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Disastrous Effects Of Climate Change Are Happening Now, Report Says


The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a troubling new report. It calls for urgent action to get climate change under control and warns of dire consequences if we fail. Kristie Ebi is one of the authors of the report. She's a professor of global health at the University of Washington, and she's with us now from South Korea where the report was released. Welcome, professor Ebi.

KRISTIE EBI: Thank you so much.

KING: All right. We know that the Earth has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since the 1800s. What has that meant for the Earth?

EBI: It has meant - for human health, for our well-being, for the ways we make our living, for the kinds of hobbies we enjoy outside - that there's already been changes in a number of ways that are harmful to us and to the ecosystems, to the nature that we enjoy.

KING: Your report - this U.N. report explores the consequences of further warming, warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius as opposed to 1 degree, which we have. Now, that is not a big jump in temperature. But the report says there will be big consequences.

EBI: It does indeed. The report is based on a large body of scientific evidence that indicates that with each additional unit of warming, the adverse consequences from that warming grow quite a bit, that there are...

KING: Can you tell me what the adverse consequences actually look like?

EBI: There are places where it will become more difficult to grow our crops. It'll become too hot and too dry. There's places in the world that are already water stressed, and that water stress will increase quite a bit with additional warming. Heat waves - we've seen quite a few heat waves in the U.S. and around the world this year. People die in heat waves. As the temperatures go up, those heat waves become more extreme and more frequent. And unless we take action, then - the projections suggest more people will die in heat waves. That's a few examples.

KING: Several governments - speaking of actions, several governments asked the United Nations to put this report together. What will you tell them they need to do?

EBI: The report lays out very clearly where we stand with respect to the risks of a changing climate, what those risk - how those risks will change as temperatures go up and the various options to both adapt to what's going on and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions so that we could, in fact, reduce the negative consequences that are projected so that we don't have to see all that's projected if action's taken urgently.

KING: In the last few seconds we have left, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. That is a blow. What role do you think the U.S. can play if it's not in that agreement? Quickly, please.

EBI: He did not actually withdraw the U.S. from the agreement. He intends to, but it's a four-year process.

KING: Yes. Thank you for clarifying.

EBI: But it is important for all countries. If the U.S. does in fact withdraw, then it puts the ambition higher for other countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

KING: Kristie Ebi works with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They released a sobering new report this morning. Thank you, professor.

EBI: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.