The highest authority on climate change pinpoints problems, solutions—and the power of culture.
This update from the IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recaps the long-term impacts of climate change and potential solutions. But unlike past reports, it also explains the role of cultural influence in preventing catastrophic global warming. It’s an unmistakable call for content creators and role models to play a critical role. Here’s a breakdown of 5 key takeaways.
There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
The picture the IPCC paints of the state-of-the-climate today is a pretty grim one. We’re not on track to meet the targets we set in the Paris Climate Agreement.1, 2 And if we don’t act fast, we’re headed for ecosystem collapse, overlapping refugee crises, and food instability.3
We all have a role to play in addressing the climate crisis. The window for us to make meaningful change is rapidly closing—but it’s not closed yet. This is our chance, the IPCC tells us, to make possible a “livable and sustainable future for all.”1, 4
Emissions come from everywhere, so solutions can come from anywhere.
Greenhouse gasses (GHGs) come from more than the fuel we burn directly. They come from our homes, our food, and just about everything we buy. People create demand for the energy, materials, and policies that cause climate change, so people can dramatically reduce GHGs by shifting what they demand.5
16% Mostly from home heating and electricity, plus offices, factories, schools and more.
15% Mostly from driving, plus flying, shipping, trains and more.
22% Mostly from food and agriculture, plus forestry and more.
34% Mostly from chemicals, cement, and steel, plus waste and other industry.
12% Mostly from the extraction of fossil fuels, plus other energy systems.
Solutions to climate change are known, and cultural narratives are an essential part.
The IPCC paints a clear picture of what needs to happen.
To bring carbon pollution down, we need to reimagine how we live.6 But established narratives on the climate crisis and our role in it are a major barrier to large scale action. Facing a challenge like this, it’s no surprise that so many of us think nothing we do will matter. But the IPCC recognizes that shifts in key narratives can change attitudes towards new behavior, and create better enabling environments for bold policy solutions.7
See how the IPCC Report discusses these narratives
Doom to Possibility: “Unclear or dystopian narratives of climate response reduce willingness to change and to accept new policies and technologies,” “Positive narratives about possible futures that avoid emissions (e.g., emphasis upon health and slow/active travel)” from IPCC Report Table 5.4 of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022
Powerlessness to Agency: “Transition pathways and changes in social norms often start with pilot experiments led by dedicated individuals and niche groups (high confidence). Collectively, such initiatives can find entry points to prompt policy, infrastructure, and policy reconfigurations, supporting the further uptake of technological and lifestyle innovations. Individuals’ agency is central as social change agents and narrators of meaning. These bottom-up socio-cultural forces catalyse a supportive policy environment, which enables changes.” from IPCC Report TS.5.8 of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022
Sacrifice to Benefit: “Loss aversion magnifies the costs of change,” “Various lock-in mechanisms such as sunk investments, capabilities, embedding in routines/lifestyles”, “Positive narratives about possible futures that avoid emissions (e.g., emphasis upon health and slow/active travel)” from IPCC Report Table 5.4 of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022
Inevitability to Action: “Climate movements that call out the insufficient, highly problematic state of delayed climate action” from Chapter 5 Executive Summary of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022. “Use of full range of incentives and mechanisms to change demand-side behaviour,” IPCC Report Table 5.4 of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022
Since culture is key, creators have the power to unlock climate-centric social norms.
The IPCC explicitly called on social influencers to play a critical role in the adoption of low-carbon technologies, behaviors, and lifestyles.8 Because creators and anyone with an online following can shape today’s culture by modeling what matters and what’s possible.
Climate is a creative opportunity. How should people live and get around? What should they eat and buy? What should they demand?9
Climate is a justice issue. Because those who contributed the least to climate change will suffer the most.
The IPCC makes clear that those who are the least responsible for climate change are the most at risk.11 No matter where you live, the report explains that poor people, women, and indigenous populations are the most vulnerable to climate impacts.12 What you do right now to address the crisis is more than creating a livable planet for yourself and your children, it’s about re-imagining a better world for all of us.
