The climate crisis is here, but we can still turn the tide

Two wind turbines on a mountain in Alaska with a setting sun and mountains in the background
Margaret Ackerley in athletic clothing stands outside on top of a mountain during the fall season. A tall tree with bright yellow leaves is behind her.

Margaret Ackerley is senior vice president and general counsel of WWF

When I first came to WWF more than two decades ago, we talked often about the dream of making 'our' issues everyone's issues. Judging by nearly any media outlet today, I'd say that goal has been met, though not in a way any of us would have wanted—headlines of wildfires, heat, drought, and storms were not the way we hoped to see conservation issues become embedded in the public consciousness.

The sixth report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), assessing the latest state of global climate science, leaves no room for debate: we must collectively act on the climate crisis and we must act now.

It is often said that the climate crisis is at once the most important policy issue of our time and the most difficult to solve, especially since historically it presented a perfect storm of factors favoring inaction: it required near-term actions (and costs) against a 'far off' problem; the problem itself seemed theoretical to many, and the solution required collective action across the globe.

“My hope for the future is we look back and see the summer of 2021 as the turning point—the moment when humanity took account of what we are doing and changed course.”

Margaret Ackerley
Senior Vice President and General Counsel, WWF

We are in a different place now. The conservation community is aided in our message, unfortunately, by incontrovertible and direct evidence of what is at stake. Inaction means a planet that becomes increasingly incompatible with the survival of species including our own. Now, what has long been predicted by climate scientists everywhere—droughts, wildfires, heat, storms, melting, erosion, and other changes—are here, in front of us, and cannot be denied.

The IPCC hands it to us all straight. With findings agreed to by the 195 member nations—including the US, Russia, and China—the report removes any lingering doubt that heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activity have raised average temperatures and will continue to do so, causing specific devastating effects. But it also paints the picture of what is possible if emissions are drastically reduced. There is hope.

That's what galvanizes me every morning. I feel immense gratitude that I have the opportunity to work towards progress, and especially so to be able to do it with my incredible WWF colleagues, partners, and supporters. WWF and other organizations have been raising awareness of these issues for decades. Now the Earth itself has taken the megaphone.

My hope for the future is we look back and see the summer of 2021 as the turning point—the moment when humanity took account of what we are doing and changed course. The hour is late and the clock is ticking, but we know the WWF vision of a world in which people and nature thrive can be achieved. Stay strong and let's keep going.