Focus; The Climate of Man
Good morning this is focused 580 our morning telephone talk show. My name is Jack Brighton sitting in for your regular host David Inge. I'm your producer emeritus and I'm glad to have you listening our producers are Harriet Williamson and Martha Diehl and Henry Frayne is at the controls at a political level the science of global warming is still hotly disputed. So to speak among climate scientists there is a clear and growing consensus that we've already released enough heat trapping emissions to crank up the global greenhouse several degrees Fahrenheit in the coming century. But some senators rely on authorities like the science fiction writer Michael Crighton to argue that global warming is an environmentalist hoax. Whether you choose to believe Michael Crighton or the climate scientists is of course up to you. Any scientific theory including the theory of human induced climate change can never really be proven if it is true it can only be disproven if it is false. And so we have the ongoing political debate over the theory of global warming in the face of evidence that the planet is indeed rapidly getting warmer. During this hour focus 580 will talk about some of that evidence about the scientific work on climate change and about the political climate in which the debate over global warming and our responsibility for it is being played out. Our guest is Elizabeth Kolbert staff writer for The New Yorker whose recent three part series for that magazine examines all these issues. The series entitled The climate of man appeared in the April 25th May 2nd and May 9th editions of The New Yorker. Elizabeth Colbert's work on the series took her to Alaska Greenland the Netherlands and many other places where researchers are documenting effects predicted by climate models. She also spoke with political leaders about the global response to global warming including members of the Bush administration who have taken a very different view from both the climate scientists and the leadership of most other nations. We'll talk about all these things with Elizabeth Colbert during this hour as we do that we invite you into the conversation your questions and comments are welcome on this topic. All you have to do is pick up the telephone and call us the number around Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. Outside of Champaign Urbana we have a toll free line anywhere in the Midwest here and if you're listening online anywhere in the U.S. 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. A little bit more about our guest Elizabeth Colbert. She has been a staff writer The New Yorker since January 1999. She previously worked for The New York Times in fact for many years she served as the New York Times Albany bureau chief and she also covered the 1902 in 1906 national elections and wrote Profiles of many prominent politicians. And since January 19th 97 she wrote that Metro Matters column for The New York Times and she joined the New Yorker in January 1999 and she joins us this morning by telephone.
Good morning. Morning. Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you very for sure time to begin let's start with the science is it correct to say that the greenhouse effect of atmospheric gases is pretty much uncontested in the scientific community.
Well there's something called the natural greenhouse effect which is absolutely uncontested it was basically discovered I guess if that's the right word in the 1850s by a British scientist and what it says is that there are certain gases in the atmosphere most significantly with water vapor and carbon dioxide that basically trap heat in the atmosphere and we can go into exactly how they extract infrared radiation and they let visible radiation light through and they trap heat as it's leaving the Earth and that keeps the planet habitable without those gases in the atmosphere. The temperature of the average team here of the Earth would be about zero degrees.
So it's basically a matter of energy coming in being trapped in the atmosphere exacting from a balance effect sensually well in order for for the earth's climate to be in balance the earth has to emit as much energy as it is taking in from the sun and it emits an energy in the form of thermal radiation infrared radiation which.
So if you were looking at the earth with no infrared goggles you would see that it was always emitting energy and those two energy streams the energy we absorb and the energy we give out have to be in balance and that is the basic principle behind global warming and the more heat trapping gases you put into the atmosphere basically the warmer the earth has to get in order to meet the two energy streams balanced out.
OK so the question for us is really the effect of human caused increases in global greenhouse gases in terms of the problem that it creates for us.
Well we have lived.
The earth has had a certain level of greenhouse gases since human history the dawn of what we would call you know human history going back about 10000 years and that can be shown through ice cores that go down into it of course they are talking something about wars that are occurring in the ice and the trap.
The air that was in circulation of the time we have that record going back quite far and from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. And so we have a very good idea what the atmosphere has looked at for the entire time that humans have been around. And we are now have levels of greenhouse gases that are significantly higher than they have been at any other time since modern humans have walked the earth.
And we think that's because of our use of fossil fuels and other cons of industrial activities agricultural activity in fact that I think think would be too too too weak a word.
You know that and that's uncontested.
OK. How much change are we inducing in the atmosphere the concentration of these of these elements.
