Focus; Is Climate Change Too Uncertain For Policy?
In this hour of focus 580 will be talking about global climate and what we know about what's going on with there with the warming of the planet. And our guest of the program is a researcher who has been following this issue writing about it talking about it now for a couple of decades and has been one of the become one of the leading voices voicing concern about the possibility that we have done serious damage to the climate and that it might indeed get worse. Our guest is Stephen Schneider. He is professor of environmental biology and global change at Stanford University. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and plasma physics from Columbia. He joined the faculty at Stanford in 1982 is professor of biological sciences and has done a lot of pioneering work looking at the atmosphere and global climatology. He's visiting the campus and will be giving a talk in the Miller series and we're pleased again this year to be having a lot of these folks on the program to bring them. We hope to a wider audience but certainly if you're in and around Champaign-Urbana you're welcome to attend his talk. The type the topic is climate change too uncertain for policy and he'll be speaking tonight at 7:30 in a room 190 of the engineering sciences building. And that's on Springfield Avenue in Urbana. All of these talks the miller calms are always open to anyone who would like to attend so fear again here in Champaign Urbana you'd like to hear him. You should feel welcome also here on the program. Questions are welcome. The number 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5. Well thank you very much for being here. Thank you David my pleasure to be here. To start out I guess the preps of the place to start again is what it is as far as global climate goes. What it is that today we can say for certain had it that and again it it seems to me that what we can say for certain is that well we know we've looked at average global temperature and we know over the last hundred years that it's gone up by about one degree and also that some of now though the warmest years over the last century have come just recently within the past few years. Can we now say though having said well that's what we can say. Do we know for certain can we say for certain that that increase in temperature has been the result of human activity that's that seems to be the big question.
OK before I try to answer that let me say a few other things we know for certain and then we'll come back to that good question about you know whether it's nature or whether it's the first we know for sure that the humans have been using for a long time the atmosphere is a free sewer dump and there is no charge. And as a result of the you know the increasing numbers of people in the world and the fact that we increase our standards of living by using cheap things like coal and oil and gas as much as we can that we keep dumping and it builds up so we now know that there's about 30 percent more of this gas carbon dioxide you know we all breathe. But it's primarily from you know industrial and agricultural activities. And we know there's 150 percent more methane which is another gas associated with what humans do. And we also know again for certain that these gases trap heat near the earth's surface. None of that is speculative. So now what we have is a circumstantial case. We've got this build up of greenhouse gases in the post-industrial revolution. We've got this warming which is just what the theory says should happen and now the question is is that a coincidence or are we part of the story. Now if you listen to this debate in public you end up hearing passionate. Disagreement you're going to end up finding somebody from a deep ecology group telling you that this is you know monkeying with a life support system and it's going to increase the hurricanes and lead to catastrophic outcomes. You hear somebody from the coal industry who makes SUV these prime producers of these pollutants. Tell you that CO2 is a fertilizer that makes your green plants grow better and that after all the climate is way too complicated and too noisy and we're just you know our puny force and so you get this contention in the media between the end of the world and good for you which I will confess my prejudice the two lowest probability cases or end of the world and good for you. Most everything else in between is much more likely ranging from milder facts to catastrophic. But your question was did we do it. And you can't tell by just looking at the curves of pollution going up curves of temperature going up. Remember that could be an accident if I took two coins and I flipped them in parallel they both came out head head. That wouldn't prove the magnetically attracted. You have to flip a bit more so we need more evidence what we call fingerprints. So one of the kinds of things we look for we'd say well supposing the sun did it as asserted in the Wall Street Journal editorial pages all the time if the sun changed its energy and it got say hotter. And there's no real evidence of that but if that happened it would heat the atmosphere the middle atmosphere surface and the upper atmosphere. But that's not what happened. What happened is the surface got warmer but the stratosphere got cooler. Well that's that's a signature or a fingerprint of adding greenhouse gases in the increasing ozone. So now we now have not have one piece of circumstantial evidence right more pollution warmer. But we have two which is and the distribution is the way the theory says it should be from greenhouse gases the greenhouse gas theory also says that we should warm up more in the mid to high latitudes in the winter and spring than in the tropics or in other seasons. And over land more than Oceans Well that's also what's happened in the last 30 years. Now we have three coincidences. So it doesn't pass the laugh test the complete asserting over and over again that each one of these is a coincidence by itself yes. But taken together the vast bulk of the knowledgeable scientific community has said that this is very strong evidence that there's a discernible impact of human activity on climate. And you can assign an absolute probability I'd say 95 percent likely that we're at least half and maybe more of the story.
