Progress, but not enough, made at UN Climate Conference

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — As Colorado Springs flirts with breaking the record for latest snowfall in a season, world leaders are returning home from Glasgow, Scotland from the United Nations Climate Conference (also referred to as COP26).

The conference brought together world leaders who made commitments to reduce emissions in order to slow the rate of warming on the planet, but left much to be desired from environmentalists and climate advocates like Bernadette Woods Placky, the chief meteorologist for Climate Central.

“People are getting a sense that we do need to ramp up this action,” Placky said. “[COP26] showed we’re taking a step in the right direction, but it’s only a step. We have much more work to do.”

Woods Placky is also the director of Climate Central’s Climate Matters program. She noted the climate has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius, which is likely playing into Colorado Springs’ delayed snowfall, in addition to a La Nina weather pattern that is hugging moisture to the northwest reaches of the United States.

Climate Central says the annual average observed temperature in Colorado Springs has increased from the high 40s (Fahrenheit) in the 1970’s, to the low 50s, and can reach close to 60s by the end of the century.

“Colorado has a high enough elevation that we’re still going to get snow, but we’ll start to see less of what we call the ‘shoulder seasons,” Woods Placky explained. “The fall and the spring starts to trim away and that affects economies and ski resorts that want to open up earlier and the water that’s built into the snow pack.”

The progress is noticeable in the warming projections. Before the Paris Climate Accords in 2016, warming was projected at around four degrees Celsius, which many climatologists agree would have catastrophic effects on the globe, including rising sea levels and larger, hotter wildfires.

After the commitments made in the Paris Climate Accord, projections for warming hovered around 2.5 degrees Celsius, still far above the target of 1.5.

Commitments made during Glasgow appear to be moving the needle closer to under the two-degree mark, but Woods Placky notes those are words spoken, not work done.

“These are not direct actions, these are not direct policies that are in place around the world, but if you squeeze out everything that was committed there, it could bring us to two or under that two-degree range. But the goal was 1.5 and you see, we aren’t quite there yet.”

Woods Placky is encouraged by the framework that can guide nations away from coal and fossil fuels for electricity generation, the first time a commitment like that had been made at an UN climate conference.

She applauded states like Colorado where emissions are on track to be cut by half by 2030, and the goal to decrease by 90 percent by 2050, saying it can show other communities what is possible.

“Look at the extremes we’re seeing already, and this globally is at one degree Celsius,” Woods Placky said. “If we continues with a couple more degrees above that, that’s just going to escalate,” Woods Placky said. “It’s a healthier, cleaner lifestyle and it also puts us on a path to be able to manage the type of warming that we put in place.”

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