Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Katherine Hayhoe – the voice for climate science – it’s above party politics!

Katharine Hayhoe: ‘A thermometer is not liberal or conservative’ Guardian, Jonathan Watts,  6 Jan 19   Katharine Hayhoe: ‘Fear is a short-term spur to action, but to make changes over the long term, we must have hope.’  

Let Science Speak – Dr. Katharine Hayhoe

The award-winning atmospheric scientist on the urgency of the climate crisis and why people are her biggest hope  “….. In 2018, we have seen forest fires in the Arctic circle; record high temperatures in parts of Australia, Africa and the US; floods in India; and devastating droughts in South Africa and Argentina. Is this a turning point? 
This year has hit home how climate change loads the dice against us by taking naturally occurring weather events and amplifying them. We now have attribution studies that show how much more likely or stronger extreme weather events have become as a result of human emissions. For example, wildfires in the western US now burn nearly twice the area they would without climate change, and almost 40% more rain fell during Hurricane Harvey than would have otherwise. So we are really feeling the impacts and know how much humanity is responsible.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 1.5C report in October. A month later, the US federal government’s climate assessment – to which youcontributed – came out. How did these two massive studies move our understanding along? 
These assessments are important because there is a Schrödinger’s Cat element to studying climate impacts. The act of observing affects the outcome. If people aren’t aware of what is happening, why would anyone change? Assessments like these provide us with a vision of the future if we continue on our current pathway, and by doing so they address the most widespread and dangerous myth that the largest number of us have bought into: not that the science isn’t real, but rather that climate change doesn’t matter to me personally.

Compared to past studies, how much media attention did these reports receive?

There was significant coverage but a lot of media survive by generating controversy so they bring on opposing voices rather than explaining the scientific facts. Climate change shouldn’t be fodder for commentators who represent the interests of the fossil fuel industry by muddying the science. As a human and a scientist, this focus on controversy is frustrating. A thermometer is not liberal or conservative.

Are there any signs that public opinion is shifting in the US and elsewhere

We haven’t yet reached the tipping point to motivate sufficient action. But there has been a change. Ten years ago, few people felt personally affected by climate change. It seemed very distant. Today, most people can point to a specific way climate affects their daily lives. This is important because the three key steps to action are accepting that climate change is real, recognising it affects us, and being motivated to do something to fix it. Opinion polls in the US show 70% of people agree the climate is changing, but a majority still say it won’t affect them.

Trump was dismissive of these reports and has repeatedly tried to deny any link between climate change and extreme weather. What are the politics behind this denial? 

It’s a vicious cycle. The more doom-filled reports the scientists release, the stronger the pushback from politicians whose power, ideology and funding depends on maintaining the status quo, and who are supported by those who fear the solutions to climate change more than they fear its impacts. Opposition to climate change is a symptom of a society that is politically polarised between those who cling to the past and those who recognise the need for a better future. Fossil fuels have brought us many benefits – and I’m grateful for their contribution to my life – but the solution to our current crisis is to stop using them. That change can be scary, especially for those with most to lose financially from this shift. If you feel threatened, the instinctive reaction is to push back………

On current trends, if you had to give a percentage breakdown of the likelihood of the following three outcomes by 2100, what would you give: a) keeping to 1.5C; b) keeping to 2C; c) rising above 3C; and d) overshooting 4C?
I’d put my money on a gradual bend away from a higher scenario, which is where we are now, until accumulating and worsening climate disasters eventually lead to a collective “oh shit!” moment, when people finally realise climate impacts do pose a far greater threat than the solutions. At that point, I would hope the world would suddenly ramp up its carbon reduction to the scale of a Manhattan Project or a moon race and we would finally be able to make serious progress. The multitrillion-dollar question is simply when that tipping point in opinion will come, and whether it will be too late for civilisation as we know it. I hope with all my heart that we stay under 1.5C, but my cynical brain says 3C. Perhaps the reality will be somewhere between my head and my heart at 2C.

What is the best way out of the climate crisis? What policies would make a difference? 
The most important thing is to accelerate the realisation that we have to act. This means connecting the dots to show that the impacts are not distant any more: they are here and they affect our lives. It also means talking about solutions. The technology and knowledge are there. The economics already make sense. In Texas, where I live, the biggest military base, Fort Hood, switched last year to renewables because they were cheaper than natural gas. And finally, it means weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, which is challenged by the fact that the majority of the world’s richest companies have made their money from the fossil fuel economy – so the majority of the wealth and power remains in their hands. ……… https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/06/katharine-hayhoe-interview-climate-change-scientist-crisis-hope

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January 8, 2019 - Posted by | General News

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