“Human activities are driving climate change,” AU professor tells Congress

Jessica Tierney, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arizona, presented Zoom research on Wednesday (Sept. 1) to members of Congress on how human activity has led to climate change.

At the AU, Tierney studies geochemical records to understand the future of climate by examining trends over thousands of years of past data.

Tierney is also a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She and three colleagues each had five minutes to brief Congress on research being conducted proving human activity caused climate change.

During the briefing, Tierney explained how the environment is interconnected and the impact of climate change on extreme natural disasters.


Western North America has experienced a mega-drought since 2000, the second worst in 1,000 years, according to Tierney. She said that problems like heat waves and droughts are “personal for [her]because she lives in Arizona and grew up in California.

This mega-drought is having a direct impact on the people of Arizona. For example, the Colorado River’s water supply is cut off from farmers in the state. Farmers expect to be completely cut off from supply by 2023, according to an article published by The Republic of Arizona.

Tierney spoke about another issue plaguing Arizona: air quality.

Tierney argued that climate change and air quality go hand in hand, saying “it is possible to tackle air pollution and climate change at the same time”.

The mega-drought caused forest fires across the country. As a result, fine particles from wildfire smoke from states like Oregon and California settle across the country, affecting air quality in Arizona and potentially making it easier for residents to breathe.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality said in a press release that high pollution “can increase the number and severity of asthma attacks, cause or worsen bronchitis or other lung disease. , and reduce the body’s ability to fight infections ”.

In order to improve these problems, carbon emissions must be reduced. Man-made climate change is at the root of these extreme weather events, according to Tierney.

“[These extremes] would be virtually impossible without climate change, ”Tierney said.

The frequency of disasters has increased with the increase in greenhouse gases. “Man-made climate change has increased the likelihood of fires eight-fold,” Tierney said. She also noted that the natural disasters that are occurring are also more intense than before.

Without immediate change implemented by Congress, we could face irreversible consequences.

Another presenting member of the IPCC, Robert Kopp, said: “There is no turning back in the face of certain changes in the climate system. However, some changes could be slower and others could be stopped by limiting the warming. “

Kopp said if the change does not happen, the climate could rise by three to four degrees Celsius. While that doesn’t sound like a big change, three to four degrees Celsius could raise the global average sea level by two feet by the turn of the century.

“This summer in the United States alone, we’ve seen just about all extremes come together,” Tierney said.

To find out more or watch the briefing, visit the Maison’s website.

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