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RPC Eco-Letter 05: Mitigation Report and The Next Right Thing

Greetings, Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the mitigation of climate change. It will be the last report for a while. I will highlight a few points and then suggest some ideas for actions this Earth Month.

Peace, Jesse

IPCC Mitigation Report

1. We probably won’t limit warming to 1.5 degrees, but we can’t give up

Climate activists have been fighting to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We are currently at 1.1 degrees.

The report finds that exceeding 1.5 is “almost inevitable.” Warming to 1.5, our best-case scenario, will increase the extreme weather events that we are already seeing. Warming to 2 degrees would make many places of the world uninhabitable. Yet there will never be a time to give up—the more warming prevented, the better chances we have of a more livable future.

2. The report offers a path foreword

We can still meet that 1.5 goal, if we stop emissions from rising by 2025 and cut emissions in half by 2030. This requires urgent action across many different sectors. We need to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure, move to renewable energy, electrify everything, conserve energy wherever possible, solve some tricky problems like cement production, and protect forests and wetlands. (This Twitter thread by a report author lays out some of the solutions sector by sector.)

3. Wealthy people could reduce emissions dramatically by shifting lifestyle norms

The problem is not primarily about global population, but more tied to wealth inequality: “The report shows that today the average North American emits 16 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year from fossil fuel use, compared to just 2 tonnes for the average African. Consumption by the top 10% of households comprises over a third of global of greenhouse gases, compared to 15% of these gases for the bottom 50% of households.”

4. We have the technical solutions, but we need the political will

Despite renewable energy dramatically dropping in cost, greenhouse gases have been the highest ever. Many governments are heading in the wrong direction. The Biden Administration seems to be following the lead of Manchin and oil companies by pushing fossil fuels in response to the situation in Ukraine.

5. Listen to the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

  • "The latest @IPCC_CH report is a litany of broken climate promises. Some government & business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another. They are lying. It is time to stop burning our planet.”

  • “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But, the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”

  • “Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

Photo of frost on window by Charlotte Tsuyuki Lehman.

The Next Right Thing

As the parent of a five-year-old, I am familiar with the Disney movie Frozen II. In the song The Next Right Thing, the character Anna expresses her despair: “I've seen dark before, but not like this.” While she feels that “hope is gone”, and she “won't look too far ahead," she decides what she can do is “break it down to this next breath“ and “do the next right thing.”

While I often reference the song to my daughter for more mundane purposes (“Do the next right thing—brush your teeth!”), for a Disney movie, it’s actually a pretty good message on depression.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis. The below list is not The Most Effective Individual Steps to Tackle Climate Change, although that’s good to know too. It is a few ideas of something small you can do now.

1. Show Up at a Rally

After the release of the IPCC report, more than 1,000 scientists risked arrest to demand climate action. I am convinced church members will have to participate in creative non-violence and explore ways to make a public witness. For now, we can join our neighbors, show up at a rally, and see who is there. This Earth Day, 2pm Friday April 22nd, come to Fountain Square for an International Climate Strike.

2. Grow Something

"Gardening is one of the most vital practices for teaching people the art of creaturely life," writes Norman Wrizba. "Gardeners are invited to learn patience and to develop the sort of sympathy in which personal flourishing becomes tied to the flourishing of the many creatures that nurture them." You don't need to plan a full garden plot. You can start with a pot on the porch or some herbs by the window.

3. Pay Attention to Other Creatures

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer looks to plants and animals to see what lessons they can teach us. Author and wilderness educator Todd Wynward suggests we become disciples of our watershed, treating our watershed as a wise Rabbi. Consider a regular practice that helps you pay more careful attention to the actual creatures sharing life with us in our particular place. It could be identifying plants, watching birds, nature journaling, or taking a meditative walk to the lake.

4. Repair Something

We will need to learn to be more resourceful. Mend a sweater, darn a sock. Take something broken to a Repair Cafe. The next one is at Robert Crown 10am-noon, Tuesday April 19th. Or learn to repair a bicycle at The Recyclery Collective.

5. Read a Book

Alongside more hands-on actions, we can also deepen our understanding of our situation. Read nonfiction like Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, Amitav Ghosh’s The Nutmeg’s Curse, or Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. Or a novel like Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior. Or something from this list. Read on your own or, even better, with a book group.

RPC Eco-Letter by Jesse Miller 535 Custer Ave EVANSTON, IL 60202 USA

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