What is really happening with our climate?

What's going on?

It’s been a turbulent month in the media since the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released a report with a powerful message on climate change. We called glaciologist and Milkywire impacter Heïdi Sevestre to get some help understanding what is going on.

"To me, the most important part of this report is the fact that we need to keep global average temperatures below 1.5 degrees. And just to give you an idea, right now, we are already at about 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times."

Heidi Sevestre


What does it all mean? I think it's very important to realize what is already happening at 1.1 degrees Celsius. We've had such an extreme summer, extreme floods, extreme droughts, wildfires. The report shows that under our current trajectory, we could hit 1.5°C in less than 10 years. Beyond 1.5°C we will not be able to stop certain processes such as the melting of the ice sheets, thawing of permafrost, with dramatic impacts on human populations. That cannot happen.

How will the IPCC report be put to use? This strong message will be shared at COP26, and hopefully agreed upon by all countries so we can stop temperature rise before 1.5.

What is COP26 and why does it matter? It is the 26th conference on climate, it is the largest climate conference of the year, taking place from October 31st to November 12th. It’s probably the most important COP yet, since the last COP got postponed to this year due to COVID. The hope is that all signatory 195 countries will pledge ambitious  new climate goals, compatible with this 1.5°C target.

What do you want to see at COP26? I have really, really high hopes for COP26 and I really hope that it's going to be the event that will change everything. This is now or never. And to me, this is really the last COP when we can make a difference.

What do you hope can be achieved? A lot more ambition and a very clear roadmap to how we become carbon neutral by 2050, because it’s the only way to keep temperatures below 1.5°C.

What can a regular person, not invited to COP, really do to make a difference?

You are never too small to make a difference. There are three main things that you can do:

  1. Educate yourself. Read the IPCC report and contact scientists directly with questions (we're always very keen to talk about what we know!) 

  2. Vote for the right people. I'm a firm believer that we will fight this climate crisis through grassroots movements. But, we also have to make sure that the people who are in charge trust and understand the science. It is absolutely essential.

  3. Donate if you can. You can donate monthly to Heïdi’s research here. Milkywire donors were an important part of funding her recent research trip to the Arctic.


Cryosphere Pavilion

Heïdi Sevestre and the organization she works for, ICCI, will be coordinating the Cryosphere Pavilion at COP26 for the second time. For two weeks, they are going to invite experts, policymakers, heads of states, youth and indigenous people to talk about the importance of the cryosphere, and how to preserve as much of it as possible. Stay tuned for more insights and information from Heïdi during COP26 in November.

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Here are the buzzwords you need to know:

The IPCC report The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in August, saying that we need to stop global average temperatures from rising further.

1.5 degrees Celsius This global average temperature is defined as the threshold beyond which irreversible consequences will start to occur, such as multi-meter of sea level rise, extensive permafrost thaw, disappearance of non-polar glaciers. No matter what we do once this threshold is reached, we will not be able to stop these phenomena from accelerating.

1.1 degrees Celsius This is where we are right now, compared to pre-industrial times (1850). It’s not too late to turn it around, but we are already seeing the effects of this, an extreme summer, extreme floods, extreme droughts, wildfires. Right now we are on a trajectory taking us to +3°C, +4°C in the next 80 years.

COP26 The 26th conference on climate, taking place this year in Glasgow, from October 31st to November 12th. Hopefully, 195 countries pledge ambitious new climate goals. The IPCC report is a foundation for the conversations taking place at COP. Heïdi will be at COP this year with her organization.

Carbon neutrality by 2050 According to the IPCC report, this is the only way to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. This will ensure temperatures stay below 1.5°C by the end of the century. Let us hope for high ambition and a clear roadmap on how to get there at COP26.

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