What Is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?

Hurricanes Maria, Harvey, Florence, Typhoon Mangkhut, the Indonesian Earthquake, the devastating fires in California and continuing droughts throughout countries in Africa and Europe as well as in Australia and India are wake-up calls to the reality that climate change is not something that will happen in the future, but that is happening right now and affecting millions of people throughout the world. The recent release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report challenges us to begin NOW to make the changes necessary to avoid catastrophic disruptions to life as we know it.

Established by the World Meteorological Society and the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988, the IPCC’s mandate is “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.” It is the most comprehensive and detailed analysis of the effects of climate change available. The most recent report issued in October of 2018 has 91 authors from 40 countries, 133 contributing authors, over 6,000 cited references and a total of 42,000 expert and government review comments.

According to the report governments around the world must take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” in order to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. The report goes on to say that “the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people” Scientists arrived at the year 2030 based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions. They noted that failure to act will significantly alter life for many people alive today.

According to Andrew King, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia, “This is concerning because we know there are so many more problems if we exceed 1.5 degrees C global warming, including more heatwaves and hot summers, greater sea level rise, and, for many parts of the world, worse droughts and rainfall extremes…The window on keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C is closing rapidly and the current emissions pledges made by signatories to the Paris Agreement do not add up to us achieving that goal.”

Recall that the Paris Agreement signed in 2016 was a voluntary commitment by leaders throughout the world:

  • To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century;
  • To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2 degrees C (3.6 F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 C.
  • To review progress every five years; and
  • To provide $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

(Former President Obama did sign this agreement, but President Trump has since withdrawn United States’ support for it.)

The new IPPC report finds that “limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C would require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. According to Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, “Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”

The science is clear. 97% of the world’s top scientists agree that climate change is happening and that it is primarily human-induced. Former Vice President Al Gore said, “Today the world’s leading scientific experts collectively reinforced what Mother Nature has made clear – that we need to undergo an urgent and rapid transformation to a global clean energy economy…Unfortunately, the Trump administration has become a rogue outlier in its shortsighted attempt to prop up the dirty fossil fuel industries of the past. The administration is in direct conflict with American businesses, states, cities, and citizens leading the transformation.”

One of the leaders in this transformation is the City of Cincinnati which recently received a 2.5 million dollar award from Bloomberg Philanthropies as “a winning city because of their innovative and ambitious climate action plans to reduce air pollution and citywide emissions with specific projects aimed at reforming their respective transit and buildings sectors.” Bloomberg Philanthropies also recognized Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley for his commitment to “ambitious climate action and securing a cleaner, safer, and healthier environment and economy for Cincinnati residents, businesses and visitors”.

It is now in the hands of the people in each city and country to make sure that their governments incorporate the findings of the IPCC in all decisions (building, transportation, energy, etc.) in order to ensure a sustainable world, not only for those alive today, but for all future generations to come. The ancestors of the Iroquois wisely noted that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world for seven generations to come.

What can one person do?

  • Write a letter to the editor expressing your concerns about the environment.
  • Contact local, state and national government officials to ask what they are doing as a response to the IPCC Report?
  • Evaluate your own lifestyle and what you can do personally to live a more sustainable life. Think about:
    • Eating choices
    • Alternative fuels
    • Changing light bulbs
    • Composting
    • Planting a garden in the spring
    • Joining an environmental group
    • etc., etc., etc.

For more information and/or to read the report go to www.ipcc.ch

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The building of EC and projects at the Motherhouse!

We would like to share with you a short two-minute video on the building of EarthConnection and the recent projects that the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati have taken to reduce their carbon footprint.

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Who Is My Neighbor in a Climate Threatened World?

The title of this blog is borrowed from Catholic Climate Covenant (catholicclimatecovenant.org).  It is the theme they chose for the Feast of St. Francis this year. Given the extreme weather events we have seen during the past year and are continuing to see today as Hurricane Florence continues to devastate the Carolinas, Super Typhoon Mangkhut slams into the Philippines with winds up to 180 mph and almost daily news of forest fires destroying homes and lives in the west, it is time reflect on exactly “Who is my neighbor?” and what is my responsibility to my neighbor?

In Luke, we find the parable of the Good Samaritan in which Jesus asks after telling the parable, “Who is the neighbor in this story?” We have all probably read or heard that parable multiple times in our lives and agreed that the Samaritan was indeed the real neighbor. However, because Jesus used images from his time and place the full effect of what he was telling the people often escapes our notice. Perhaps a retelling of this parable using images from our time will help us to better understand who my neighbor is.

A young man was delivering a pizza and stopped his car in front of a house and got out. While double-checking the address to be sure he was at the right place, someone came up to him, beat him and stole the pizza, his money and cell phone. Shortly after a businessman came by and saw the young man lying by the side of the road, but was in a hurry to get home for dinner so did not stop. A short time after that a clergy person passed by, but was on his way to an ecumenical prayer service and did not want to be late so he did not stop. A while later a young undocumented immigrant working at a local factory passed by and she stopped to help. She was afraid of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and that she might be deported, but her faith was strong and she knew that helping this young man was what God required of her. Who is the neighbor in this story?

The message of the Good Samaritan was not about Samaritans being good people. It was about the fact that it is often those who are often cast aside or living on the margins who God uses to call us to faithful discipleship. Who is God using today to call you and me? Do we hear the cries of those locked in detention centers? Do we hear the screams of the children separated from their parents? Do we see the face of God in the thousands suffering and dying from hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, fires and other natural disasters? Do we recognize the role that climate change plays in the refugee crises? Do we ever take the time to ask ourselves what role we play in global climate change?

Each of us must ask daily, “Who is my neighbor?” and how am I being called to respond to my neighbors’ needs? It really does no good to feel sorry for people if we are not moved to action. What I buy, what I eat, the waste I throw away – all has an effect on my neighbor. We have only one home, Planet Earth, and it belongs to all of us. Jesus came to show us how to live according to God’s plan. His whole life was one of giving and modeling for us what we are called to do.

Private actions, though important, are not enough. It is time to work together. Last week 4,000 climate advocates, foreign dignitaries, investors, and state and local officials gathered for a Global Climate Action Summit co-hosted by Governor Jerry Brown of California and Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor. “According to Brown and Bloomberg this “coalition of the willing” now represent over half the population of the United States, over half the American economy and more than a third of its nationwide greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the lack of action at the national level and policies that only add to climate change, many people recognize the dangers of continuing to ignore what is happening before their eyes and want to make a difference. What is happening in your community? How committed is your local government to making the kinds of changes that are needed to reduce the use of fossil fuels? What is your faith community saying and doing to protect God’s creation? Find like-minded people and together strategize as to what you can do to make the world a welcoming place for all.

The immigrant, the prisoner, the outcast, the other – all are my neighbors and God calls me to love them and share Earth’s bounty with them.  How will I treat my neighbor today?

September 17, 2018



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