New Climate Change Report Highlights Urgency to Take Action

One of our purposes at Sustainable Woodstock is to encourage the public to not become complacent about climate and ecological issues. For many people, these problems are background noise compared to their real, everyday concerns—they seem too big to deal with, or not imminent enough to worry about. However, an updated report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently reminded us of the urgent need to address these challenges in every way we can.

More than 300 scientists contributed to the IPCC’s latest report, after an exhaustive review of peer reviewed studies. The need for action is clear. “Now we are at the point where there is so much information, so much evidence, that we can no longer plead ignorance,” said Michel Jarraud of the World Meteorological Organization.

The report emphasizes that climate change is not a problem of the distant future; it is happening now, evidenced by a rising sea level, disruption of species habitats, droughts, flooding, and extreme weather events. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said the IPCC’s chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri.  In particular, the report sounds an alarm about food supplies. Climate change is already having a negative effect on agricultural yields, and unless the trend is reversed, this will become a huge global problem.

“Throughout the 21st century,” the report says, “climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps.” Journalist Andrew Freedman writes that the report “paints a bleak picture of a hotter, more unstable future in which the combination of climate change and population growth combine to overwhelm the capacity of natural and human systems, resulting in increased poverty, conflict, and species extinction”—a future for which we are “ill-prepared.”

We can still avert the worst of these effects, states the report, by working harder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through consumption of fossil fuels. As individuals and small communities, there is much we can do, from insulating our homes and installing solar panels to being more efficient in transportation. We cannot wait for international treaties or national policies; local actions, multiplied by millions, will have immediate effects and put pressure on policymakers.

But in many ways, climate science is now telling us, it is too late:  some disruption of weather patterns is already occurring, and a second crucial task facing humanity is to adapt to new geographical and agricultural realities. As we say in the sustainability movement, our task now is to develop more resilient economic and social systems. We need to start replacing rigid centralized systems with flexible, localized ones. We should begin to wean ourselves from long distance supply chains and learn to cultivate community-centered self-reliance.

Sustainable Woodstock works to reduce our negative impacts on the climate and ecosystem, and to develop a resilient community. We invite all area residents to join us in these endeavors, starting with these three upcoming events:

This Sunday,  April 13, Vital Communities holds its annual Flavors of the Valley fair at Hartford High School from 11:00 to 3:00. More than fifty local farms and food enterprises will share samples and information. Emily Gardner of Vital Communities  says it is an opportunity “to foster our communities’ love of local agriculture, and rejoice in our region’s unique farming heritage.”

Tuesday, April 22 is Earth Day, and Sustainable Woodstock, with Norman Williams Public Library, will show a powerful film about the long-neglected report “Limits to Growth” and the idealistic young scientists who produced it. Join us at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, April 26, plan to attend Sustainable Woodstock’s public Annual Meeting and brunch at Worthy Kitchen. Contact us at 457-2911 for details.

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