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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Washington Professor a Lead Author on Major Climate Change Report

Washington professor a lead author on major climate change report

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released a new report that looks at the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. This was the more ambitious goal established by governments in late 2015 through the Paris Agreement.

Dr. Kristie Ebi, a professor of global health and of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health, was a lead author on the report approved Oct. 8. Called the “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees Celsius,” the IPCC document compares the effects of 1.5 versus 2 degrees Celsius global warming, the possible consequences of those temperature shifts for human and natural systems, and the changes needed to meet those two targets.

“Climate change is already affecting people, ecosystems and livelihoods around the world,” Dr. Ebi said. “It is generally the poor and disadvantaged who are most affected.”

Dr. Ebi noted this was the first report for which the world governments asked the IPCC authors to address a specific topic. Officials from about 140 nations participated in the approval session, going through the report line by line to ensure the summary for policymakers was not only scientifically accurate, but also that the statements would be clear and useful for policymakers.

“All countries were engaged in the process, working together with scientists to co-produce a document they can use within their countries to inform policies,” Dr. Ebi said.

Keeping temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius of preindustrial levels would require phasing out technology that burns coal or gasoline while also developing technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels is possible — and would require unprecedented transitions,” Dr. Ebi said. “At the same time, many of the actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would benefit human health now. And the size of those health benefits is projected to offset most, if not all, of the costs of mitigation.”

Dr. Ebi is one of four UW faculty members who will contribute to the IPCC 6th Assessment Report on the state of global understanding and preparedness for climate change. The three reports in the assessment will be published in 2020/2021, with a summary available by early 2022.

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