February 28, 2022

Purdue expert on UN climate report: 'We’re not able to adapt to it as fast as it’s happening'

Flooded cornfields in Illinois.  -  Robert Kaufmann/FEMA

Flooded cornfields in Illinois.

Robert Kaufmann/FEMA

A new report on global climate change is underlining the speed at which the world’s climate is changing – and how slowly efforts to reduce or adapt to those impacts are being made.

Among the top-line conclusions of the report was the finding that human-induced climate change has caused weather and climate extremes that have led to “irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.”

The report also emphasized gaps between current strategies to adapt to a changing climate and the actual effort needed to “reduce climate risks.”

The report was written by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, and includes the work of nearly 300 researchers from just under 70 countries.

Jeff Dukes is a climate scientist with Purdue University and one of the report’s contributors. He said it emphasizes the widespread impacts from climate change that are already taking place.

“We’re not able to adapt to it as fast as it’s happening essentially right now,” he said. “There are impacts being felt around the world, people are suffering, economies are shrinking - particularly in places like Africa. We need to figure out how to slow this down.”

Among other things, the report also highlights the substantial differences in climate vulnerability across the globe connected to “historical and ongoing patterns of inequality such as colonialism.”

Dukes – whose team focused on climate change impacts on agriculture in North America – said in Indiana, and across the Midwest, warming has been slower compared with other parts of the world, but has led to wetter on average springs and drier falls.

“We sort of paradoxically have to be prepared for both wetter conditions and drier conditions,” he said. “More rain when we don’t want it and less water in the soil when we need it.”

Dukes said preparing for the coming changes in climate will be key.

“There is a lot of things we can do to sort of make sure we’re acknowledging we’re not living in the climate of the past and we’ll soon be living in a climate that is different than the one we’re in now,” he said.

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