The Report Card Every Parent Should Read

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Take 3 minutes and read our planet's report card-it's now a slideshow. Our kids may thank us.
Take 3 minutes and read our planet’s report card slideshow. Who knows? Maybe our kids will thank us.

If you have school-aged children, you know that it’s almost report card time. Report cards offer parents a snapshot of your child’s bright spots, but also spell-out those “areas of challenge.”   

Another important report card was quietly posted three years ago by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This fifth report card spelled out not if man-made climate change is here, but by how much.

Though most of us have yet to review Planet Earth’s report card – it’s now a readable slideshow – the positive news is that our world’s leaders, major corporations, U.S. federal, state and city governments, have all read the IPCC’s 5th climate report.

And they’re finally acting on it. Climate progress is accelerating. Read this important report card and learn what will be required to make our legacy be one of climate action, not denial.

United Nation International Panel on Climate Change has been cranking out planet report cards since 1990.
The U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change has been cranking out planet report cards since 1990.

Created in 1988 by the United Nations, IPCC is a working panel of thousands of our world’s climate scientists. Split into working groups, the scientists analyze and summarize the latest climate science.  Since 1990, IPCC working groups have published five massive climate reports written with policymakers in mind. 

Published on September 27, 2013, the 5th report’s key conclusion is:  Global warming is indeed man-made and caused by too many heat-trapping greenhouse gases (carbon dioxode and methane) in our atmosphere. 

Based on various levels of continued greenhouse gas pollution, the IPCC forecasts to what degree air temperatures will rise, glaciers will melt, sea levels will rise, oceans will heat up, and drought and rain amounts will change.  The IPCC report card also gave a “do not pass go” global temp rise of 2 ℃ (3.6℉) in order to keep our planet in this climate range. To stay below a 2 ℃ temp rise, the IPCC estimates that fossil fuel use will need to be cut 80 percent by 2050.

For mainstream audiences, the IPCC summarized the 5th report card in this short online slideshow. Our children will surely appreciate their parents understanding the climate story.

Summarized in a short online slide show, you don't need a science degree to understand The 5th IPCC report card. Slides 17-21 are critical to know.
You don’t need a science degree to understand the 5th IPCC report card. Slides 17-21 are critical to know. Scenario RCP8.5 assumes greenhouse gas emissions stay on their current path.

“Global warming can’t be that bad if I don’t hear much it”

In all fairness, you might be skeptical or assume climate change is far off, because global warming hasn’t come out of the closet.   

Only half of Americans hear global warming mentioned in any media source in a month’s timeframe.  Compounding the media’s silence, 80 percent of Americans never, or rarely, hear someone they know talk about global warming. 

Why? It’s a political hot potato with major news outlets, national radio shows, and politicians continuing to deny climate change and claim it’s a hoax.

During three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate, there wasn’t a single question about climate change.

It's hotter everywhere. Maryland's air temp has steadily risen since 1970. How hot is your state? Visit: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/state-temps/
The truth is that it’s hotter everywhere. Maryland’s air temp has steadily risen since 1970. How hot is your state? Visit: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/state-temps/

Positive news: Governments and corporations are far-ahead

This may surprise you, but climate progress is accelerating. Big time. The IPCC 5th report was a major butt kicker for governments and businesses to take climate change seriously. We are running out of time.

1. Just last week, 170 countries agreed to phase out global warming’s big daddy chemical refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and replace with climate-friendly coolants. Scientists concluded that if HFC use continued, we could not keep global warming to the 3.6 ℉ maximum.

2. The Paris Climate Change agreement has been ratified by 62 countries, including India, the U.S. and China. Signed by 185 countries, each country commits to cut their greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global temperature rise to 2 ℃ (3.6℉). Obama’s Clean Power Plan is our country’s commitment to cut CO2 emissions from power plants.

3. Obama has used his executive powers to develop the Clean Power Plan, cut methane leaks from oil and gas, and increase vehicle fuel efficiency to an average 54.5 M.P.G by 2025.

4. U.S. federal and state tax incentives are fueling massive solar growth driving costs down 66 percent since 2010. Check out the world’s largest solar farm which will power 1 million homes.

5. American businesses are getting on board. Lowering energy use cuts expenses. Strategically, climate change is expected to disrupt most systems (water, weather and food) which will disrupt most business environments.

6. Think going renewable isn’t doable? Check out Stanford University’s Solutions Project. Planet Earth affords plenty of wind and sun to power a modern world.

7. Transitioning to clean renewable energy positively impacts human health outcomes. Each year in the U.S. alone,  200,000 people suffer premature deaths due to fossil fuel pollution.

8. For Maryland, the climate game changer is the recently passed Community Solar Act. Now in the pilot phase, all homes and businesses will soon be able to invest in their own solar installation at an offsite location.

What can we do to make a difference?

This is pretty serious business, but climate change is also wonky and overwhelming.  There are simple, yet meaningful steps, you can take to reduce your carbon footprint and join the global clean energy revolution.

  • Take 3 minutes and view the IPCC online slideshow summarizing the IPCC’s 5th report card. Slides 17 through 21 are critical to know. A more detailed 5th IPCC report slideshow is also worth the time.
  • Take 2 minutes and switch your home to renewable energy. Why pay your utility company for dirty power?
  • Re-think your next car purchase. Go electric, hybrid or fuel efficient. 
  • Turn your car’s engine off if your vehicle will idle for more than 30 seconds.
  • Weatherize your home. Almost half of your family’s carbon footprint is from heating, cooling and powering your home. Odds are you’re wasting a lot of cash because heated and cooled is leaking out of your home.
  • Set a good example for your kids.  Do the small, yet visible, planet-saving acts: Use reusable bags and coffee cups. Recycle to the max, everywhere. Drink filtered tap water tap and avoid bottled water. 
  • Vote for clean energy. Alert your legislators that your home supports clean energy. Get engaged. Climate change isn’t going away.   

We are handing this planet to our kids and grand children. There isn’t a Planet B. With hope, our generation’s climate legacy will be one of solutions and action, not one of can kickers.

Every Thursday, Laurel Peltier (a.k.a. GreenLaurel) publishes an environmental story. A graduate of UCLA and UVA’s Darden MBA program, Laurel was a brand manager for several large consumer companies. A long-time Baltimore City resident, mom-of-three is at the top of her resume. Her work has been published in the Baltimore Sun, EcoWatch and CBS Media. Have a “green” question? Email Laurel at [email protected]

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Laurel Peltier
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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the environmental GreenLaurel column every other Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting.
Laurel Peltier
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