This quote by Jeff Masters was part of the presentation by Dr. Amanda Rosen at the September 11, 2017 WCD meeting. Dr. Rosen of Webster University spoke on the topic, “Changing the Climate Conversation: Resolving Global Climate Change without National Action.” Dr. Rosen noted that she is a political scientist, not a climatologist.
Where are we on climate change? Statistics show that sixteen of the past seventeen years have been some of the hottest on record since 2000. There is a difference between the concept of climate change and global warming. Global warming refers to an increase in temperature over time. The earth has a natural warming effect but now we are seeing human-enhanced greenhouse effect. Glaciers are disappearing and may all be gone by 2100. The ice shelf is breaking off in Antartica leading to sea rise and tidal flooding predicted to be a range of 18″-59″ by 2100. The Maldives has already lost 14 islands.The Sahara Desert has expanded by 60 miles. Areas of the world in areas most likely to be affected by flooding have high population density.
Weather is becoming more frequent and intense as recently evidenced by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Wildfires are raging in the Western US. Water stress will put 40% of the world at risk for water scarcity and the most vulnerable are the poorest countries. A climate refugee is someone who has to leave their home because of a sudden or gradual alteration in climate. Water scarcity exacerbates geographical tension and can become an underlying conflict. The US military has noted that water security is a concern in the near future.
Animals are at risk such as polar bears and sea turtles. Dr. Rosen commented that the gender of sea turtles is determined by the temperature of the sand where the eggs are hatched, making them at risk to extinction as world temps rise. Animals cannot vote and we must speak for them.
The challenge for solving global warming is that there is no national constituency with identifiable “direct sufferers”. Solutions require us to invest money now for the hope of future benefits, i.e. there are specific costs for everyone to bear with diffuse benefits for a few. Dr. Rosen noted specific issues: 1. Locus of Action, 2. Lifestyle and Infrastructure, 3. Economic and Development, 4. Money, Voting and Politics, and 5. Climate Skepticism. Locus of action refers to whether governments (national, state or local), organizations, groups or individuals will solve climate change. Lifestyle and infrastructure changes assist to impact global warming, such as the Netherlands which promotes biking. Economic and development action and inaction imposes costs, such as the example of a Brazilian dam that provides hydroelectricity but displaced 10,000 residents. Money, voting and politics refers to the mismatch between those who vote and people who are affected by global warming. Climate skepticism is a communication problem. The number of people who are worried about global warming is increasing in the US, however, the US is at the bottom of countries which believe global warming is a real and serious threat. Dr. Rosen noted that 97% of climatologists believe that global warming is a real threat has become a partisan issue with gaps between “cultures and tribes”. Facts don’t affect an individual’s beliefs as people receive info from one set of sources with religion and politics playing a role. She referred to a video clip by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight where a mathematically representative climate change debate was held.
Dr. Rosen has concerns about the Trump administration’s affect upon global warming as there is little support for the U.S. Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Agreement. Pipelines have been approved, NASA has suffered budget cuts, and government websites have been removed. However, some states, local governments and businesses have stepped up efforts to reduce global warming.
Is there any hope for reversing global warming? Dr. Rosen sees hope in energy independence, preserving rainforests, sustainability, green jobs, livable cities, renewables, clean water and air, and healthy children. NGOs and innovative companies are investing in clean energy in developing countries. Solar energy and electric cars are becoming more prevalent. Congestion charging is being used as an incentive to encourage use of public transportation. Individuals are protesting and pressure is being placed on politicians. States are challenging environmental standards (or lack of) and cities are choosing to comply with the Paris Agreement.
Dr. Rosen concluded by inviting all to Webster University’s International Human Rights Conference on Environmental Justice on October 11th and 12th. Please visit www.webster.edu/human rights for more information.
Submitted by Jennifer Hoffman, WCD Member