Well let me ask a further question to begin it's also a question that is hotly debated and that is. What's going to happen next what's going to happen five years 10 years 20 years down the road and should we expect that global temperature is going to continue to rise as some people would say. Yes some people say maybe. So he would say yes a lot somebody would say yes we're a little bit. It's no big deal. Is there any way of answering that question.
Well we have to start out before we even talk about the science of this. You know if we keep adding tons of carbon dioxide it builds up in the atmosphere and that traps more heat how many degrees that kind of warm we have to start out by asking what people are going to do what's our population going to be if we destabilize it 10 billion or at 8.
Are we going to all want to be 500 to a thousand times richer which means using more resources. Probably. Are we going to do it by using the old Victorian industrial technologies like cheap coal burning and the internal combustion engines with Hummers an SUV is getting 8 and 10 miles a gallon or we're going to do it with hybrids and. And hydrogen fuel cell cars they get 50 to 100 miles a gallon. So in order to know what the future is going to be just from the science point of view we have to determine what we think human behavior is going to be. And the really interesting question is in order to figure out what humans are going to do they actually care whether what they do affects the climate and may negatively hurt them. So what we do will depend in part upon what the scientists say how serious the problem is all of this thing is connected you going to stand why this debate is so contentious because Can you imagine a pundit in 1900 predicting the nature of the technology in a society in the year 2000. Well we have to do that. We have to now predict how the society and technology will be organized in 20 100. So what we do is what we call scenarios we project out a world that's a galah Tarion. Where people you know share new technologies and therefore the most efficient ones get spread out. That's a relatively low polluting world. Or we can have a highly globalized world where instead of people using the fruits of globalization to share they keep it for themselves. They use the cheapest technologies we don't have a fee for dumping in the sewer. That's a world where we triple or quadruple the carbon dioxide and we threaten to warm up 10 degrees and that's exactly what the community does it presents. The listeners can't see my fingers spread out but there's a fan you know your thumb up at the top. Is this world of tripling or quadrupling CO2 in my little pinky down at the bottom is. No we're going to be really careful about using more efficient technologies. And it's the difference between a mild pressure on the earth and a very very significant pressure on the earth. And that's where the debate is so is so engaged because in order to get the mild pressure on the earth we have to set up incentives for people not to dump in the atmosphere incentives mean some constraint than individual free activities. And that leads right away into the ideological battle about whether you worry more about individual rights or whether you worry more about protecting the Commons which is why this problem is so polemical in the media.
We have a caller and we write to them. Let me introduce Again our guest Stephen Schneider is Professor. At Stanford University professor of environmental biology and global change and has been doing research on writing about talking about this issue of global climate change for a couple of decades now and he's here visiting the campus will talk tonight on the campus and we'll give you some more information on that in a bit. We just also like to invite people who are listening to call with their questions. 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 here in Champaign Urbana toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. We have someone here clearly an Internet listener because they're in San Francisco on a line and before. Hello.
Yeah morning or afternoon I guess for you. I am interested in a couple of different things one is the spread of disease. And it's my understanding that is global climate change happens in larger and larger storms with larger and larger winds are going to push insects and diseases far you know far distances. So something that may be down in the tropics. And up in Canada and in the matter of a few short days and actually that kind of raises the issue of whether West Nile is is coming about because of some of these huge wins and storms. The other thing is many prestes projection of when Congress is going to get off their lazy hind quarters and actually budget some money toward doing something about climate change. You know nine one one has shifted the entire economy toward security and and paranoia and you know paranoia has no guarantee yet there is a guarantee that climate change is happening and they're not spending a penny on it. I wonder if you've got any opinions on that.
