U.S. communities say dire predictions in UN climate report are already unfolding
For many American communities, the grim predictions set out in a new UN report on climate change reflect more of the present and not just what is to come.
Residents of places like Miami, Utah and Alaska say they are already seeing the consequences of rising sea levels, wildfires and higher temperatures, and the week’s alarming projections latest of a UN panel have those same residents bracing for more challenges.
The “report makes it clear that we really don’t have time to waste on climate solutions,” said Carly Ferro, director of the Utah section of the Sierra Club, where residents have suffered wildfires and droughts in recent years. last years.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned significant global impacts, including heat waves, more frequent and more intense rainfall and droughts, as climate change persists.
The report, which came out just days after July marked the hottest month on record for the planet, predicted temperature changes in North and Central America that are greater than the global average and increase in extremely high temperatures, increase in relative sea level rise along most coasts, and more extreme storms.
In the central and western United States, increased drought and fire conditions are likely, while the northern part of the continent, including Alaska, is expected to experience “very significant” temperature increases.
But residents, government officials and conservationists in various locations across the United States say they have already started to see the impacts predicted in the UN report.
Jacob Tobeluk Jr., a member of the Nunapitchuk community in Alaska, said residents are talking about relocating due to the intensity of the flooding.
“One thing we talked about is moving the whole village to higher ground because… every time the water rises about a foot or two, the bank overflows with water,” he said. .
It is a common concern in Alaska.
A 2009 report The Government Accountability Office revealed that a dozen Alaska Native villages were considering relocation, while 31 faced “imminent” threats.
Meanwhile, in the village of Napakiak, Alaska, they have to move buildings as erosion of the banks creates flood risk.
“Most of the structures … that we have are located right next to the Kuskokwim River and this is where we have erosion issues,” said Walter Nelson, head of Napakiak, who is coordinating efforts to reduce the risk of flooding. “The big buildings and the school, they have no choice but to demolish them.
In the opposite corner of the country, residents of South Florida say they are also seeing the type of climate impacts predicted by the UN report.
Natalia Brown, climate justice program manager for advocacy group Catalyst Miami, said that while the UN report’s findings are important, they are also the kind of conditions residents “were already experiencing and taking on. consciousness because of our lived reality here “.
“Some of these things are the flooding that we see, episodes of extreme heat and prolonged and dangerous temperatures, especially for those in our community who are facing housing, economic or energy insecurity,” said Brown. .
Meanwhile, local authorities have made plans to help the community prepare for the impacts of sea level rise, which can lead to flooding and erosion.
Galen Treuer, resilience coordinator for Miami-Dade County, said the UN report underscored the importance of the county’s adaptation and climate change efforts.
A departmental plan calls for flood protection of critical facilities, increasing the number of upland housing, creating detailed adaptation plans for specific areas and using nature-based solutions to mitigate risks.
“We have to double what we are already doing,” Treuer said.
For western residents, at least 97 active fires, including the massive Dixie Fire in California, is spreading to 13 states in what is shaping up to be one of its worst fire seasons.
The fires caused evacuations and destroyed thousands of hectares and many houses. Smoke from fires also has an impact on air quality in near and far areas.
Ferro, with the Sierra Club in Utah, said last week that there were several days she couldn’t go out because of smoke from the wildfires.
“Today was actually the first day in almost a week that I got to walk the dogs,” she said Thursday. “Since I’ve been looking out the window for about a week, I can usually see the mountains. The mountains were absent. We lived in a cloud of smoke.
State Representative Angela Romero (R) said in order to combat the effects she had to try to educate residents about air quality issues that are made worse by smoke from forest fires .
“What we’ve tried to do is work with our local libraries and schools and do education… wear… masks,” Romero said.
She said she hoped the UN report would be a “wake-up call” on climate change.
“I don’t know if it’s too late to do some things, but what can we do to be more proactive on politics to make sure we have a place to live.”