U.N. climate change report issues ‘code red.’ What it means in our region

Written by on August 10, 2021

 U.N. climate change report issues ‘code red.’ What it means in our region

By Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

August 10, 2021

Exelon says it will close Three Mile Island’s Unit 1 reactor in September 2019. Unit 2 has been shuttered since a partial meltdown in 1979. Photo | Joe Ulrich/ WITF

A new climate report from the United Nations says humans are “unequivocally” responsible for global warming by burning fossil fuels. It warns the findings are a “code red” for humanity.

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Climate scientists can now link extreme weather events like the western forest fires, or 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, to our overuse of fossil fuels.

Michael Mann is a climate scientist at Penn State University and one of the more than 200 authors of the U.N’s report.

“Dangerous climate change is here,” he told StateImpact Pennsylvania. “We can prevent it from getting worse if we act dramatically, and here in Pennsylvania, there’s real opportunity to do that.

“We have an abundance of wind and solar energy. We can be part of that necessary transition away from fossil fuels toward a clean energy economy.”

Pennsylvania is expected to get hotter and wetter. Officials say the state’s average temperature will rise 5.9 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2050s — that’s compared to the last half of the 20th century.

Heavier and more extreme rainfall will continue to worsen. 

The U.N. report also says sea level rise is locked in at six to 12 inches by mid-century, and that could make future events like Superstorm Sandy even more devastating.

“The coast is going to become more vulnerable,” said David Robinson, New Jersey’s state climatologist and a co-author of the report. “A weaker storm than Sandy could end up doing the same damage from a storm surge, because it’s starting at a higher level.”

Robinson agreed there’s still time to stave off the worst impacts if the use of fossil fuels are dramatically reduced, cutting harmful carbon emissions.

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