11,000 scientists say we’re in a ‘climate emergency,’ but what is Columbia doing about it?

Updated: Nov. 6, 2019 at 7:00 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More than 11,000 scientists around the world and in Columbia agree that the planet is now in a "climate emergency.”

According to a study about how human activity has affected the planet over the last 40 years, greenhouse gas emissions are increasing quickly. The researchers also said governments aren't doing enough to slow it down.

The study's authors suggest several solutions from family planning, stabilizing population growth, decreasing the use of fossil fuels, and more people switching to plant-based foods to reduce greenhouse gases from livestock.

Local scientists said South Carolina is not an exemption from the impacts of this "emergency." They said the state has experienced record-breaking heat, rising tides on the coast, and seen new bacteria forming in the water.

"Fall season this year is the hottest on record. The records go back to 1954 and we are five degrees above that record we shattered it. It means for our elderly people they are more likely to feel heat stress outside. It means we need to think differently about what children are doing outside playing,” said University of South Carolina professor Kirstin Dow. “It affects every person in our lives and how we live our lives.”

It's not just the heat. Dow said major climate events like the floods in 2015 could be getting worse. Also, regular storms and droughts will get longer and more intense.

In order to combat these impacts, two years ago, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin became the first mayor to sign onto a plan to move the city to 100% renewable energy by 2036.

This is an ambitious goal, according to the Climate Protection Action campaign, the group working with the city reach this goal.

"The steps they have taken have been very incremental,” said Penny, the incoming committee member and community organizer for the initiative.

It’s a sentiment echoed by fellow committee member and University of South Carolina professor, Dr. Lori Ziolkowski.

"We have 15 years to make a lot of changes,” she said. “Infrastructure takes many years to plan and build, so we have a long way to go to meet that 100% goal. So, have to start becoming more ambitious about the actions we are taking in the short term.”

In a statement to WIS, Mayor Benjamin said there is a lot of work still to be done, but some changes have already been made.

“We have had several successful initiatives including converting our traffic lights to LED lights, planting over 10,000 new trees, adopting bike share solutions for employees and the general public,” he said.

The mayor said they are conducting a review of the city’s energy uses to find solutions to meet the 2036 goal.

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