Revalue, Rethink, Re-ignite: the IPCC Summary in Cultural Context

Giulia Crossley, Communications Coordinator at Julie's Bicycle responds to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary for Policymakers, in relation to the arts.

On Friday 30 September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Summary for Policymakers, an overview of its most up to date findings on climate change.

At 36 pages, it’s a robust and hefty read but the main point is clear: there is a 95% certainty that human activities are behind the rapid increase in climate change the planet has experienced since 1950s.

‘This is not just another report,’ says Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. ‘This is the scientific consensus reached by hundreds of scientists after careful consideration of all the available evidence.’

Key Messages from the Report:

∙       Temperature Change
We are not on the path to keeping temperatures below 2C, beyond which are considered the most serious consequences of climate change.

∙       Planetary Response
The atmosphere and oceans are warming; arctic ice is diminishing; sea levels are rising and the concentration of CO2 continues to increase.

∙       Fuel Factor 
The amount of carbon that we can emit without heading for dangerous levels of warming is far less than that which is contained within the amount of fossil fuels left.

∙       We Must Act
Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained changes starting now.


With the news that the human role in climate change is ‘more certain than ever’, comes a very clear call to action - we need to act and we need to act now. 

‘This report tells us it is possible to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change,’ says Tim Gore, Oxfam's international policy adviser on climate change. ‘Governments should learn from the mistakes of the global financial crisis, where warning signs were ignored, and listen to the experts before it is too late.’

But facts alone cannot facilitate change. As Jamie Clarke, Climate Outreach Information Network’s Executive Director puts it:

‘Too often, campaigners assume that the facts of climate change will speak for themselves; but we know that scepticism about climate change is more to do with people’s values than their knowledge about the science.’

And that’s where the arts come in.

Yes, policy change needs to happen, but so does change by the many; change to how we behave, how we think about ourselves and our place in the world. This change has been described as a cultural shift, and this is where the arts have a fundamental role to play, because of their creativity, innovation, and ability to inspire people.

The UK arts sector is responding to this challenge with their practice – both business and artistic. At Julie’s Bicycle see from our work with international partners how the arts in this country are regarded as world leaders in this area – and that Arts Council England is recognised as being a key player in helping to achieving this.

There are great things happening and lots of them in the creative community. The arts and wider creative industries are already fundamentally affecting the status quo, shifting our cultural norms and requiring us to revalue, rethink and re-ignite.

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