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Following the Most Recent UN Climate Change Report, Here Are Some Policies to Move Us Forward

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It came as no surprise to environmentalists this week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent climate report paints a stark picture: Climate change is happening faster than previously predicted, and the precipice we’re standing on is quickly disintegrating. But there are still plenty of things we can do to battle the climate crisis and adapt to current and future impacts.

Building off the IPCC’s last report in 2013, this assessment brought more than 200 scientists together from around the world to consider all climate research available. The result is the most comprehensive analysis on climate change to date.

Since the last assessment, climate models have become increasingly accurate, making the links between human activity and climate change irrefutable and drawing direct correlations between specific weather events and climate change. 

Other key findings:

  • The last decade was the hottest in 125,000 years, and there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than in the last two million years. Plus, each decade is getting hotter, faster.

  • With improved climate modeling, scientists can better predict the impacts that increasing greenhouse gas emissions will have on the planet.

  • Our oceans are turning acidic, and the Arctic is predicted to be ice-free at least once before 2050.

  • Temperatures will likely rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius, which exceeds the limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement.

Before this report could be published, all UN governments agreed that the findings were accurately summarized. This further confirms that climate science is no longer up for debate and the global community agrees that the warming planet threatens life as we know it.

Here’s what the United States needs to do right away:

  • Electricity Policy: Congress must establish a clean energy standard — something some members of Congress are already pushing for — and expand federal authority over electric transmission line siting, as well as exercise eminent domain to enable better access to renewable resources. Congress should also improve the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) oversight of federal energy markets. Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) has led the charge in bringing the importance of FERC to the forefront of climate action through his “Hot FERC Summer” campaign.

  • Transportation Policy: President Biden has committed to transitioning the federal vehicle fleet to all-electric and has signed an Executive Order aiming to have half of all new U.S. vehicles electric by 2030. To support these initiatives, Congress should require new measures to ensure adequate charging and clean electricity infrastructure. States and local governments can also support this work by creating more walkable cities and prioritizing clean energy investments in efficient, reliable, low-cost public transportation.

  • Public Lands Policy: Congress should enact legislation that would prevent future environmental harms in the face of climate change and mitigate or repair existing harms on our public lands. Congress and the Departments of Interior and Agriculture must work together to implement climate adaptation planning, which will protect species and ecosystems from the worst of climate change and have cascading benefits for public health. The Biden administration must phase out non-renewable energy development on public lands — something the president has halted in some regions but not in others.

In responding to the IPCC and other reports on climate change, governments must approach solutions from a climate justice lens, transitioning to a clean energy future that is inclusive and equitable. Energy, the environment, and the economy are all parts of an interrelated whole — and people are at the heart of it all.

Want more policy recommendations? Visit our Climate, Energy, Justice: The Policy Path to a Just Transition for an Energy Hungry America report page.

Top photo by the author.

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