Well let me start with the last one first because one of the ironies is that one of the ways that we decouple our dependence on the sorts of nasty folks out there who really exist is don't depend on them for oil. So in the process of using more efficient cars more efficient power plants and less polluting sources we actually reduce the balance of payments deficit and we reduce the need to protect this. The lines of security in the Middle East and other places. And so there's actually a connection between security and environment. And we can work that connection together. It has actually been noted by a number of people including some former CIA directors that that connection is real and that we have to take a look at our energy policies again. The other thing that's pathetic about Congress is we have decreased substantially our investment in alternative and renewable energy system the very kinds of technologies that help us to leapfrog over the Victorian Industrial Revolution as dirty coal burning and and internal combustion engines requires pump priming investments and we're cutting them back rather than going the other way. So the insurance policy against this is to develop those things that they're cheaper and therefore it costs us less to implement them. Yet at the same time we've been going backwards so I'm very much share your your frustration. At dealing with the Congress the first part of your question was about health effects. Now that's again a very interesting question because it shows you and I have to unfortunate put on the all Professor complexity hat. It's a very very difficult question. We know that malaria for example is a disease which is related to climate because the mosquito requires so many degrees to be able to reproduce and breed and so forth and and for that you know for that disease to function inside. But we also know that after eradication programs and draining of swamps and some nasty stuff like the EDT which which although many of us hate for a variety of reasons nonetheless was effective as a control agent another really interesting debate that's going to resurface in the developing world that climate makes possible where these diseases can be.
But does not determine necessarily whether they occur. That depends also on public health measures. So now we have this mix of the climate makes it possible for these disease vectors to expand if we get warmer.
And at the same time whether that expansion is going to get us is going to depend upon whether we have proper you know medical treatments and whether we deal with with the public health issues at the same time. So you'll hear all different kinds of opinions on that and in fact we really need to do both. The the one thing that we're sure of is that we're going to increase heat stress.
I'm glad you brought up the the cost benefits of getting away from oil here in San Francisco in the last election cycle we did a hundred million by hundred million dollar bond issue toward development of solar and it passed with a huge margin of security people out here very much supported it and it should do a great deal toward priming the pump for the solar economy nationwide $100000000. And you know I urge Illinois and many other states to do the same and it's a very good thing. I actually wanted to raise you reminded me of something. I understand the scientists Edward Teller. Some people would call him a pseudo scientist has actually developed a plan to spray out aluminum dust in combination with Boron. Apparently they're having airplanes spray it out and it's part of this global warming solution. And while the government has denied that global warming is happening they've actually been paying Edward Teller to dump aluminum all over America and it apparently the idea is to reflect the sunlight back out of out of the atmosphere. So if it's aluminum Of course you know it's allegations of causing Alzheimer's disease in a number of other learning disabilities. It is pretty interesting but I wonder if you heard about this scam that he's been pushing lately.
Yeah I know it very well in fact I just had a long argument in his office about this issue not long ago we were on the the the the Jim Lehrer News Hour fighting about it last winter. But before I even do that let me say that the government is not denying that there is a serious problem. We have to differentiate. The administration and the elected officials and the bureaucrats from the the scientists who are there from one administration to the next. There was a recent report written by EPA and Department of Energy and so forth and those are government scientists you know GSA employees who are not politically loyal. Thank goodness they are loyal to their trade and they basically said that all the international reports in the U.S. National Research cademy the National Research Council and National Academy of Science reports which say we're not certain about all the details but the probability is pretty high that we're in the story and we're going to get substantially more so our true and President Bush dismissed this as bureaucrats whereas in fact the bureaucrats of his appointed officials who are denying what their own scientists are saying so I would say the U.S. government is not nearly as bad about this as people think it's just the media covers the administration hype on it and that hype of course is just directed toward protecting the the interests that fund the campaigns. As far as Edward teller's scheme is concerned I wouldn't worry about the toxicity of aluminum because what he really wants to do is put bellows in space. The idea is let me spend one second so that listeners understand. When you add carbon dioxide methane these kinds of so-called heat trapping greenhouse gases is if you're you know parking your car in the sun and you've got the window half way up you know it's going to be hotter inside than outside because more heat comes in and gets blocked by the window. That's the greenhouse part if you now crank the window up a little bit that's adding gases. That's the that's the easy part we don't understand that very well.
So what we would be doing is adding and we've already added about two or three watts of energy over every square yard of the earth Well what's a watt or two. It's a Christmas tree ball right you go out and you buy 50 bulbs and it's 100 watts so they like to watch that's how much heat it is but it's in the infrared. You can't see it but it's definitely it's definitely there so teller's idea was well if we're trapping the heat in this infrared form why don't we reflect two or three watts away by putting all this junk out in space sort of like space pollution space dust. And in fact it might work. By work I mean it could reflect away some of the energy. Here's the problem. In order for this to work we have to be continuously injecting this stuff and maintaining this for hundreds of years. Now let's look back at world history. Can you imagine a stable political regime where a small cadre of climate controllers could be trusted you know with balancing the earth we have to continuously be injecting this stuff over hundreds of years I mean when was the how long of we had peace on this planet.
