Outdoors Sustainability

Climate City: Code Red

By Joshua Blanco

According to the latest report released by the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), humans have played an unequivocal role in warming the climate. Our impact on the climate system “is now an established fact,” it reads.

“The evidence for this is stronger than ever before,” says David Easterling, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Climate Assessment Technical Support Unit. Easterling, who served as an author on the last four IPCC reports and assisted the federal government in reviewing the most recent version, says we can already see the changes happening in our own backyard—from higher nighttime lows and warmer daytime temperatures to increased droughts and the eventual disappearance of the white snowy blankets that used to cover the mountains in the wintertime.

Flooded Biltmore Village. Photo courtesy of The City of Asheville and Polly McDaniel

Easterling recalls how years ago, we used to see snow on the ground for days and weeks at a time. “Now you’re going to have more of a changeover from snow to rain,” he says. “And when it does snow, it’s not going to stick around for long.”

While he admits WNC is in a better position to handle some of the more serious effects threatening the rest of the state, like severe damage from tropical storms and severe heat waves, excess rainfall could be a serious threat, leading to landslides, flash floods and the destruction of homes and roads across the region. “We’re certainly setting the stage for more of these kinds of events,” Easterling says. “And these changes will go on for as long as we continue to put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

And that’s sort of good news, at least in the sense that we have the power to stop ongoing damage to our ecosystems. Fortunately for us, the state is stepping up its game with the introduction of House Bill 951, Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80 and the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan to name a few, which set in motion the basic framework necessary to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. In our region specifically, cities like Asheville are doubling down with measures like the recent Climate Emergency declaration in an attempt to end greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But change doesn’t come without a cost.

“You can mitigate it, slow it down and maybe even stabilize it at some point in the future,” Easterling says. “But the warming we’ve already seen is what our children are going to live with.” And that’s all the more reason to take action to protect the place we call home.

For more information on climate change in our area visit the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies at NCIS.org. To view the latest IPCC report in its entirety, go to IPCC.ch.

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