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Oklahoma expert weighs in on climate change report

 Higher than normal temperatures are shown in red and lower than normal are shown in blue. Image from NASA Scientific Visualization Studio.
Higher than normal temperatures are shown in red and lower than normal are shown in blue. Image from NASA Scientific Visualization Studio.
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Earlier this month, the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first installment of its sixth assessment report on the state of Earth's climate.

The nearly 4,000-page report made up of 234 authors from 65 countries states.

"It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land," the report reads.

On the day of release, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a "code red for humanity."

The first installment, The Physical Science Basis, gives a large view of the current scientific understanding of climate change and indicates that human activities are increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, the primary emitted greenhouse gas causing global temperatures to rise.

The IPCC, created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, works with governments at all levels by providing scientific information that can be used to create climate policies. The reports released by the IPCC are very important during international climate change meetings and negotiations.

This latest assessment report builds on 30 more years of previous climate data and modeling since the release of the first assessment report in 1990.

Oklahoma's impacts

The effects of climate change are being felt all over the world. In Oklahoma, more frequent weather extremes have occurred and are expected to continue.

Renee McPherson, university director of the South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center, said time is running out if we don't make significant changes.

"If we continue doing what we have been doing, by the end of the century in northeast Oklahoma, we will see over two months on average over 100 degrees," said McPherson.

Right now, Tulsa averages 11 days of 100 degrees or more annually.

Extreme weather events, such as heavy rain, drought, heatwaves, and Arctic outbreaks, are expected to become more frequent. This is due to a weakening jet stream caused by rising global temperatures numerous, studies have shown.

"The Tulsa area has a history of flooding events," said McPherson. "Our concern is that those events will become more disastrous."

To mitigate and adapt to climate change will be released in the second and third installments of the report in 2022.

McPherson says Oklahoma has a huge opportunity economically to transform the energy industry.

"It's an opportunity for our energy companies in the state to focus on collecting excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and storing it back into the same locations where fossil fuels have been extracted for years," she said. "Reducing our carbon footprint is key. Everybody should start thinking about at least one of the cars in their family being electric, to just drive around town day today."

Summaries and the full report of the sixth assessment can be found here.


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