Well here 200 regions have gone up roughly at by a third or so since we. Since industrial revolution and its 18 century and methane concentrations methane is a very powerful greenhouse gases. But because it comes at a right had even garbage down that has doubled and then there are other greenhouse gases that we've created.
Basically they're human chlorofluorocarbons which are responsible for depleting ozone layer people might have heard of them in that context there also a pair of very powerful greenhouse gases. So there are several greenhouse got about half a dozen. And all of them have risen quite dramatically.
And this is essentially this acceleration of the emission of greenhouse gases dates from the industrial period the the beginning of the Industrial Revolution essentially.
Yes and another thing that can also be seen pretty clearly from the ice clear record or you know right now how much will this Excel rate given the growth of our economies around the world that depend on you know various things that you know emit these kinds of gases.
Right. Well that's sort of the. The $64000 question or I guess that's a $64000 question and that depends on you know whether we decide to to take into account the problems that this is going to create or whether we just continue sort of on our merry way. And if we just continue on our merry way. There are good reasons to believe that. Here too which is the most produce the gas we are adding in the greatest quantity is. And so that's what he talked about.
That it will double by the middle of this century and the implications of that are quite quite dramatic. The Earth takes a while to adjust to anything that we put into the atmosphere because of the capacity of the oceans to absorb heat and things like that. But so when they run climate models they run them out for many decades to see what the reaction of the climate will be once things are sort of back in the Calabrian and if the equilibrium temperature increase its associated with a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere which we would reach by the middle of the century is do you know anywhere from around four to eight or nine degrees Fahrenheit and that may not sound like that much. Few people but it should be kept in mind that the only that the difference between the period we're in now and the last ice age was only a 10 degree difference.
But I want to get to the politics of this of course but I want to underscore the scientific work as as you as you write about in the series. You know thus far we've talked about sort of the you know the theoretical underpinnings of the you know the scientists working on the stuff and I sort of you know I think in the introduction put it like it's non-controversial for most climate scientists is that in fact the case to overstate that I mean is there in fact a disagreement among the scientists working on this if in fact there is a problem.
I'd say there's virtually no disagreement. As I mentioned the beginning of the prop program presently to do technically. You know there's no disagreement that the greenhouse effect exists and all that global warming that is if you increase the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere you increase the Earth's temperature and that is also uncontroversial. There will be some disagreement about exactly how much they've done you know running these climate models and there's a lot of feedback in the climate system so all of that is very very complicated. But on a basic fact even people who call themselves so-called global warming skeptics. Really cannot and do you know how high that all things being equal you increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. You increase the Earth's temperature.
There are various models that the different models that have different assumptions that you know look at and crunch the numbers all the factors that are you know pouring into the atmosphere and maybe countervailing effects and so forth and feedback loops and they're very you know maybe complicated algorithms and so forth you write about you know some of the the code that goes into these these models. But essentially they they are making predictions based on what we know about what's happening on the earth.
Yes a recurring prediction that this is two things are being predicted on the basis of a basic principle of physics. You know conservation of energy conservation of momentum things like that.
And they're making predictions on the basis of processes that can be observed in nature so they go out and they look at you know what how does water evaporate off before it and they will write an algorithm that tries to mimic that numerically. Now obviously you know you can never get at the complexity of the world.
Right. But there are certain you know sort of core observations that you can or core projections you can make and then go and test it in a you know in observing what is happening.
Yes and you know those predictions. You know you might say tragically have been have been quite well borne out. Now some people would say well they haven't been perfectly born out the models have not been as secluded and perfectly predicting what we've actually seen and that's true. But they have the directionality of the models as always of the client. You know that's the road we're going to get warmer that it was going to get warmer most significantly in the northern latitudes and all of those things have turned out to be true.
Well let's talk about that. Let's talk about some of what you observed in the various places you traveled to prepare the series. And first I wanted to ask you to talk about Alaska where you write about changes in the permafrost for example.
Right Will Isaac is warming up just about as fast as any place on earth. There are parts of Alaska where with winter temperatures once again another effect of global warming that what is predicted is that winter temperatures would rise more than summer temperatures where winter temperatures have risen by about 7 degrees and that is very very dramatic. And people in Alaska are quite conscious of that. They now have no hot summers people they will win you know air conditioning they've had very very bad forest fires which are also predicted effect of global warming as well dried out so they are quite quite aware that something is going on to the climate up there and I went out with a guy who is measuring the temperature of the permafrost a lot of Alaska basically built on frozen ground and a lot of it is very very very close to the thawing part and in fact in places where people live and have sort of disturbed the top of the ground a lot of it is thawing in people's houses are falling apart and the roads develop these you know I called the pothole is really not and you can think sort of keyed in and having huge holes in them when the permafrost underneath her bed gives way.
