UW climate change researchers optimistic about Paris summit - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UW climate change researchers optimistic about Paris summit

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MADISON (WKOW) -- When the leaders of nearly 200 countries discuss possible solutions to combat climate change at a United Nations summit in Paris this week, they'll be basing some of their decisions on research authored by Dr. Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at UW-Madison.

"I've been a member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC - for 14 years," Dr. Patz told 27 News, who leaves for Paris and the UN summit on Tuesday.

Dr. Patz's work on the IPCC earned him and the other members a Nobel Prize in 2007. His specific focus for the past 20 years has been on the negative human health impacts caused by a warming planet.

"We've done studies showing that heat waves in Milwaukee, New York and other cities in the eastern U.S. would triple by the middle of the century," said Dr. Patz. "For example New York, right now, has only 13 days hotter than 90 degrees. By mid-century that will triple to 39 days hotter than 90 degrees. So, we know from our research that these extreme weather events that kill people will be intensified by climate change.

"This is a very big deal and it's a crucial moment in history," UW Botany Professor Dr. Don Waller told 27 News.

Dr. Waller - who is already in France on sabbatical this semester - has done his own research on the impact climate change has had on plants.

"Most plants are falling behind, some to a much greater extent than others. And so we're very concerned about their ability to adapt to the changing climates and maintain their populations and persist," said Dr. Waller.

Dr. Patz and Dr. Waller believe the summit could help the world realize some of the goals they have been working towards for decades.

"I'm impressed by the fact that China and the U.S. have really - the two leading greenhouse gas emitters in the world - are coming together on the realization that they need to do something serious about climate change," said Dr. Waller.

"We're at a really opportune time right now," added Dr. Patz. "We have good political will. 183 countries have pledged reductions in greenhouse gases and the public is really aware of climate change. It's real, the science is in, it's happening today."

Caitlyn Allen, a UW-Madison professor of plant pathology, will also attend the summit with Patz and Waller.

Sumudu Atapattu, director of the UW-Madison Law School Research Centers and coordinator of the UW-Madison Human rights program, is also headed to Paris. She has written a book on human rights approaches to climate change and the intangible costs of a warming planet, such as water scarcity, food security, and migration.

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