Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Dr. Donald Wuebbles spoke on the 4th national climate assessment as the University of Alaska Southeast kicked off the 2018 Evening at Egan lecture series.
Dr. Wuebbles is considered one of the top climate change experts in the world. He is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois. He served as an advisor on climate change for President Barack Obama.
In Alaska, a melting of permafrost by 12 to 18 meters in spots, a decrease in sea ice, warmer ocean temperatures and warmer weather, have been blamed on climate change.
Research has shown the average surface air temperature increased by 1.8 degrees over the last 115 years. Human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. Numerous studies have documented changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, melting glaciers, diminished snow cover, shrinking sea ice, rising sea levels, ocean acidification and increasing atmospheric water vapor. Other impacts are more heatwaves, fewer cold snaps, larger forest fires, earlier spring melt, and less snow pack.
Every four years scientists assess the science of the changing climate and its impacts on society. "Climate change does affect you. If you pay taxes you are impacted," Wuebbles said. "Our climate is changing, it is happening right now. It is happening 10 times more rapidly than nature changes the climate."
Wuebbles told the crowd that they can make a difference and there is hope. Over 90-percent of glaciers around the world are being reduced. 2016 was the warmest year on record. 2015 and 2017 were tied for the second years on record. Sixteen of the last 17 years are the warmest years on record for the globe. There has been a seven percent increase in precipitation with the most rain in the Midwest and the north east.
The report found the air temperatures across Alaska and the arctic have increased over the last 50 years at a rate more than twice as fast as the global average. Utqiagvik has seen an increase of 6.6 degrees in October since 1979. Muir Glacier has retreated more than 4 miles to the northwest. "There has been real dramatic change seen here in Alaska. We have really found out a lot about what is going on."
NOAA estimates that severe weather has had a $1.5 trillion impact on the U.S economy since 1980. There were 16 severe weather incidents in the United States in 2017. "It is not just hurricane. You see effects throughout the United States. Climate change is affecting your pocket book."
The report also noted an increase in flood risk in New England and the Northeast, droughts in the southwest and southeast, stronger hurricanes, and more tornadoes. Alaska is expected to see one of the largest increase in temperatures and also an increase in precipitation.
Dr. Wuebbles concluded that the world must either adapt, mitigate, or suffer due to climate change. He said an increase in energy efficiency will help.
A demonstration about climate change was scheduled for the Alaska State Capital building on September 8 at 10 am.