New IPCC Report: Impending Irreversible Climate Devastation (again)

New IPCC Report: Impending Irreversible Climate Devastation (again)


As if a global pandemic and the threat of world war weren’t enough, the cheerful souls at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have threatened climate-related mayhem will be coming for us as well. Again. 

The IPCC report, “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”, again highlighted the rapidly closing window of opportunity we have to act on climate change, if we want to lessen its worst effects. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres didn’t mince his words, describing the report as an “atlas of human suffering” whilst condemning “failed climate leadership”. According to IPCC co-chair Prof Debra Roberts: "Our report clearly indicates that places where people live and work may cease to exist, that ecosystems and species that we've all grown up with and that are central to our cultures and inform our languages may disappear.” 

Despite (or maybe because of) the existential threats of destruction in the new IPCC report, it didn’t seem to be a priority for students we asked. “It’s long, and I think it will make me feel depressed. I would probably read a summary of it though,” said 2nd year student Linea. Work smarter, not harder, as they say. 

Any solution to the problem, said the Marine Science department’s Professor Chris Hepburn, “requires long-term thinking… an inclusive approach that incorporates cultural values, indigenous, local and scientific knowledge and enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience – all of which requires place-based knowledge and data.” In the context of Aotearoa, “we must engage Mātauranga Māori, applying principles such as kaitiakitanga, and empower local and more long term views of managing the environmental and natural resources often applied by indigenous peoples.”

For its part, the Uni emitted 30,661 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent gases in 2020. To make those numbers slightly more relatable, that’s the equivalent of driving 17,521 Suzuki Swifts for a year, or producing 456 bottles of beer for every Otago student. “As part of pursuing net zero by 2030, the University is targeting reducing emissions by 54 per cent from the 2019 base year by 2029,” said Sustainability Office Head Ray O’Brien.

Either way, it’s probably past time for all of us to wake up and smell the burning rainforest. As for our leaders - well, let’s just say we’ll be watching you. 

This article first appeared in Issue 2, 2022.
Posted 2:35pm Sunday 6th March 2022 by Zak Rudin.