Climate change took center stage over the summer.
There was a heat wave in Greenland, record flooding in Europe, persistent drought in the American Southwest, devastating fires in California and Hurricane Ida, the fifth-strongest storm to ever hit the U.S. mainland, which left a path of destruction from Louisiana to New York City.
In August, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report, produced by hundreds of the world’s top scientists, stating unequivocally that the climate crisis is caused by human activities and is affecting the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system.
These changes will increase with further warming, the report stated. Here are some of the sobering findings:
- Climate change is intensifying the water cycle, bringing more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.
- Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it’s projected to decrease in the subtropics.
- Coastal areas will continue to see sea levels rise, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding. Extreme sea level events that had occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.
- Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing and the loss of snow cover, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets and the loss of summer Arctic sea ice.
- For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat and flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea level rise in coastal cities.
The IPCC also offered this bit of hope: As much as human actions have caused climate change, human actions also have the potential to determine the future course of the climate. But this shift in course must happen soon.
“Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions,” Panmao Zhai, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group, said in a news release.
Easier said than done, say some. Turning things around would take a coordinated, global paradigm shift in how industries, institutions, economies and governments operate and how we as consumers in wealthy nations conduct our lives.
Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, offers inspiration for such an undertaking, and this year’s Notre Dame Forum invites the University community to consider “Care for Our Common Home: Just Transition to a Sustainable Future.”