Scientists, activists and environmental groups across the nation were quick to weigh in with their own observations and concerns Monday about the dire findings in the latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Across the country and the world, scientists zeroed in on the report’s underscoring that climate change is here and now, that the time to avert catastrophe is winding down but that solutions are still possible.
The 3,000-page report was described by the IPCC as a “code red for humanity.”
Here’s a selection of quotes from the report’s co-authors, leading climate scientists, officials and others:
Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate advisor, on Twitter
The IPCC report “confirms what we already know: climate change is an urgent threat that requires bold action. That’s why we’ve launched a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis. And we’re going to create good paying jobs along the way. There’s no time to waste.
Michael R. Bloomberg, United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, founder of Bloomberg LP
“To respond to the climate crisis with the urgency that is required, it’s clear what we need to do: Drive down carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy economy – and quickly. We’ve made some great progress recently, but this report is sounding an alarm about how much more we need to do, and how tight time is getting. If more governments and businesses take bold action, we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change and build a better future for our children and grandchildren.”
Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association
“Climate change is a global threat that requires international collaboration and the findings released today by the IPCC note there are policies and government action that can be enacted to drastically reduce carbon emissions.
As Congress debates infrastructure legislation and prepares for the budget reconciliation process, this report shows that our leaders need to realize the immediate national security threat climate change poses to our country and future generations. As wildfires and hurricanes occur more frequently, the human and economic devastation they cause will only intensify if we do not take immediate action now.
Al Gore, former vice president, on Twitter
“We need climate action NOW. We cannot rely on vague pledges with distant deadlines. We need concrete plans to phase out fossil fuels in the near term. As the scientists at the (IPCC) make clear: there is no time left to waste.
But importantly, the (IPCC) report shows that we still have a path forward to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C—though that path is narrowing by the day.
That’s why this is our moment to heed the warnings of the world’s scientists. We have the solutions we need to rapidly transition to a net-zero economy and I am optimistic that we will meet this moment.”
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Global Environment Facility CEO and chairperson
I feel both alarmed and emboldened by the latest IPCC report, which shows that climate change is occurring much more quickly and with more extreme effects than we previously anticipated. … The tragedy of forest fires burning all over the world this year has shown us just how damaging rising temperatures can be for human life and nature. Changing this story for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren is the most important thing we can do.”
Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund president
“The report makes clear that if we don’t move aggressively to cut the pollution heating our atmosphere, we are guaranteeing a less stable, less habitable and less prosperous world now and in the future.
“This report also provides a road map for slowing the rate of warming and protecting our communities from even more instability. For the first time, the IPCC highlights the importance of short-lived, highly potent pollutants such as methane, which alone accounts for at least 25% of the warming we are currently experiencing. The report quashes any remaining debate about the urgent need to slash methane pollution, especially from sectors such as oil and gas, where the available reductions are fastest and cheapest. When it comes to our overheating planet, every fraction of a degree matters – and there is no faster, more achievable way to slow the rate of warming than by cutting human-caused methane emissions.
Lori Lodes, Climate Power, executive director
“Congress can’t kick the can down the road any longer, they must prepare for what’s in front of us, stop the worst of climate change and build a stronger, clean energy economy. If lawmakers put aside differences to act, it means jobs, sustainable neighborhoods, healthier communities, cheaper energy costs, and ultimately, if done right, a more just and equitable world. But Congress must act now. Not in two months, not next year or next decade. Now.”
Nafkote Dabi, Oxfam climate policy lead
“Amid a world in parts burning, in parts drowning and in parts starving, the IPCC today tables the most compelling wake-up call yet for global industry to switch from oil, gas and coal to renewables. Governments must use law to compel this urgent change. Citizens must use their own political power and behaviors to push big polluting corporations and governments in the right direction. There is no Plan B.”
Miya Yoshitani, Asian Pacific Environmental Network executive director, Climate Justice Alliance board member
“The latest IPCC report confirms what communities on the frontlines of fighting big polluters already know. We need bold, community-led solutions that meet the scale of the climate crisis, not failed market-based schemes that allow big polluters to pump more poison into our communities and further destabilize our climate.”
Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Justice Alliance board member
Scientists in the latest IPCC physical science report provide undeniable proof of faster rates of global warming than earlier predictions indicated. The gravity of the climate emergency has been tirelessly called out by Indigenous and frontline communities for decades. We must pressure the IPCC before the mitigation report comes out early next year to listen to the voices of the traditional knowledge holders of Indigenous peoples and end carbon pricing, carbon capture and solar radiation management mitigation strategies that keep fossil fuels coming out of the ground.”
Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, Co-Chair, Climate Justice Alliance board member
“The frontlines are already way ahead of the politicians. We are leading with solutions – from community-owned solar energy systems that create safe, good paying jobs to just recovery efforts that ensure those communities most impacted by the crisis are built back in sustainable and safe ways based on community needs. To truly address the climate crisis, we need policymakers to enact bold and transformative policies like the THRIVE Act, which were crafted in deep consultation and partnership with Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander, poor, and marginalized communities.”
Kayly Ober, Refugees International, climate displacement program manager
“The latest IPCC report shows us that we are already in the midst of a climate crisis—and that without swift action, climate-related hazards will only get worse. This trajectory will mean more disruptive and deadly events, such as extreme heatwaves and precipitation, which may force more people from their homes around the world.
This future reality means that we need—now more than ever—to extend more robust and humane protection for families and communities that will be forced to move in the face of these ever-increasing events.”
Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation, president and CEO
“We are living through exactly what the climate models predicted: more frequent and more intense extreme storms, floods, wildfires, drought, and heat waves that threaten lives, livelihoods, and communities. This report drives home the reality that there is absolutely no time to waste. We desperately need to invest in zero-emission 21st-century infrastructure, while bolstering the resilience of communities across the country.
“As Congress finalizes its infrastructure plans, we urge bold investments in clean energy, advanced transportation, natural climate solutions, restoration and resilience, and sustainable agriculture.”
Kristina Dahl, Union of Concerned Scientists, senior climate scientist
“Climate change is here, it’s dangerous, even deadly, and yet a giant gulf remains between what the science shows is needed to address this crisis and the actions taken by policymakers. The continued dithering is no longer about the lack of scientific evidence, but rather directly tied to a lack of political will and the overwhelming influence of the fossil fuel industry. The scientists keep showing up time and time again; now it’s time for policymakers to do the same.”
Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program
“In the United States, Congress has a unique and powerful moment to move forward legislation that could be a big down payment on climate action. When considering the enormity of the climate impacts the nation is already experiencing, as well as the tremendous health and economic benefits of a clean energy economy, the choice for policymakers should be obvious.
Kim Cobb, co-author, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology
“There’s really one key message that emerges from this report: We are out of time. And this report really provides compelling, scientific linkages between the headlines that we see today and what we know about the physics of the climate system and how it’s being impacted by rising greenhouse gases.”
Baylor Fox-Kemper, co-author, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences, Brown University
“The biggest, most important aspects of climate change are not changing from report to report. And so things like the fact that the earth—were we to double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere—would warm by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit doesn’t change in this report. But the precision with which we can say that has improved, and in particular regional information, and information about extremes is provided in this report at a level of detail that exceeds any of the previous reports.”
“So we keep hearing more and more in the news about these extreme events, and the takeaway message from this new report is that these events are just going to occur more and more often as global temperatures rise. And they may get more and more intense. And so in the Western U.S., for example, we need to think hard about issues like water conservation and water storage in order to sort of weather through these increasingly extreme events.”
Jessica Tierney, co-author, associate professor of geosciences, University of Arizona
“Snowpack in the Western United States is almost certain to decline in the future. And that has implications for water availability, because a lot of the stream flow in the Western United States, for example the Colorado River, depends on snow. So we have increased confidence that we’re going to see less flow through our river systems in the Western U.S., which means that we’re going to be even more prone to drought. And in fact, if emissions continue, then there is a very good chance that we’re going to see a level of drought and aridity that we haven’t seen in at least a thousand years.”
Mathew Barlow, co-author, professor of climate science, University of Massachusetts Lowell
“For the future, we expect a continued increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme events, with larger increases for higher greenhouse gas emissions. The increases observed so far have occurred with around 1 degree C of warming. …
“The changes that we have seen so far are associated with around 1 degree C of warming. Limiting warming to the 1.5 degree C target of the Paris Agreement would require immediate, rapid, and large-scale reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, regardless of any specific temperature target, every degree matters: Reducing emissions will reduce impacts.”
Kelly Kryc, Center for American Progress, senior fellow for Climate Science and Ocean Policy
“The warnings have been blinking red for a long time, and this IPCC report is the latest blaring alarm. Through the efforts of an incredible number of scientists around the world, the report details the utter devastation that the climate crisis is wreaking on every environment and community on Earth. Critically, this report shows that climate catastrophes that were projected in previous IPCC reports are now actually happening, which is both chilling and underscores the need to trust the science and further invest in solutions. This crisis demands immediate climate leadership at every level, coupled with investments in science and technology from our own U.S. Congress – to start – to stave off the worst impacts.”
Wendy Bredhold, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Indiana
“This IPCC report is a call to action to all of us, and needs to be heard especially by those in the most powerful positions to respond: the decision-makers at Indiana’s monopoly electric utilities and in the government that regulates them. … “Some of Indiana’s investor-owned utilities are making progress away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but almost all of the benefit has been for the utilities. This moment requires Gov. Holcomb and the legislature to stop passing laws that further enrich and entrench monopoly utilities at the expense of everyday Hoosiers struggling through a pandemic to stay afloat. They must craft policies that support an equitable energy transition – one that benefits the Indiana communities that have been most harmed by fossil fuel plants and infrastructure. It’s time to get to work for the people.”
William Ripple, Oregon State University professor of ecology
“The scientific community has shared a very clear picture of a planet in crisis, but the world’s governments continue to drag their feet on the defining issue of our time. This report underscores the need for action. Look at the data. Listen to the story that the earth is telling us. Unless we fundamentally and immediately transform our society –banning fossil fuels, capping carbon emissions, and reconfiguring our relationship with nature – then the 21st Century will yield untold human suffering. We’re in the final act before the window is permanently closed.”
Jonty Whittleton, global campaign head for World Animal Protection
“The IPCC study is sending out a clear and urgent signal about what will happen if we don’t act now to curb runaway greenhouse gas emissions. Our broken food system is fueling the climate crisis. Global meat production is five times higher than it was 50 years ago and food production has fundamentally changed to prioritize quantity over quality. …
“Our future depends on us rethinking how we treat all animals. We must all work together now to transform the global food system and end cruel factory farming. This is an urgent action for animals, for people and for our planet.”
Moira Mcdonald, director of the Walton Family Foundation’s Environment Program
“This report is a wake-up call – there are practical reasons to both take action and still be hopeful.”
USA TODAY network staffers Kyle Bagenstose, Sarah Bowman, Beth Harvilla, Debra Krol and Janet Wilson contributed to this report.