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The UN Sounds All the Alarms

An illustration of the planet Earth sitting on top of crumpled cigarettes in a grey ashtray. Smoke fumes are rising off the top of the Earth.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an official UN task force, released a 3,949-page report from 234 scientists yesterday that called current climate change trends a “code red for humanity.”

Here’s what you need to know

It’s all our fault. If there was any doubt that maybe we could partly blame volcanoes for climate change, the IPCC put it to rest. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land,” the scientists wrote. They found that human activity has increased the global average temperature by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century.

Weather goes mid-2000s candy “EXXTREME!” Tropical storms, heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and flooding are all expected to get more severe and more frequent if climate change continues at its current rate, the report said.More extreme weather shouldn’t just be thought of in the future tense, but the here and now. Just last week Greece, Turkey, and much of the Western US experienced some of their worst wildfires in history. 

All eyes on the energy industry. The report blamed one particular human activity for exacerbating climate change: burning fossil fuels. CO2 levels in the atmosphere are the highest they’ve been in 2 million years. “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet,” UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres said. 

There’s a little hope. Since the IPCC’s last big report in 2013, countries have done a better job in curbing carbon emissions. But they need to speed up those cuts dramatically, the report argued. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to keep global temps from spiraling higher.

Looking ahead…world leaders will head to Glasgow, Scotland, in November for the pivotal COP26 international climate talks. They’ll be tasked with taking the IPCC’s scientific report and turning it into meaningful policy. 
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