IN FOCUS Discussion: Climate change – Code Red

In Focus
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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4/Associated Press) – Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a United Nations working group) issued a report last released in 2013 that said, “climate change is code red for humanity” and that it is “clearly human-caused.” Authors said the planet is getting so hot that in about 10 years, temperatures will surpass a level of warming that world leaders have sought to prevent.

The 3,000-plus-page report from 234 scientists stated warming is already accelerating sea level rise and worsening extremes such as heat waves, droughts, floods and storms. Tropical cyclones are getting stronger and wetter, while Arctic sea ice is dwindling in the summer and permafrost is thawing. All of these trends will get worse, the report said. For example, the kind of heat wave that used to happen only once every 50 years now happens once a decade, and if the world warms another degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), it will happen twice every seven years.

As the planet warms, the report emphasized places will get hit more not just by extreme weather, but by multiple climate disasters at once. Experts said that’s like what’s now happening in the Western U.S., where heat waves, drought and wildfires compound the damage. Extreme heat is also driving massive fires in Greece and Turkey. Authors said some harm from climate change — dwindling ice sheets, rising sea levels, and changes in the oceans as they lose oxygen and become more acidic — is “irreversible for centuries to millennia.”

United Nations Environment Program Executive Director Inger Andersen said scientists have issued this message for more than three decades, but the world hasn’t listened. The IPCC report said nearly all of the warming that has happened on Earth can be blamed on emissions of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. At most, natural forces or simple randomness can explain one- or two-tenths of a degree of warming.

In a new move, scientists emphasized how cutting airborne levels of methane — a powerful but short-lived gas that has soared to record levels — could help curb short-term warming. Lots of methane in the atmosphere comes from leaks of natural gas, a major power source. Livestock also produces large amounts of the gas, a good chunk of it in cattle burps. More than 100 countries have made informal pledges to achieve “net zero” human-caused carbon dioxide emissions sometime around mid-century, which will be a key part of the negotiations in Scotland. The report said those commitments are essential.

Prof. Robert Davies, who is with the Department of Physics and Ecology Center at Utah State University, joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. He discussed the details of the IPCC report, what stood out to him in the data, whether he thinks IPCC needs to be more forceful in its language, the significance of the planet’s average temperature climbing 1.5 degrees Celsius, and what would happen if we reach a two-degree Celsius climb at the end of the century.

Prof. Juliet Carlisle, who is with the Department of Political Science as well as the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program at the University of Utah, talked about the politics surrounding climate change. She shared how much of the $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill will go towards climate change, what the process is to get that money allocated, how the State of Utah would benefit from this funding, whether there may be a possibility that the U.S. government would fund more in the future to combat climate change, and her thoughts on the notion that innovation should come from business and the market instead of the government.

Prof. Patrick Belmont, who is the Department Head of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University, explained the historical data in the July report about ski resorts warming faster than global averages. He discussed whether altitude plays a role, if winter sports are affected across the globe, if snowmaking makes a difference, what lack of snowfall means for those living along the Wasatch corridor, what the predictions are for our 2021 winter, and how the next Winter Olympic games will shape up as Utah plans its bid.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Prof. Davies, Prof. Carlisle, and Prof. Belmont, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie_Nguyen
Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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