I mean how long can we guarantee that we won't have a resurgence of the Crusades with malevolence terrorism misdeeds. To me it isn't whether the scheme has a chance of being technically feasible. It's whether we would ever dare trust our future to a small group of climate controllers who have to do the job right for the next 300 years to counterbalance dumping all our waste in the atmosphere and to me the social restrictions are so obvious that that's not a very sensible solution in fact is a dangerous one because the highest probability is lack of world cooperation will end up running the whole thing amok.
Well I appreciate the comfort of the call or hope you won't mind if I go on here we have somebody next waiting in Chicago on our line number one.
Let's talk with them a little bit. I'm a little curious. I think you and China seem to be hell bent on raising the standard of living in their country. And then there are countries China possibly more than then. And if it's China's We're told their gross national product or GDP is going up something like 60 percent a year it's simply. Has anyone made any calculations of any sort as to the effect to improve their standard of living.
What have I done.
Global warming and that sort of thing at an excellent question is exactly germane to the point of what's going to happen in the future. For example the US and the Europeans used to use energy very inefficiently as I said back in that Victorian era when the amount of our gross national product generated per unit energy was really.
Very small. We move logs around in diesel trucks we used inefficient things. Now our economy is booming and we're producing much more of it not from moving materials and using energy but from information you know moving electrons around in microchips of computers. So the transition of our economy you know away from materials and energy toward information which is ongoing is actually reducing relative to what otherwise would have happened the amount of stuff we dump in the system. So now we come along and we tell the Chinese who are a billion people who are still using Victorian industrial technologies to get rich just like we do that they can't now play catch up and repeat what we did because there's a billion of them and the Earth's capacity to absorb this is diminishing and it's too late. And they say wait a minute you've got 10 times richer doing this. You did it for 100 years you dumped 80 percent of the stuff now you have invented this global warming ploy to once again restrict our our development. So there's a lot of contention at the international level and part of the reason that Bush and a number of the sort of enterprise groups in the US so hate this Kyoto protocol that's the the international negotiation is it says that the rich countries of the first 10 years are the ones who take the first step. And the logic for that to me is absolutely unassailable. We dumped 80 percent of the stuff we got 10 times richer. You don't level the playing field in year one. You have to give a little chance to India and China to catch up. But if we only try to fix the problem in the rich countries and here I do agree with the administration and with some of the industrial groups then they will swamp the system sometime in the next 20 to 50 years because there are so many people and they'll be using inefficient technologies. The obvious solution is not to repeat the Victorian duster revolution 50 100 years late but to leapfrog right over it. We've already done that for example in China if anybody here has been there you can go to a small village and they don't see wires all over the place. I mean when we talk to each other again back 50 100 years ago we did it on phones in the Iran and telegraph from copper wire strung all over our continents what took 100 years to develop that. That's not what they do in China. They talk. They just leapfrog right over that Victorian injust revolution the cell phones cell phone towers in middle of nowhere. Well they have to do exactly the same thing in cars they have to leapfrog over the internal combustion engine era to first hybrids and then hydrogen. And the same thing has to happen leapfrog over coal to gas and then to wind and solar and others and we can argue about nuclear that's a whole other controversy that is actually possible. And it's not economically out of line but it does involve doing things differently than they would otherwise do it. And they say to us you know what you guys have the technologies we don't necessarily have them. So you want us to do that will help us do it help us involves money you know involves transfer of patents that involves getting involved so therefore we need a global process something we're not great at which is called cooperation a wonderful competition where we can actually work with the developing countries and say you have a right to develop but don't do it the way we did it. But since we got rich doing it as decent citizens of the planet will help you with these alternatives and if we don't do that I'm concessionary terms and on and on deals with those countries. They're simply going to do it our way and then we're going to end up doubling tripling or CO2. So it's good we are going to bargain or we're going to just pollute the well.
One more question.
But suppose China and the U.S. Do you see Seoul turn the faucets rather than go into Victoria. Well you didn't just realized whatever growing their gross national product.
How. Badly will side affect the American economy.
