"We should honor the anger, anxiety, despair and frustration that the IPCC report stirs in us."
By Beatrice Tulagan
It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land. The summary for policymakers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest climate change science report opened with this declarative. The language shift alone —from "clear" in the previous report to "unequivocal"—is something to note, amid a backdrop of wildfires, flooding, and extended periods of drought making recent headlines in the middle of a pandemic. The science is indisputable and even details permanent and irreversible damages wrought by decades of emissions, prefacing two additional reports coming out next year specifically about impacts and solutions.
But climate change did not come out of nowhere, and we're not equally responsible. Despite their best efforts to control the narrative, it is also unequivocal and indisputable that the fossil fuel industry has used its considerable power and wealth to quite literally fuel destruction. They have spent millions on political lobbying and diabolical schemes to delay action — such as running ads that cast doubt on the science, funding climate-denying think tanks, and straight up silencing activists who call attention to hundreds of their human rights violations every year. The operations of the fossil fuel industry not only threaten us because of their greenhouse gas emissions, they also displace communities, threaten environmental defenders, and refuse to take accountability for polluting our water, air, and land.
The Philippines is no stranger to impact and the many different ways it labels us "vulnerable." I don't think any report can capture the suffering and trauma Filipinos as well as other people from the most affected countries are routinely subjected to. The loss and damage we confront every year speaks to what a lot of people miss when talking about climate change: That it is about us as much as it is about the planet we inhabit.
Protecting the climate means protecting the most vulnerable communities rendered twice vulnerable by climate impact and the interlinked systems of oppression that gave rise to climate breakdown. This is not just about emissions and some vague hypothesis that we can somehow rely on profit-driven technological fixes to save our planet. It is about remaking the world we know with our very hands, allowing space for both grief and breakthroughs, taking guidance from our communities, linking up our movements, and taking back the power to build our future.
Our job today is not to ask what is politically feasible but to persistently imagine and then demand what we deserve. We can do this by joining climate justice organizations, learning the various ways we can individually and collectively resist in educational discussions, taking guidance from and exploring what it means to stand in solidarity with the most affected communities — and then showing up, every day, to do just that.
We should honor the anger, anxiety, despair, and frustration that this report stirs in us. There is space in the movement for all these because we know that we're going through all of them together. We are going to overcome them through radical hope, collectivizing care, and fighting not just for climate justice but justice on all fronts, simply because our liberation is bound up in one another.
Both the science and our current politics may sound bleak, but every further degree of global warming avoided while seeming minute and insufficient, translates to less suffering on the ground.
I want us to remember that each life saved matters. Every bit of knowledge, joy, music, art, culture, care, and love you experience only on this planet matters. We must save all we can because all we can save matters.
Beatrice Tulagan, 27, is a writer and climate justice organizer. She explores intersections of the personal and the political as we collectively confront the climate crisis, cultural shifts, and social politics. She leads regional organizing for 350.org Asia and asiasolidaritylab.org.