UW News

October 11, 2018

UW professor of global health a lead author on new climate report

UW News

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, this week released a new document that looks at the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) above preindustrial levels. That was the more ambitious goal established by governments in late 2015 through the Paris Agreement on climate. Governments committed to keeping the planet’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above preindustrial levels, but to aim for a change no greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

portrait of Kristie Ebi

Kristie Ebi

Kristie Ebi, a University of Washington professor of global health and of environmental and occupational health sciences, was a lead author on the document approved Oct. 8. The IPCC “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C,” compares the effects of 1.5 versus 2 degrees Celsius global warming, the possible consequences of those temperature shifts for human and natural systems, and the changes needed to meet those two targets.

Ebi was in Incheon, Korea, until Tuesday for the official approval of the document. She noted this was the first report for which the world governments asked the IPCC authors to address a specific topic. Officials from about 140 nations participated in the approval session, going through the report line by line to ensure the summary for policymakers was not only scientifically accurate, but also that the statements would be clear and useful for policymakers.

“All countries were engaged in the process, working together with scientists to co-produce a document they can use within their countries to inform policies,” Ebi said.

Representatives from the U.S. government constructively engaged in the discussions. President Trump’s administration signed plans to withdraw from the agreement, but the withdrawal process takes several years.

“Climate change is already affecting people, ecosystems and livelihoods around the world,” Ebi said. “It is generally the poor and disadvantaged who are most affected.”

Hear an interview with Ebi on NPR’s “Morning Edition”

Read the New York Times article with a quote from Ebi

Keeping temperatures within 1.5 C or even 2 C of preindustrial levels would require phasing out technology that burns coal or gasoline while also developing technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“Limiting warming to 1.5 C above preindustrial levels is possible — and would require unprecedented transitions,” Ebi said. “At the same time, many of the actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would benefit human health now. And the size of those health benefits is projected to offset most, if not all, of the costs of mitigation.”

Ebi is one of four UW faculty members who will contribute to the IPCC 6th Assessment Report on the state of global understanding and preparedness for climate change. The three reports in the assessment will be published in 2020/2021, with a summary available by early 2022.


For more information, contact Ebi at krisebi@uw.edu or 206-543-8440.