I think that's going to depend upon how we do it. If we are a partner with them we are probably going to be a little bit ahead on the learning curve for technologies will be licensing these technologies. I actually think that by increasing the overall scale of the economy in particular making China and India richer they will now be in the market for all kinds of consumer products and that should feed back rather positively on our economy presuming that we're producing those kinds of consumer products. So I don't see this as a threat at all where it becomes a threat. And we have to be honest about this is if you are in the auto industry making SUV. You know in the coal industry. This is a threat to you. There's no question. And they know what they're organized and they're out there you know yelling and screaming. On the other hand if you're going to be in high tech industries the industries are going to replace those Victorian technologies. This is a tremendous boon for the economy. Difficulty is that most people who benefit don't know it yet and those people who lose do political organized and as a result of that it's gridlock in Washington on this issue because the usual special interests are out there. On the other hand I think we have to be fair to coal miners and auto workers we can't just do this in a week. I mean this is going to take a generation to do and will have to have transition strategies and we'll have to deal with compensation and alternative training and all of that you know gets the ideological hackles up of those people who don't like big government. But how are you going to treat these people fairly if we don't have programs. So we're going to have to figure out ways to be both efficient and fair at the same time. In both dealing with their own employees will be hurt by this as well as dealing with those in other countries. The overall US economy is not despite the rhetoric you hear threatened by solving global warming problem is a very small fraction of the growth rate. It's specific sectors who know what and who are organized to block it.
We have another call here we get to just a moment I do want again introduce our guest and mention a couple of appearances that he's going to be doing in our area here in Champaign Urbana Our guest is Stephen Schneider. He's professor of environmental biology and global change and has been following this issue has been doing research on global climatology and been speaking about it for a number of years now. He's here on the campus visiting he's going to be giving a talk in the Miller come series is climate change too uncertain for policy. That's this evening at 7:30 in room 190 of the engineering sciences building on Springfield Avenue in Urbana. Also he'll be participating in a free community wide workshop meeting energy requirements and demands while responding to concerns about.
No this cat always goes 9 11 I'm sorry Well yes indeed that was scheduled for the 11th Well I guess I'll cross that I just found that out myself.
Here let me thank you for mentioning that that talk but now I know a number of people are shy about calling in on the radio and so forth but for those of you in the area who want to stop in I love questions and answers I'm very bored with the sound of my own voice and my favorite part of speaking is hearing really good comments and questions from people especially people who are a little skeptical please come and ask and we can talk about it I'll stay as late as necessary to talk with people about these issues tonight.
All right Again that's tonight 7:30 Rome 190 Engineering Sciences on Springfield avenue of course here on the program if you want to call in. You can do that right now at 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 2 2 2 9 4 5 5. The next caller is in Urbana on our line number two.
Hello. Yeah I was wondering about three different things. Hopefully it will be. I could run through them quickly.
Which you pretty much hit already. But I wanted to clarify one last time and that is that I don't particularly care what what scientists in general think. But the those sciences that are most you know privy to the data and who are actually studying the atmospheric conditions etc. out of that out of that group they they they are you know like 90 percent sure that we're experiencing global warming.
Warming yes or no.
Oh yeah and that the answer is a clear yes. What's actually interesting about that is there was a poll sent out to about 300000 members of scientific societies with a paper that was really horrible. Imitation of a of A. Of a real research paper is a real polemic. And then they sent back postcards and they got 17000 people to say that they were opposed to Kyoto because global warming was not a serious issue and they then presented these to Congress and said Well but there's only 2000 scientists and all these International Studies who say that we have 17000. So one reporter called me up and asked me about it I said well you know I have a slight heart a rhythm so I think I'll call up my dentist and ask them what the latest medicine is for my heart and of course when I have a problem like tooth just call up the heart guy and ask that clearly. Three hundred thousand people with some technical training almost none of them really have put the energy in the time and find out where the polemic sign with the straight story is where those 2000 scientists not only have they been working for 10 years on this problem but and written three major reports but each one of these reports is reviewed by hundreds of other scientists and every single review comment must be accounted for to review editors. So the quality of the assessment from that inside group as you pointed out is tens of times better than this popularity contest. You know getting people. Basically you know voting their ideology and then doing a numbers game. It's as ridiculous as I said as expecting somebody who has a who has a an M D to be telling you about a specialty you talk to the specialists.
Yeah but amazingly it still flies with the public. Number two I just read a disturbing little article saying that fuel cells definitely are not going to be a long term solution mainly because they just because of a continually go hydrogen from the from the atmosphere and that. Because hydrogen is let loose. Just leave the planet and that we would not be able to create a long term basis. Fuel cell type transportation system because these leaks are impossible to stop and I was wondering if you'd heard about that and what you thought about it.
