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Wisconsin’s Green Fire: UN Climate Change Report a ‘Sharp, Sobering Assessment’

Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest

A new report from the United Nations is sending a strong message to world leaders: climate change is accelerating, and people need to cut emissions now.

Nearly 200 leading climate scientists put the report together.

It makes it clear that we are seeing the impacts of climate change now.

Heat waves, droughts, and floods are killing people all around the world.

“It’s a sharp, sobering assessment of what we can expect in the next 20 years or so in our climate future, but also some of the unknowns,” said Fred Clark, Executive Director of Wisconsin’s Green Fire.

Clark said that for people who’ve been following climate science, most of the United Nation’s Climate Change Report won’t be a surprise, expect for one part.

“The climate change impacts that have been predicted for years are now becoming real,” said Clark.

The report makes it extremely clear that human activity is causing extreme weather.

Clark pointed to extreme temperature fluctuations in the spring where it can be 80 degrees one day and 27 degrees the next.

We’ve also been experiencing more frequent and severe flooding events.

According to the UN report, all these are only going to get worse over the next 20 years.

“This will continue to affect agriculture. It will affect forestry. It will affect wildlife. It will affect communities and the quality of life in places where floods and droughts will affect drinking water, will damage property,” said Clark. “I think communities are all needing to prepare and plan for how to become resilient to those kinds of impacts in the future.”

The good news is that report also makes it clear that it’s not too late, though it’s going to take a lot of work and changes at global level.

“We need to essentially attempt to go to zero emissions within the next 20 to 30 years,” said Clark. “That’s going to be a challenge, but the technology to do that is available. It’s not an impossible challenge. We just need to have the political will to make those changes and make those investments. There will actually be a lot of benefits that come from doing that.”

While most of that work needs to be done at corporate, government, and global levels.

Clark said there are choices people can make at an individual level to help get us there.

He recommends when the time comes to replace things like your car or furnace looking for cleaner options.

“When we’re able to convert to electricity from fossil fuels, that’s probably the biggest single driver that’ll help us get to zero emissions,” said Clark.

Clark said reducing emissions would also improve air and water quality that would lead to improved health for communities.  

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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