‘We are beyond individual action’ – UNC Asheville climatologist says in wake of UN’s report on climate change

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Hurricane Matthew is still seared into the minds of anyone who survived it and those who lost everything because of it.

Then came Florence.

Climatologists agree with a new United Nations report on climate change.

While the west coast will get hotter and dryer, the east coast of the U.S. will see more storms and torrential rainfall that comes with them.

“Residents in flood plains should be prepared for catastrophic flooding and more frequent nuisance flooding but there are potentially more people at risk than we realize,” said Evan Couzo, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at UNC Asheville.

This week’s report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is 4,000 pages and the most comprehensive to date.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said the findings are “a code red for humanity.”

Current maps show entire towns and huge swaths of North Carolina counties sitting in the flood plain.

The speed at which the planet is changing means those maps could grow to include more people.

“So the sea level rise and major storms expected with climate change should really expand our understanding of flood risks to include areas outside of traditional flood plains and flood maps. At the state and local level, first responders and government agencies, as well as all critical utilities infrastructure they really ought to prepare for more severe and more frequent flooding,” said Couzo.

With 46,000 farms, agriculture is a $93 billion business in North Carolina.

Couzo said farmers and growers also need to be aware.

“So farmers should be prepared for further weather uncertainty which is not what they want to hear but this won’t come as a surprise to farmers in our state as unpredictable weather has become the norm.”

Couzo added: “As much as I hate to say it, we are beyond individual action. It doesn’t mean you should leave lights on or not buy a fuel-efficient vehicle if you can afford it. But we’re at the point, and I think we’ve been at the point for many years now, that it’s going to take systemic international change. We have to change the way we move ourselves around, move our goods around and power our homes and businesses. Burning things for heat and electricity is so 19th century and we’re in the 21st century now.”

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