I hadn't that sounds like the kind of stuff you'd get in a supermarket tabloid. There's not any problem about our running out of hydrogen the problem is can we produce hydrogen at a price that's competitive enough that people want to pay it. And you know can we store it safely and prevent it from leaking it's not. Not that it's going to escape from the top. Remember water as right is H2O you can take electricity and break the water up into hydrogen we have a virtually you know endless supply of that.
If we had primary energy that we could know whether produced by solar or nuclear you know when biomass whatever we can do hydrogen we can also in fact if we want to help the coal industry we can produce hydrogen from coal. What you do is you first gasify the coal into methane that's natural gas which is a carbon and four hydrogens. Now when you do that you produce CO2. So that gets in the atmosphere unless you get clever and you compress it and then stuff it right back underground into the deep well somewhere it came that's what we call capture and sequestration. Then you can take that methane and you can take the hydrogen out of that. So there's no risk of running out of hydrogen the whole question is going to be the price and the. And How We Do It In fact if the extra terrestrials came down here and they told us hey here is the perfect hydrogen fuel cell car you know the Martians really do exist and. And they know just how to build it and they handed all the plans to all the companies so that there was no competition. We couldn't the next day turn around and do that. We'd have to have all the fuel stations now switch to hydrogen and we'd have to have the mechanics know how to do it. We have to know how to deal with the legal issues of hydrogen crashes. It's going to take us a generation or two to develop these technologies and get them implemented to get the costs down to deal with the transition of the people who lose their jobs in the old one. And what bothers me isn't that we have to try to do it all at once I think that would be an economic mistake. It's that we didn't start this 20 years ago because the longer we take to to delay the more expensive and the more you have to do in the future whereas if you start sooner you get this is classical engineering and economic experience you get what they call learning by doing you figure out how to do it cheaper. Right here in the Midwest when acid rain was controlled and there was a lot of controversy about it people thought it was going to be wildly expensive and they set up with the coal tradable permit system where you sit where instead of saying everybody has a quota on how much they can pollute that's it. We said everybody has a quota but if you can't make the quota we're not going to put you out of business you can go buy a permit from somebody who's better than their quota. All of a sudden we now gave an incentive for discovering cheaper ways to do it and it's cost half to a quarter of what people thought it would cost. The key is to get this brilliant technological engine of ours pumped primed. And that's not going to happen by staying in climate denial like the administration does blocking the you know the attempts to have policy and incentives. So it's really critical that we get the prices right and that when we dump our junk in the atmosphere that it's. Got a feel on it. So there's an incentive to want to develop those alternatives.
Yeah I agree to my last question. And that's the reason a lot of hay was made out of the fact. Science satellites discovered that before its creation was not is intense as thought possibly before hand and that it was actually almost one fourth last and which brings up to me the whole question of just how how far along do you think we are in our capability of monitoring the you know having a really comprehensive understanding of all the different parts of all the different systems involved in you know creating our our climate and. And where would you say the the. The ones on the planet that is the most advanced is showing up. Thank you.
OK thanks. Thanks for that. I guess let me respond by saying that when you have a really complex issue like climate change you know trial by media is a rather bad way to do it. We're brought up in a tradition which is very important for a free democracy which is get the other side. No the Republican is the president gives the talk to a Democrat. You know from the Congress gives the report. I think it's an absolutely appropriate doctrine in political reporting it's called balance. But what about science.
Science is rarely two sided it's not bipolar there's multiple things. Plus what do we do this different we spend the vast bulk of our time you know on these thousand scientists groups with reviews trying to separate out the parts of the story that are well-known from the parts that I have some idea from the parts that are speculative and trying to say which of these arguments is more credible. So when you sit there and get somebody from the coal industry to get equal inches to balance a thousand scientists three year study this isn't balance this is a wild distortion. The nature of the reality because people are now affording equal credibility to positions that don't deserve equal credibility. So that's where a lot of the of the disconnect comes as we have to make certain that when reporting on these complex issues that the spectrum of views is represented but that the wild you know end of the world and good for your views don't dominate it as if they are equally probable when they have the when they're the least probable cases. So what do we know was implicit you know where can we you know say the the most. Well we know that we're releasing these gases. We know the building up. We know the climate is getting warmer. We know it's expected to get warmer and that it's likely were a good part of the story. We don't know what's going to happen in Illinois in 2030 to 2040 because that's well beyond the capacity of the state of the art of our tools to predict with more than low confidence. So there's this whole scaled set of things that we know well we're pretty confident we're going to warm up one to five degrees. At in the next 50 years say but one degree is mild five on the Castro fix side. So which is it going to be we're going to be lucky you are going to be unlucky. I mean my last popular book I wrote was called laboratory earth and the reason I use that title is I didn't want to say that this problem is solved very rarely or anything this complex solved but that we're really gambling with this time of gambling the life support system of the planet and to me that's a nice place to you know to be buying insurance.
