Extreme temperatures, heat waves and rising seas that have patterned the globe and continue to threaten coastal cities like Boston are “guaranteed” to continue, finds a new U.N. report the secretary general described as a “code red for humanity.”
“It’s just guaranteed that it’s going to get worse,” said report co-author Linda Mearns, a senior climate scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”
The new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes it’s “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” and states the impacts — especially on our oceans — will be “irreversible for centuries to millennia.”
The consequences for humanity mean an acceleration of “extreme events unprecedented in the observational record.”
Coastal cities like Boston — where flooding is already rampant — will bear the brunt of it, but scientists did ease up on the doom and gloom of the worst climate catastrophes described in an initial 2013 report.
“Our report shows that we need to be prepared for going into that level of warming in the coming decades. But we can avoid further levels of warming by acting on greenhouse gas emissions,” said report co-chair Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a climate scientist at France’s Laboratory of Climate and Environment Sciences at the University of Paris-Saclay.
Boston City Councilor at-large Michelle Wu, who is running for mayor in the upcoming election, said Monday’s report left her, “shaken and emotional as a mom.”
“I think every day about what it means to be raising two little kids in this city. To be worried every second of the day about how they’re doing in this moment,” Wu said. “To realize that so much is at stake for 10, 20, 50 years down the line when we won’t be here anymore and that they will be left to bear the consequences of our actions right now … today’s report sent chills and terror through me.”
Noting the city has “no time to waste,” City Councilor Lydia Edwards joined Wu and other climate activists in Boston on Monday to discuss urgent action to mitigate the affects of climate change.
“We understand — quite frankly, in East Boston and parts of the North End that if we do nothing, we won’t exist as a community,” Edwards said, calling it “another wake-up call” for the city.
The 3,000-plus-page report from 234 scientists said warming is already accelerating sea level rise and worsening extremes such as heat waves, droughts, floods and storms. Tropical cyclones are getting stronger and wetter, while Arctic sea ice is dwindling in the summer and permafrost is thawing. All of these trends will get worse, the report said.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.