In this you know it didn't really know much about permafrost or found it. That kind of interesting that this is essentially ground that's frozen you know a mile deep or something and has been for thousands of years or perhaps longer.
Right I mean the permafrost in Alaska it's estimated that most of it has been around for at least one glacial cycle and glacial like will take 100000 years we are now in an interglacial think of the last places receded about 10000 years ago and before that we were in an ice age in that last about a hundred thousand years that progress has been around for more than a hundred ten thousand years.
And this is really surprising the people who were studying this that that is and indeed you know for the first time in all this period essentially a lot of it is is showing signs of melting.
Yes and it's a very good one of the reasons that permafrost is is studied is because it's if it can be hard to find friends in air temperatures because they they bounce around a lot.
But and that confuses people on the ground they'll say well we had a you know cold winter how can we have global warming. But if you look at the permafrost temperature it sort of is a filter and it filters out short term changes and only really records long term king in the long term trend is the warm warm warm.
Very interesting. Another issue that you write about is the Arctic sea ice and how rapidly it is being affected can you. Talk about that.
Sure the Arctic sea ice is a pretty. Is another very dramatic indicator of any symptom of global warming and it has shrunken very dramatically by science.
A area about the size of I think it's you know like Texas and Arizona combined of how people sometimes said and the import of that and it gets into just you know shrinking sea ice and what that might tell us about rising temperatures is that ice is very very good reflector it reflects sunlight and water is a very bad reflector to absorb light and what you set out is is that feedback and feedbacks are very important in the climate system because they take little changes in temperature and they nag to find them and it turns out it seems that there are many positive feedbacks from assistance to that even relatively small changes can turn out to be. Quite quite big in CA One of the positives. You know the eye of the world absorbs more sunlight. Your more summary you know. All right.
Let me take a moment to reintroduce our guest this morning during this hour focus 580 We're talking with Elizabeth Colbert. She's a staff writer at The New Yorker and her three part series recently was published in The New Yorker and titled The climate of man looking at the science a lot of the science and certainly some of the politics as well. Climate change and that's we're talking about this morning if you'd like to join us. Your phone calls are welcome 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We'll have a toll free line 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. We have a couple callers are getting lined up but I just as a quick follow up to your last point about the feedback loops in speaking of the sea ice is turning into water and it no longer reflects energy but actually absorbs it and so it increases the warming effect. What do we know about what has happened toward the end of periods previous periods of glaciation when there was rapid climate change how how fast did things change.
Well some of those changes did happen pretty fast in fact. There's a certain question of how we got out of having you know this ice age is bad but some of these feedback you know probably played a role and there were periods when sea level was rising and I think it's a rate of you know a foot a decade and that is very very dramatic as you can imagine. You know it's a receipt in 13 years that would inundate you know many many parts of the world right now. Now there was a tremendous amount of ice melt at that point. We are we're at a period of sort of minimal minimal ice right now but there's still enough ice to know that if you started melting it you could you know and then it's not at all you could raise global sea level by tens dozens of feet.
The interesting thing about that that I think you make clear in the article is is this is not something that is going to show up right away in by the time it actually happens. The cause of it has. And a long time ago.
Yes and I count sort of you know stress and you point that's more important than that and I think it's been very very hard for scientists to convey that to to the general public and it's one of the reasons that the debate inside of mine is so so urgent and in the main public's mind is like well we will let go of that when we get around to it when we can really feel it. And the point that is so important to keep in mind is you cannot go head to head when you feel that you have to deal with it beforehand can you feel it when you see it when sea levels start rising dramatically it's way too late and the reason for that is as I said before there's a delay in the system it takes a long time for these changes to work their way through the system. And so things are always sort of farther ahead than we think. And the other problem that you have is that carbon dioxide in particular is the gas that last a long time it lasts about 100 years. So once it's in the air it's there for 100 years and you simply cannot get rid of it at that point.
We have a couple callers listen to them in our conversation. We'll go first to a listener in Urbana one number one.