But 10 minutes left in this part of focus 580 was Stephen Schneider from Stanford was talking about global climate change we have a couple of callers will try to get him in the time remains. At least these two perhaps some others. So we'll just go right on to the next person. And that would be someone in Urbana and one number one.
I thank you for this very very interesting. What you're talking about is definitely on a large scale for what was just the ordinary you know housewife say do to help solve this problem. I see so much just the trucks repair person or the buses or the air pollution. I mean going to the supermarket and you see this huge amount of packets and huge amount of packaging and you try to buy Ok I'll buy for you. Rather than use something more packets because it has got to take a lot of something to put those things in there. Christ we all want these things. So what can you do besides drone to try to help bring this kind of a problem. Because I think it's a huge problem. And on that note I'm going to have enough to listen to you.
Well thank you very much for that that's a terrific question. I remember doing a what they call talkback show on Australia and a woman called in with a similar question and she said Well you're talking about negotiating with the Chinese I can't negotiate with the Chinese I can't even go she it with my governor. And what am I going to do and that's absolutely right. I guess the first thing is when I did a nova television program a couple years back on this I tried to explain the greenhouse effect scientifically by driving up the hill. With my car rolling the window up and I said I deliberately want to do it because I want you to know that we're doing it now that this is not always somebody else that we you know this is the old Pogo you know we've met the enemy and he is us. We're all doing it. So the first thing we have to do is stop blaming. We have to take on a little responsibility that we're all in the game now. What's the first thing you can do. You already said it. Buy things with lower packaging. It's a good idea. When we go to the to the to the appliance store because we have to replace our refrigerator so we only look at the color of the refrigerator and the size and and the price well look at that yellow sticker. You know from the EPA to see if it's an Energy Star. And then you'll say well here's a twelve hundred dollar refrigerator that is going to use. Forty dollars a year in electricity. And here's a thousand dollar refrigerator that's going to use 80 now. How long is it going to take to pay that back. You know a couple years. That's way better than any interest rate you can get in the bank that's safe return on investment. And it doesn't even pay you for the reduced half a tonne of carbon dioxide and other things. So being a smart consumer helps. We want to go buy bulbs we can go buy a 50 Cent you know screw a regular bulb. It's going to last a thousand hours or we can go pay $4 for a compact florescent somebody sent out a fool I'm not going to pay $4 for that bald guy to read the fine print on the box. Not only will the bulb last 10000 hours see I have already replaced the other thing you know 20 times but that bulb is using one quarter of the energy. That means if you use the bulb something like eight hours a day it pays back in one year and you've got the ball for four years. You're making money. You're reducing pollution. We have to become a little bit better educated about being smart consumers now. Well we're going to go drive around that we really and I the worst thing you can do in America is to go after soccer moms. But do we have to take the kid there. And at 10 mile a gallon SUV it's designed for off road activity it's designed for snow. How many people run their SUV use in four wheel drive. I mean the real question is efficiency. We need to be more efficient what we want is safe and convenient transportation NOT biggest loudest noisiest. And that's going to take some people recognizing that there's something wrong with this value system picture that bigger is better. And take a look at the ads. I was at the Ford ad which. Which says no boundaries. Think about the psychology of that every one of us when we were a kid. How resistant we were when our parents started putting boundaries on us and then we hated in high school and of course we all have this notion of freedom in that we're going to be free. But now you start to create this Madison Avenue image tying up the psychology of a car that drives off road with no boundaries and it starts capturing people. Why don't we also have counter ads saying that that's you know substantially you know hurting the US balance of payments forcing us to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to defend oil supplies and putting out all that pollution if people knew the other side of the story they might want to buy the more efficient cars. And in fact the good news is our technology machine is going to now start producing SUV with what we call hybrid gas electric engines will get two and a half times the mileage I drive in a hybrid electric It's a Honda Civic hybrid I wish I could buy Detroit one Detroit dragged its feet and foughten opposed to now they're behind the curve but they'll be want to long I'm going to get it. So we have ways to fix this problem by being smart consumers. And you also said talk to politicians next time they come around and they tell you well I'm going to do something to the economy and I'm going to protect it you say can we do something for the economy that's sustainable at the same time and find a win win. If we reduce the amount of air pollution in a city. Not only are reducing the global warming problem but we're protecting our lungs and we're making the city a better place. So try to find the win wins they're out there and we have to we have to all basically be good consumers of information out of products. Let's go to champagne for another call if you're going to tell us.
Yeah I'm really enjoying the conversation today though. My question is about you know like the current administration who certainly has access to the reports that indicate that you know global warming is real and things like that. But you know when they know that but they deliberately do the opposite and they propose legislation and really drag their feet. How do you how do you suppose they rationalize that emotionally how does how does one realize they're doing a terrible disservice to the economy and the environment and yet deliberately walk in the other direction.
Well I don't want to put myself you know into their heads for what they know. Let me give them the maximum benefit of the doubt I can. They actually believe that that the problem with global warming is it's weighing out ideologically on protecting the global commons rather than protecting individual rights. That's sort of the Wall Street Journal view. And let's assume that that's the dominant view in the Bush administration although my own personal view is that you have two oil company executives running it and that we know full well that the people who fund the campaign don't want to you know the who some Sometimes we call the climate monkeys will hear no climate speak no climate crisis. Think the climate because what it involves is setting rules which is going to adversely affect their short term economic interests. And this is not a surprise to anybody who's been around politics that the interests that fund campaigns and the ideological interests tend to dominate now. But I'm not going to even blame them for that because supposing one of us gets in legal trouble and we need a lawyer now we don't want our lawyer to be making our opponent's case we want them to be an advocate.
You know I want them to distort and spin so that we get off. I mean that's that's the whole U.S. system. And then of course on the other side the other lawyers doing the same thing. I don't have a problem with that in court because we presume the judge and the jury understand what's going on and we presume we have enough time to get the truth out. But what happens when the court is public opinion in the Congress that they are the judge and jury excuse me. And what happens when the amount of time is 20 seconds on the evening news and if you're lucky five minutes in front of Congress these complex issues can't be treated in that amount of time. So what we end up with is getting this report the whole issue dumbed down to well it's end of the world catastrophic and people get confuse this ideology all over the place the special interest each one makes its claim there is absolutely unlike peer review and science has absolutely no center on wild outrageous improbable statements. And the average person says well if those are all Ph.D.s and they don't know how to y know and they just sort of guess that they're all equal sided they are not equal side it is a very very does.
This proportionate number of knowledgeable climate scientists who are concerned. You know there's a reasonable probability of trouble. It's very hard to get that through when scientists are also honest and admit that there's a wide range of things we still don't know. And people are absolutely free to grab those things we don't know out of context and inflate them and to their central message and then pay a lot of ads to do it.
And it's a literacy problem. Public has to become literate learn to understand that very rarely is the marquee which has painless dentistry any less painless than anybody else or bargain antiques any more of a bargain than anything else we have to learn to be good consumers of crap ola and figure it out. And that's where our educational system is important we just have to learn to be a little smarter and to sniff the junk.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Producing Organization
- WILL (Radio/television station : Urbana, Ill.)
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- WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
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- Stephen Schneider, Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University, discusses how there is scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. He discusses how scientists create models of different scenarios to predict the future impacts of climate change, such as business as usual continued emissions or a percentage reduction in emissions over time, population growth, etc., to inform policy makers. He also discusses of the connection between national security and climate change as well as the pros and cons of geo-engineering.
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- Economics; Energy; Environment; Science; Climate Change; Climate
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Guest: Schneider, Stephen
Host: Enge, David
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producing Organization: WILL (Radio/television station : Urbana, Ill.)
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Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: focus020909b.mp3 (Illinois Public Media)
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: focus020909b.wav (Illinois Public Media)
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- Chicago: “Focus; Is Climate Change Too Uncertain For Policy?,” 2002-09-09, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 18, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-6t0gt5fq8c.
- MLA: “Focus; Is Climate Change Too Uncertain For Policy?.” 2002-09-09. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 18, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-6t0gt5fq8c>.
- APA: Focus; Is Climate Change Too Uncertain For Policy?. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-6t0gt5fq8c