thinking.... Is climate change definitely a real thing? And do we know for sure that it's caused by human activity? Is this perhaps just a big hoax driven by people making money out of it?


Fair enough. Good questions.


Sometimes things seem quite confusing when you look at debates on climate change and they have one person denying it, and another person arguing for it. It seems like the scientific community is pretty much mixed on this, and that it's difficult to know who to believe.


It's not.


Scientists are very sure about this.


Put it this way... More than 97% of peer-reviewed scientific studies endorsed the consensus that climate change is real and is being caused by human activity.


More than 97%!


“We are more sure that greenhouse gas is causing climate change than we are that smoking causes cancer.” Nasa atmospheric scientist Kate Marvel

Also, it's important to see that there are loads of big companies and industries who will lose out MASSIVELY if we respond and move away from fossil fuels. However, the people that have done the studies about climate change are generally not benefiting financially from an active public response. That might also help you know who you can trust in this.


What have we learnt from the IPCC report?


(here's the official summary of the Oct 2018 IPCC report)


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a group of 91 scientists from 40 countries who have put together a few reports for the United Nations to help them understand where we're at on Climate Change. This panel doesn't do the actual scientific studies. They review and summarise them. For their latest report they cited 6,000 studies from experts and government advisors around the world.


This is no Mickey Mouse report.


This is not some scientists on the fringe of society trying to be noticed. This is the real deal of where science is at today.


So what are the major take aways from the report?


1) We are already further down the track than expected


These scientists measure the average temperature of the world, and have noticed that things are hotter since the Industrial Revolution. The important number is how many degrees warmer things are since before the Revolution.


This is where we must remember numbers that sound small have BIG impacts.


They've discovered we are unfortunately already a whole 1'C warmer. This might not sound like a lot, but it's scary to consider the impact this is already having...


"One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes" IPCC

2) It will be LOADS better if we can restrict how much hotter the world gets


These clever people in lab coats around the world have been working out predictions for where things are heading currently. And things are not looking pretty!


Previously, the IPCC suggested that we should limit the rise in temperature to 2'C. Now, however, because they've monitored more of the impacts of increasing temperatures, they say there's a BIG difference to our planet between whether we're able to limit the increase to 1.5'C, as apposed to 2'C.


For example, if we limit the increase to 1.5'C, instead of getting to 2'C:


- the water levels won't rise as much

- we'll have fewer extreme heat waves

- there'll be fewer ice free summers in the arctics, leading to fewer habitat losses for polar bears, whales, seals and sea birds.

- we keep some coral reefs (but still lose 70-90%)

- food scarcity would be less of a problem

- hundreds of millions fewer people, particularly in poor countries, would be at risk of climate-related poverty.


You may notice, that at the moment we're after the best of two bad options. 1.5'C still means loads of bad destructive stuff... Just much less bad stuff than if we get to 2'C.


I know... A little gloomy...


3) We have less time left on this track than expected


The clever people and their clever studies have shown that:


"the next few years are probably the most important in our history" IPCC

Our actions, globally, in the next 12 years will determine whether we restrict the increase to 1.5'C.


12 years! That's nothing!


"Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" IPCC

Why should you care?


Honestly, this makes me pretty concerned. I feel the weight of this bearing down on me pretty heavily. Particularly because of my theological understanding that I am an earthling, with particular, God-given responsibility for caring for and preserving this planet.


Perhaps you share the same beliefs personally and this motivates you to act in response, with me, and with the millions of other people taking action.


But even if you don't hold these views, here's some other reasons:


  • Climate change impacts economically disadvantaged people disproportionally more.


This really moves me to act, knowing that my actions (or inaction) really impact and hurt other people on the planet. I might not know them or ever meet them. But I know it's true. And it makes me willing to act, change and sacrifice.


  • Your children, and their children, and their children...

We've known for a while that Climate change was going to affect the future. However, it's no longer a far off prospect. Some of the studies are showing that extreme effects of climate change will exist by 2040... So, think of your children, and their children. Remember that the decisions and actions we take today effect the world that they'll be given.



In the next post in this series I'll explore what we can do in response.

There's good news and bad news.

Stay tuned for that.





This is Part 4 in a mutli-post series/rambling. Here are links to the other posts:

Part 1: Between the Smudges (what it means biblically to be made from the earth)

Part 2: Unearthing Responsibility (the biblical mandate for caring for the planet)

Part 3: The Railroad Switch (the two options we have for the future of our planet)

Part 4: The Report (exploring the IPCC report and what it means for us)

Part 5: In Our Hands (what can we all do to solve this problem?




Other helpful info: