Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the planet is warming. The world’s top scientists have established and agreed that the warming is “unequivocal” and, in many cases, “unprecedented,” and that humanity’s influence on it is “clear.” With global greenhouse gas emissions at their highest level in history, the impacts of climate change have already been felt “on all continents and across the oceans;” the more we emit, the more the warming will continue, and the likelier we’ll all be to experience “severe, pervasive and irreversible” consequences. Our only chance at changing that narrative is to bring about “substantial and sustained” reductions in emissions. And we need to do it as soon as humanly possible.
The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (re)established as much Sunday in its Synthesis Report, the “greatest hits” document, of sorts, of a yearlong process to assess the current state of climate change: the science, the potential impacts and the best strategies for mitigation.
This latest exercise might feel redundant, were it not for the fact that its message, while beginning to stick, still hasn’t entirely sunken in. There is still time to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, you can practically hear the report’s authors shouting, but we have to take drastic action now — and world leaders must reach a strong, lasting agreement to save the world by December 2015, when they’re set to meet in Paris. At the report’s launch, U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon summed the situation up even more succinctly: “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”