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IPCC Special Report… some key issues for consideration

This week the much-anticipated IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes was officially published, after a draft version was leaked in July. It lays out the harrowing fact that our planet is in crisis, and that we must act now if we have any chance of it recovering. In response to the official publication, Earthwatch’s Sustainability Inspiration Manager, Bex Craske, looks past the media headlines and sets out some key issues in this blog.

 Image result for climate change report


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, and despite providing regular assessments on climate change and its impacts, future risks and options for adaptation and mitigation since 1988, they have languished in relative obscurity.

That was until they released their report on 1.5 degrees last December which made a clear leap from the realms of science and policy conversations into mainstream discourse. Their released yesterday is set to claim a similar key place as a cultural, governmental and scientific reference point on our discussions, planning and actions on climate change.

The leaked version of the report has gained widespread coverage across many media outlets over the last few months. Having read the leaked report, it was interesting to watch the global response and the headlines generated – each media outlet picked a key finding or fact that not only made a striking headline but also reflected the publication’s wider agenda and audience. The diversity of headlines and ‘key points’ from the same report only goes to highlight its depth and breadth. The fact that the reports were made from a draft leaked copy highlights not only our desire for ‘news’ but also  the need for a shift from climate awareness raising to ‘climate action’ – there is a need for simple guidance on what we can actually ‘do’.

Given that this is a summary document, designed to inform policymakers of the key facts, issues and options for action, the entire contents are worthy of our attention. So how best to highlight the salient points not yet covered by the eye-catching headlines already shared?  As a frequent reader of climate reporting there are some not-so-headline-friendly points that truly stand out:

  • Land resources are not only highlighted as a basis for livelihoods via economic benefits, but also in the form of cultural, spiritual and health benefits.
  • The whole report is based on an interconnected systems approach for both ecological systems and human systems and how the two intertwine. It highlights that the choices we make in one system may have unintended impacts and consequences in another, and that any approach we take must acknowledge and balance benefits and trade-offs, not just to inform choice making but also to overcome barriers to implementation.
  • The report reinforces the need for integration across the whole of our human operating systems. Actions, conversations, policies and interventions need to be across all sectors from public health and transportation to business ‘value chain management’, tackling issues and integrating within and across systems. Businesses as well as governments are called to action.

Reversing land degradation is cost effective and gives immediate benefits to communities. With all the recent reporting on the need to plant thousands of trees, the report’s clear message that sustainable land management will only be successful if it is implemented in a way that is appropriate for the existing ecosystems (including using natural vegetation and native plant species) and existing communities in that location could not be more salient. The report goes on to state that it is ‘essential’ to consider land tenure and gender, indigenous practices and the involvement of the most vulnerable people in decision-making. The report not only advocates an integrated people-centred approach that combines indigenous, local and scientific knowledge - but states it is the only viable way forward: “When social learning is combined with collective action transformational change can occur.”

The focus of our actions needs to not only be taking stock and responsibility for the daily choices we make, but also include filling knowledge gaps, accelerating knowledge transfer and building capacity as a global society. Honest. Honest conversation about climate change is a great place to start.


The final message, that I make no apology for repeating: there is no time to spare. 



 Rebecca Craske, Sustainability Inspiration Manager, Earthwatch Europe


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