Photo courtesy of IPCC

Photo courtesy of IPCC



The US government “shut down” brought on a host of problems on the environmental front, from the closing of our National Parks to preventing of the EPA being able to do much of its regulatory work. That was bad news in terms of the federal workforce it affected and the public served—but it also managed to suck away news and media attention from other big news events—in particular the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report right before the shutdown. If you noticed how the government shutdown affected us, imagine in that vein having a “climate shutdown”—which is not just some future event, but affecting us now with effects for years to come.

If you missed the IPCC report, you can go check out the Summary for Policy Makers here.

It is important for Latinos to take notice, because climate change is an issue that affects us all, regardless of culture, ethnicity, or political affiliation—despite the politicization of the issue. It also affects us on many areas, from health to food security—not just “hotter weather”.

But it is even more important for Latino communities because we have a dual role here. First, as noted in many studies and reporting, many Latino communities are disparately affected by climate change. Basically, we will get some of the worst impacts from it.

Second, there is the growing responsibility and opportunity to affect policy around it. As fellow Newstaquero Juan Rodriguez has pointed here, and as I have pointed out here and other News Taco columns, the growing Latino demographic comes with growing political influence—and surveys to note the growing support on these issues. Latino calls for action on climate change have been growing.

But climate change can be a challenging issue to grasp and we need to stay informed on the big topics around it. Thus, if one were asked, so what’s the big deal with the IPPC report?—an informed Latino/a should be able to note at least the following main points:

  • This is global community of scientists—so it is not just one government report. It is an intergovernmental panel that has to come on agreement on their findings. This lines up with the fact that the majority of reports and climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and…
  • It is us. The panel stated that humans are “extremely likely” to be the main agents of climate change. That is a 95% confidence. As the summary report states:

“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes (Figure SPM.6 and Table SPM.1). This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

  • The oceans are taking the biggest hit. I wrote on some of these issues here. But the main problem is that the oceans are absorbing so much carbon from carbon dioxide that we are changing the chemistry of the ocean itself, which has drastic effects on the life there. This is a story that several news outlets did pick up on.
  • There is a problem in how we message the problem and issue—but that does not mean it is not factual. Supporters will take the IPCC report as more proof and more “scientific consensus”. While this works on some audiences, it is important to note the power that political ideology has in biasing and framing the issue, regardless of “scientific basis”. So it is important not just to try to bludgeon someone with the facts, as we tend to do—but to make connections to how it fits in his/her frame of thinking, along with emotional connections. If one is a free-market thinker, we can work to see how climate change positively affects that. In addition, we need to keep testing messaging that works beyond “just the facts”.

We can certainly expect more contentious debate on this issue in general—pushback is expected and it is easy to try to pick out points to confuse the issue. However, there is a question of what do we have to lose if we tackle this for the better.  As a political cartoon noted, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”…

We have been primed for action—it is a question of how we act upon that responsibility.

If you want a distillation of the main points in the overall IPPC report, this article by Grist further breaks it down.


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