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Hunter Professor William Solecki Coauthors “Landmark” UN Report on Climate Change

A new report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounds a sobering alarm about the risks of climate change, but Hunter geography professor William Solecki remains hopeful: “The window of opportunity is open,” says Professor Solecki, one of the report’s contributors and the author of its first chapter. In an interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered,” however, Solecki stressed that taking advantage of that opportunity requires immediate action: “We need to act to lessen the likelihood of more significant warming and more significant impacts. There’s clear evidence that action now could forestall greater impacts in the future.”

Professor Solecki is the founding director of the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities and one of the world’s foremost experts on urban environmental change. As a member of IPCC, a coalition with 193 member countries, Professor Solecki serves alongside other eminent scientists and experts and his research has profoundly influenced international environmental policy.

Released on October 8, 2018, the IPCC report describes the potential effects on the environment if the atmosphere’s temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – which is projected to occur by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to be released at the current rate. It also examines the ripple effects those environmental changes might have on human health, economies and societies.

The report, which the New York Times called “landmark,” has been in the works for more than a year, drawing on more than 6,000 scientific studies and reflecting the expertise of 86 authors from 39 countries. Its release is sparking a reinvigorated call for action by policymakers, corporations, and citizens. The report’s importance, says The New Yorker, “is hard to overstate.” Unless immediate steps are taken, ecosystems will vanish, species will become extinct, food sources will be depleted, and people will lose their homes. Despite these daunting challenges, Professor Solecki thinks these crises can be averted if they are met with an appropriately urgent response.

Professor Solecki, who joined the Hunter faculty in 2003 and served as co-chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, views his participation in IPCC as one of the most important accomplishments of his career. Although nation-states were the primary audience for the IPCC report, Solecki cites increasing mobilization by non-state groups, international organizations, and even local and state actors as cause for optimism, explaining: “It’s in that context of widespread engagement where the possibility for collective action emerges.”

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