A panel of scholars convened over Zoom Wednesday to speak about the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the severity of climate change and how humanity can adapt to a reality of extreme weather. The scholars called for a change in behavior for the future while humans still have the chance to prevent potential extreme effects on the climate.
Since its inception in 1988, the IPCC, an intergovernmental body under the United Nations, has published five reports with an upcoming report expected to be published in 2022. A contribution to this sixth report was published in August and was the topic of the panel’s discussion.
The first speaker was Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, a professor in the department of environmental sciences and policy at Central European University and a co-author of the IPCC report. She covered key insights on the recent severe weather that she said stems from climate change, including fires, floods, droughts and extreme heat from as recent as August.
Debra Javeline, an associate professor in the department of political science, spoke after Ürge-Vorsatz. Javeline, who specializes in studying the adaptations of climate change, questioned how people are anticipating potential effects of climate change.
“What are we humans doing to protect ourselves, and not just in a reactive way, but in a proactive way, anticipating the impacts, maximizing the chance that people will not only survive, but be able to thrive as individuals and communities?” Javeline asked.
Warning of the potential impacts of climate change in the future, Javeline said even economically developed countries lack proper preparation to combat climate change.
“We don’t spend enough time on the big picture story, which is that we are not ready, we’re not prepared for the impacts of climate change,” Javeline said. “What we just saw in July and August of 2021, that is our new normal. That is the beginning. And those events occurred in some of the best resourced nations in the world. And even these best resourced nations are unprepared,” Javeline said.
Anne Valkengoed, a researcher and faculty of behavioral and social sciences at the University of Groningen, spoke last. She delved into the behavioral changes she said humanity has to undergo in order to adapt to the effects of climate change. Valkengoed said there are six different categories for how people can adapt to climate change: information-seeking, preparation, protection, insurance, political actions and evacuation and migration.
Javeline said these changes can be difficult and present challenging questions on how to adapt most effectively. Javeline encouraged having conversations about these questions, citing the problems faced when rebuilding a vulnerable area after an extreme weather event.
“The conversations seem almost exclusively centered around rebuilding or what we do to restore these areas,” Javeline said.
After opening up the discussion to responses from the viewers, an anonymous participant asked if there are reasons to hope that extreme effects on the climate can be avoided. In response, Ürge-Vorsatz said people should not panic.
“There is absolutely no reason for despair,” she said. “It is important to be aware of these risks, which are very real … if we do manage to stop warming at one and a half degrees, which is one and a half degrees centigrade, warmer than pre-industrial levels, then we can still pretty comfortably say that we can adapt to most of the changes.”