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IOWA — The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC released its first report on the global state of our climate in 1990. Since then there have been six complete reports. The most recent was released in August in which there were 234 authors from over 60 countries involved in putting it together. Dr. Ed Hawkins is a climate science professor at the University of Reading in England, and was one of the lead authors on the report. “We spent three years sifting through all of the evidence to produce this summary of the state of knowledge about the climate system,” said Hawkins.
The report had some stark warnings. If nothing or very little action is done to slow the effects of climate change, there will be irreversible changes. As to what is causing climate change, Hawkins says, “It’s important to say that we’re certain that the planet is warming, and that is due to human activities. And that’s mainly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, and we’re very sure about that. What’s new, I think in this report, this time around is our understanding of how that is causing changes in extreme weather.”
Extreme weather is everywhere. Here in Iowa we’ve seen more heavy rainfall events, drought, extreme heat, and extreme cold. Across the United States, wildfires in California have burned more acres in the past two years than from 1932 through 2019 combined. Hurricanes are getting stronger, leading to more destruction along our coastlines. Across the globe, Greece, Turkey, Germany and more have also suffered devastating wildfires and flash floods.
These events will only get worse if we don’t do something now. “We have to concentrate on reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. So that means transitioning away to more renewable energy. But it also means reducing methane emissions. And one of the key benefits of doing that is it also improves our air quality. At the same time. So although we may take these actions to reduce the climate effect, they’re also going to be very beneficial in other ways,” Hawkins explains.
Slowing the rate at which our Earth warms is not only a task for policy makers at the higher levels, we as individuals can do our part to make a difference, because we all emit greenhouse gasses. It’s in what we buy, how we travel, what we eat, and how much we are using our vehicles. Hawkins says, “Everything we do consumes fossil fuels, and so we need to think about where our own emissions come from, and take the actions and talk about it, talk about the actions you’re taking with your friends, your family and your colleagues, and make it a normal part of conversation, to inspire others to take actions as well.”