By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — According to a U.N. organization report released Sunday, scientists are warning the planet will experience extreme weather and deadly food shortages if no drastic action is taken by 2030.

They say cuts in emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are required to keep “a semblance” of the world’s current ecosystem.

So, what are top ways we produce emissions? Good Question.

“Everything we consume has greenhouse gas emissions behind it,” says Gabriel Chan, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Minnesota.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 28 percent of the emissions in the United States comes from the electricity system. That would include all the ways people power, light and cool their homes and businesses.

Another 28 percent comes from transportation, which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains and shipping.

About 22 percent stems from what the EPA calls industry, which would include manufacturing, refining or chemical production. The commercial and residential building sector, much of whose energy comes from burning natural gas, accounts for 11 percent.

Finally, agriculture is the source of 9 percent, most of which comes from farming byproducts or replacing forests with farmland.

Chan says small individual changes like more biking to work, using LED lights or recycling can make a big difference symbolically, but a more systemic change would be required to slow down the negative consequences of climate change. That would mean changing how the world’s cities are designed, land use, and how to power everything from cars to companies.

“One of the really hard parts of climate change is that greenhouse gases stay on Earth for 1,000 years, so we’ve already locked into the system a lot of temperature changes,” Chan said.

Right now, the United States accounts for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making climate change a global issue.

“What this report shows is this problem is at such a scale that it’s going to take more than symbolic action than what individuals can do,” says Chan. “It’s going to really require thinking at a systemic level.”

He says he’s heard fellow experts use this analogy — the change that’s required now is like how the U.S. geared up for World War II, but every country would have to spend those resources and make those sacrifices for 50 years.

Heather Brown