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Mason scientists say drastic actions needed to avoid climate change disaster

October 12, 2018

Mason scientists say drastic actions needed to avoid climate change disaster

George Mason University’s Ed Maibach wasn’t surprised that this week’s dire United Nations report—which warned that even as little as 2 degrees Celsius of global warming is likely to cause much more serious harm than was previously understood—failed to gain much traction in the news media or with the general public.

But Maibach, a University Professor and the director of Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication, said the stern warning is certain to have caught the attention of those whose opinions matter most.

“The report won’t likely command the attention of most of the public,” he said. “But that may not be relevant as the report has gained and will hold the attention of certain important audiences – for example, the leaders of most nations, states and cities, CEOs of major corportations, and a wide range of health, agriculture and poverty organizations.”

The report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of dire consequences from global climate change far sooner than originally believed. According to the study, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, inundating coastlines while intensifying droughts and poverty.

The news came as Hurricane Michael prepared to slam into the Florida Panhandle.

“The backdrop of Hurricane Michael—arguably the third-most intense landfalling hurricane in history and likely much more intense than it would have been in a world without global warming—is also helping to dramatize the situation,” said Jim Kinter, director of Mason’s Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies and chair of Mason’s Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences.

President Donald Trump, who has called climate change “a hoax,” expressed doubts about the report.

Maibach, however, expressed confidence the warning will add “a profound sense of urgency” to those who understand that human-caused climate change is happening.

“Humankind is big trouble if this report doesn’t succeed in changing national and global energy-use policies,” Maibach said.

Ed Maibach can be reached at 703-993-1587 or at emaibach@gmu.edu.

Jim Kinter can be reached at 703-993-5700 or at ikinter@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact John Hollis at 703-993-8781 or jhollis2@gmu.edu.

About George Mason 

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 37,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.