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- 1. “ Back
- 2. Global GHG emissions in 2030 implied by nationally determined contributions (NDCs) announced by October 2021 make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C.” from A.4 of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Synthesis, March 19th, 2023. Back
- 3. “Future exposure to climatic hazards is increasing globally due to socio-economic development trends including migration, growing inequality and urbanisation”... “Hazards and associated risks expected in the near-term include an increase in heat-related human mortality and morbidity (high confidence), food-borne, water-borne, and vector-borne diseases (high confidence), and mental health challenges36 (very high confidence), flooding in coastal and other low-lying cities and regions (high confidence), biodiversity loss in land, freshwater and ocean ecosystems (medium to very high confidence, depending on ecosystem), and a decrease in food production in some regions (high confidence)” from B.2.4 of the Sixth Assessment Report Synthesis, March 19th, 2023. Back
- 4. There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all” from C.1 of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Synthesis, March 19th, 2023. Back
- 5. Demand-side measures and new ways of end-use service provision can reduce global GHG emissions in end-use sectors (buildings, land transport, food) by 40–70% by 2050 compared to baseline scenarios” from Panel B of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Synthesis, March 19th, 2023. Back
- 6. “Rapid and far-reaching transitions across all sectors and systems are necessary to achieve deep and sustained emissions reductions and secure a liveable and sustainable future for all” from C.4 of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Synthesis, March 19th, 2023. “Wealthy individuals contribute disproportionately to higher emissions and have a high potential for emissions reductions while maintaining decent living standards and well-being (high confidence). Individuals with high socio-economic status are capable of reducing their GHG emissions by becoming role models of low-carbon lifestyles, investing in low-carbon businesses, and advocating for stringent climate policies” from IPCC Report Chapter 5, Executive Summary of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022. Back
- 7. “By drawing support from diverse actors, narratives of change can enable coalitions to form, providing the basis for social movements to campaign in favour of (or against) societal transformations. People act and contribute to climate change mitigation in their diverse capacities as consumers, citizens, professionals, role models, investors, and policymakers.” from IPCC Report Chapter 5, Executive Summary of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022 Back
- 8. “Social influencers and thought leaders can increase the adoption of low-carbon technologies, behaviours, and lifestyles (high confidence). Preferences are malleable and can align with a cultural shift. The modelling of such shifts by salient and respected community members can help bring about changes in different service provisioning systems. Between 10% and 30% of committed individuals are required to set new social norms.” from IPCC Report Chapter 5, Executive Summary of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022. Back
- 9. “Socio-cultural and lifestyle changes can accelerate climate change mitigation (medium confidence). Among 60 identified actions to change, individual consumption, individual mobility choices have the largest potential to reduce carbon footprints. Prioritizing car-free mobility by walking and cycling and adoption of electric mobility saves 2 tCO2e cap-1 yr-1. Other high mitigation potentials include reduced air travel, cooling setpoint adjustments, reduced appliance use, shifts to public transit, and plant-based diets” from IPCC Report Chapter 5, Executive Summary of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022 Back
- 10. “Social influencers and thought leaders can increase the adoption of low-carbon technologies, behaviours, and lifestyles (high confidence). Preferences are malleable and can align with a cultural shift. The modelling of such shifts by salient and respected community members can help bring about changes in different service provisioning systems. Between 10% and 30% of committed individuals are required to set new social norms.” from IPCC Report Chapter 5, Executive Summary of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022 Back
- 11. “Reducing climate impacts is another important dimension of equity, in that the poor who are least responsible for climate change are most vulnerable to its impacts” from IPCC Report Chapter 4.5 of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022 Back
- 12. “Vulnerability is exacerbated by inequity and marginalisation linked to e.g., gender, ethnicity, low incomes, informal settlements, disability, age, and historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, especially for many Indigenous Peoples and local communities.” from C.5.3. of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report Synthesis, March 19th, 2023. “Worldwide, racialised and Indigenous people bear the brunt of environmental and climate injustices through geographic location in extraction and energy 'sacrifice zones', areas most impacted by extreme weather events, and/or through inequitable energy access...Women have less access to social protections and their capacity to absorb economic shocks is very low, so they face a ‘triple burden’ during crises – including those resulting from climate change – and this is heightened for women in the less-developed countries and for those who are intersectionally vulnerable” from IPCC Report Box 5.4 of Mitigation of Climate Change, 2022 Back
- 13. Global Carbon Project, 2021, Friedlingstein, P. et al., referenced by the IPCC Report on Mitigation of Climate Change Back
- 14. Figure 7.2 from IPCC Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Back
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