Many people saw the February 28, 2022, IPCC report, IPCC AR6 WGII, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (IPCC AR6 WGII), as bad news, but in my view the bad news already happened. The bad news is – we are almost out of time, and we are already feeling impacts which will only get worse over time. We knew that.
This post is about the good news from the IPCC AR6 WGII. It’s good when the IPCC talks about the really bad news, and embraces civil society course adjustments. In these comments I’m relying on the Summary for Policy Makers.
1) Mental health is mentioned twelve times, and defined as “’Mental health’ includes impacts from extreme weather events, cumulative events, and vicarious or anticipatory events.” And saying “Climate change has adversely affected physical health of people globally (very high confidence) and mental health of people in the assessed regions (very high confidence).” (p. SPM 35)
This is big for climate litigators, who have been mentioning this issue for a while to courts, with little positive response. Now they can say that even the IPCC, a fairly conservative global scientific body, agrees that this is an issue worthy of consideration. And this report is signed by virtually all the nations of the world.
The definition is helpful because this is how climate mental health issues happen – people are worried about, or effected by, “vicarious or anticipatory events” and now you can litigate it and be taken a little more seriously.
2) Indigenous people had more of a role in making this report, and impacts to Indigenous people are highlighted throughout, noting that Indigenous people can be more seriously and frequently affected.
Again, this is stuff we’ve been screaming into the climate litigation void for years – now it can be said that the IPCC also thinks this is important.
It can also be argued that a consultative role regarding climate is supported by the way the IPCC did this, because the IPCC did consult Indigenous peoples, and because the impacts are so strongly highlighted.
3) Climate justice issues are also brought to the fore, with such recommendations as “Inclusive governance that prioritises equity and justice in adaptation planning and implementation leads to more effective and sustainable adaptation outcomes (high confidence).” (p. SPM 30)
In this sense, combined with the above, this report tackles the root of the issues much more than before – governance, and how we make decisions together, and who has a right to be consulted, and tied into that – how it benefits everyone if we follow inclusionary processes at the earliest stages of decision making.
For instance: “SPM.D.2 Climate resilient development is enabled when governments, civil society and the private sector make inclusive development choices that prioritise risk reduction, equity and justice, and when decision-making processes, finance and actions are integrated across governance levels, sectors and timeframes (very high confidence).” (p. SPM 32)
Climate change is a justice problem, and we finally have the IPCC openly acknowledging that. Again, this makes it easier to litigate these issues.
Which all equals – all of the above, (the inclusion of mental health, vicarious or anticipatory human concern, Indigenous and climate justice voices, both in decision making and in considering impacts) – this is what we (climate lawyers, scientists, civil society) have been pushing for. Now the IPCC has taken it up, leading to a much more just process, with better chances of positive outcomes, regardless of the other bad news. People may say it’s too little too late, but all we have is now, and if justice becomes the issue we are getting close to real change.
So, there’s actually a lot you can do. Pushing for justice works. Don’t stop.