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Expert: Illinois climate headed south to Texas


NORMAL — Unless substantial steps are taken soon, Illinois will wind up with a climate more like southeast Texas, according to a noted climate scientist who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the field.

Donald Wuebbles, a University of Illinois professor speaking Monday as part of a daylong climate change conference at Illinois State University, said scientists are working to do a better job of communicating the dangers they see from global climate change.

“We are not great communicators. But some of the people who put out the misinformation are,” Wuebbles said.

Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree climate change is happening and human factors are the primary cause, according to Wuebbles.

“There is no debate in the peer reviewed science community,” he said.

Jim Jones, director of ISU’s Katie School of Insurance, one of the sponsors of Climate Change Day, echoed Wuebbles in calling climate change “the most important issue” of our time.

“It affects every aspect of our society, every individual, every industry,” Jones said.

As examples, he cited how the insurance industry has to determine how to insure against the risks posed by climate change, whether to give discounts for hybrid vehicles and where to invest its profits.

Wuebbles is part of a federal advisory committee that is putting together an updated U.S. National Climate Assessment to submit to Congress under a law passed in 1990.

Data shows the earth is warming at a faster rate than can be explained by natural causes and the warming has accelerated in the last 50 years, Wuebbles said.

“It’s not warming uniformly, nor do we expect it to,” said Wuebbles, explaining that more than just temperatures are involved.

“Basically, the dry get drier and the wet get wetter,” he said.

Perhaps more noticeable than the incremental increase in average temperature will be an increase in major weather events, such as prolonged droughts, floods, heavy rainfalls and severe storms of all sorts, from blizzards to hurricanes, he said.

Wuebbles used to think a severe prolonged drought in the Midwest that dramatically affected crop yields would prompt action.

“Well, this last year, we just had it and that didn’t do it. I think it will take multiple events,” Wuebbles said after his talk.

In addition to Wuebbles’ keynote address, Climate Change Day included short presentations on climate change issues and brainstorming sessions on how to enhance campus sustainability. Student-proposed projects selected by university officials will receive up to $1,000 in funding.

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