James Renwick, co-author of the upcoming 2021 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) report and head of the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, joins Earth911 to discuss the prospects for coastal flooding due to climate change. He shares troubling but important insights into how much seas have already risen since the 1800s — about one foot — and the potential for up to two feet more flooding in the coming century. He also reports the UNIPCC will acknowledge that the critical 1.5C warming threshold is locked in unless the world takes radical action to reduce emissions immediately. Humanity has already committed future generations to potentially disastrous climate impacts, he says.
Renwick explains how much water is stored in Antarctica and the projections for economic and housing losses along the U.S. East Coast, which is particularly prone to flooding because of the configuration of ocean currents. He also discusses the growing accuracy of climate models and how accelerated warming seen in recent years appears poised to continue speeding ice loss at the poles. But, Renwick argues, the international climate dialogue has shifted from resistance to acknowledgment of climate impacts and growing national and local action, which gives him hope. “Things are moving in the right direction,” he told Earth911’s Mitch Ratcliffe. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The upcoming COP26 meeting of global leaders, which was postponed to the fall of 2021 due to the pandemic, will feature many nations’ increased commitments to reduce emissions. In the meantime, he urges individual citizens to speak out and choose sustainably produced products, as well as support effective local remediation projects, such as tree-planting programs. Each of us can make a difference. Start your journey with this conversation with Professor James Renwick.
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This podcast originally aired on January 1, 2021.