Are We Okay? What to Know About the IPCC Report

If you have a news subscription to… well… anywhere, you’ve likely seen the phrase “IPCC Report” pop up on your phone. That’s because on Monday, February 28, a new report on the health of the planet was delivered by an international team of scientists, including 270 researchers from 67 countries. The IPCC Report Summary will help shape global policy around natural resources, ocean health, agriculture and more—and they can also help us focus on the most effective ways to protect the planet and all living things.

Before we dive in, a quick note: At Wild Elements, we know it can be really overwhelming to see so much info about the IPCC Report on climate change all at once. It’s normal to feel frozen, confused, or angry when confronted with the fact that not everyone cares about the planet the way they should. But you should also know that a lot of people do care about biodiversity, nature, and a future where we can all thrive. You are one of those people, and there are millions more like you.

Together, we can use this IPCC Report to help pinpoint areas in need, next-gen solutions, and areas where small steps (upcycling, eating plant-based meals, etc.) are already creating big changes.

Let’s get into it.

What Is the IPCC?

IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It’s a part of the United Nations (UN) that was created way back in 1988 “to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments” on the environment. Today, the IPCC focuses specifically on climate change and its effects on planetary health.

What Does the IPCC Say About the Environment?

In the words of the UN Secretary General António Guterres, “people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change.” (Yes, that’s a direct quote.) Basically, the IPCC has found that environmental catastrophes are getting worse. About half of the world’s population is at risk of water scarcity, with many already experiencing water scarcity for some part of the year. Extreme weather has displaced more than 12 million people in 2020 alone. Rising temperatures enable mosquitos and other insects to spread disease at a faster rate, and as much as 8% of the world’s farmland could disappear in the next few decades due to poor soil health and growing conditions.


Yeah, it’s not great. In fact, it’s awful. But it’s not game over for personal and planetary health, either.

Is there a point of no return?

Great question! The number we need to know is 1.5 degrees Celsius, or about 34.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If our average planetary atmosphere gets 1.5 degrees warmer, we will likely face crises like malnutrition, drought, and further endangered and even extinct plant, animal, and fungi species. Scientists estimate that if nothing changes, we will exceed this temperature ceiling by 2034—about twelve years.

But things will change, right?

Yes and we have to change them! That includes big changes in the way governments and financial institutions work, and smaller changes we can all make in our everyday lives.

How can our governments do better?

Systemic change requires systems to change. There’s no way around it. According to the IPCC, world governments need to take immediate steps to protect at least 30%—50% of the world’s remaining natural habitats ASAP, with special attention paid to “carbon sinks” (i.e. habitats that capture carbon from the atmosphere) like peat bogs, mangroves, and forests. Governments also need to enact serious limits on fossil fuel use, chemical runoff, deforestation, and transportation emissions. Regional governments need to invest in better infrastructure, food and water availability, and climate education for their residents. And of course, governments can stop waging war, which destroys habitats and humanity for absolutely no good reason.

How can we help our governments do better?

Vote. Call your elected officials, remind them you are a voter, and ask them their plans about the IPCC findings. Show up to your local town halls and ask about available compost bins, plant-based meals served at public schools, plastic bag regulations in local stores, and available library books and public transportation for all residents. And if you’re not liking what you see? Volunteer for a political campaign you believe in, or run for a local office yourself. Not your thing? That’s okay—again, vote!

How can our industries do better?

Many companies need to begin choosing the planet and its people over cheaper packaging and high-impact / low-cost materials like plastic.

How can we help our industries do better?

You can help them do that by choosing low-impact, ethically made food and products whenever possible, and being vocal (but kind, please!) on social media about what information you need before making a purchase. Companies can’t exist without customers, so where you spend your money really matters. Try to make informed purchases to the best of your (and your budget’s) ability.

How can we do better?

Thank you for asking! There’s a lot we can do to support planetary wellness, including taking public transportation or a bike instead of a car, investing in renewable energy sources like solar paneling when we’re building new homes, and buying resale instead of new clothes. But maybe the singular easiest thing we can do for the planet is stop wasting food. The UN says if we cut our food waste in half by 2030 and start composting our plant-based food waste instead of chucking it into the garbage, we can save 17% of methane emissions while improving soil health.

What are some small steps I can take, like, today?

Don’t buy something (like a bag of kale) because you “should” have it. Buy it because you’re going to eat it. Don’t be afraid to buy “ugly” food at the supermarket—just because an orange has a little scar on its outer skin doesn’t mean it’ll taste any different! And by eating more plant-based meals, you make your leftover food more compostable and cut down on your food’s carbon emissions. Our friends at Thrive Global break it down further here, and you can learn more about food waste problems and solutions here.

Thanks! I think I need a break now.

Totally understandable. We have a little meditation reel here if you want to breathe for a minute.