COP26: World leaders gather to discuss solutions to slow the rate of our warming Earth

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The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report released in August revealed that the Earth is warming faster than expected. In order to stop how quickly temperatures are warming, world leaders need to act fast. Irreversible damage will occur if policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not implemented across the world. 

Climate scientists want to keep the global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5°C since the mid-1800s, but at the current rate of warmth that will happen in less than 30 years. “We’re at 1.1 degrees Celsius already around the globe, and we’re seeing so many extremes in our weather. We see how it’s worsening our air quality. It’s putting stress in our water systems in our food systems. And that’s at 1.1. Currently, we’re on track to go two or three degrees Celsius,” said Climate Central Chief Meteorologist Bernadette Woods Placky.

Extreme weather events like the derecho of 2020 and the 2018 flash flood cost billions of dollars, and they’re becoming a lot more common. Billion-dollar disasters that were occurring every 60-120 days just 30-40 years ago in the U.S. are now occurring between every 20-40 days. Placky said, “We’ll see more of that going forward if we can’t get our emissions in check. Also that plays into our seasons with our farming too. When you have earlier springs. Things are popping a little bit earlier, expose it to a regular season frost and that can wipe out entire crops.”

Extreme drought and heat also work together to dry and stress out our crop fields more during the heat of the summer, reducing yields come harvest time. Farming practices like tilling also release carbon back into the atmosphere, but adopting conservation practices like no-till and strip-till where possible can prevent that. “It does put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere but at the same time farming has this huge opportunity to also take those greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, put them into the soils and in turn makes for better soils, creating better food and also can help protect against some runoff when there are flooding events.”

There is still concern from many about what will happen if other countries emitting more greenhouse gasses don’t do their part to slow emissions. Scientists say it is possible to keep the global temperature rise at or below 1.5°C but it will require strict policies for all who are involved. “We do need a global commitment to bring out overall numbers. However, the United States is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. So yes, we want other people to also cut but we are one of the top and so what we do really matters,” said Placky. 

Placky also said the United States has already pledged to cut methane emissions and is a part of an even bigger finance pledge that many other countries are also taking part in.

The conference in Scotland runs until Friday, November 12. More updates on what is discussed at the conference and what it will mean for Iowans to come.

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