Good morning good morning. I have no trouble accepting your guest's conclusions. What they've been evolving steadily over some decades now by perfectly reputable scientists that I presume expressing themselves in peer reviewed journals and academic papers. But how can these scientists compete with what David Brock call of the Republican Noise Machine and other people like this John Stossel whose motives defy defy explanation who are out to either deny or or discredit the scientists.
Well I mean I think that's a very good question that you asked and I you know I get that the job of a people like me.
But it isn't easy and you know you can open a lot of publications and find a lot of you know ad campaigns and by the you know companies that have sort of vested interests in the energy world remaining as it is right now. And so there's a lot of you know there's a lot of money in an effort on as the core points out being put into if not discrediting the science then sort of putting up a fight and I think that that bomb is very very very dangerous because as I mentioned before we don't have a lot of time in the scientific community would say we're already in a potentially very dangerous down and rolling start acting right away.
Well our our wonderful law or administration here has a. Jumped up and down about the Congress not passing their energy plan but I doubt very much of dealing with global global warming is is a major part of their plan unless you can tell me different.
No I mean you're on the right it is absolutely the reverse I mean the the energy plan and the debt you know finding new sources of fossil fuel in general and speeding up the extraction of fossil fuels and fossil fuels are you know far and away this major source of greenhouse gases in in this country and really throughout the world there's also seen as and when you say cutting down forests has it has the effect of contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but burning fossil fuels which is really the means to global warming. And so yes the energy bill has been you know basically exactly the wrong direction. Thank you.
Thanks for the call. A quick follow up and we'll get to some more callers. I found it interesting and I think I'd remember this that during the presidential campaign in one in 2000 George W. Bush made the statement that he took Global Warming very seriously and that he you know essentially was on the side of people who wanted to really address you know what we're doing to to the atmosphere and so forth. And within a year of taking office that position had changed dramatically.
Yes I mean that is true and now it was a real you know for anyone who cared about the issue and who voted for somebody that was a real bait and switch.
I mean as people might recall you know Al Gore was pretty out front on global warming although the same people you know would argue that the Clinton ministers didn't do enough on this issue either. But Al Gore wrote the book Earth in the balance back in 1992 which you know talked very seriously about this issue and then when George Bush ran against me to get I think you take very seriously and then as you point out and he said that he was going to he didn't believe in the Kyoto Protocol which is a U.N. treaty on global warming. He was going to do something domestically and it is now you know 2005 and that has never happened in fact he renounced that idea. Very soon after taking office it was one of the very first things he did and the administration had a bill that means that it takes the warming very seriously. That's a clue but I think one would be hard pressed to find evidence of that.
We're at our midpoint here with Elizabeth Kolbert she's staff writer for The New Yorker. Her three part series the climate of man recently appeared in that magazine on the science and politics as well of climate change. And with us we're talking about we have a couple callers waiting and welcome others 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 2 2 2 9 4 5 5. Let's talk with a listener in Indiana. Why number four.
Good morning alone. I was wondering if you could possibly tease out the. The subtleties if there are any with the Bush administration is a group of scientists. If there is a group of scientists that believe that all this is Hurlyburly and we all get on with the job of pumping oil versus you know do we have any large associations or you know the Group of 20 scientists to sign something. What if you could get into that to give some sort of an image of just where the Warri is actually and I mean I'm one it goes with him. Some years ago these things were starting out in certain journals I read and I know that the evidence is accumulating extremely fast so on the global warming side. So I just sort of wonder. It almost makes me think it's purely political but you'd think that some Republicans are not all dumb. There must be something about what this other guy is saying that gives them at least a reason to you know go along with the boss so to speak.
Well I have a couple of things that are bad.
I think a lot of very you know point being raised and the notion you know not all Republicans are down and I would I would certainly agree that and I think you'd mentioned that.
John McCain is a very very outspoken leader in the fight to impose a greenhouse gas on it in this country and to do something that global warming quite eloquent on the subject.
So it is not an issue that you know completely breaks down Republicans and Democrats will indeed and there are Democrats who are also not you know of the view that we ought to be taking drastic measures that would hurt our economy at Absolutely.
So you know that that that's true.
And in terms of the administration and when they listen to I think there's a good perhaps a good illustration from this story the Bush administration asked the National Academy of Sciences to do a sort of state of the art look at global warming which many people interpreted as basically just a time buying strategy because really this had been done a million times before and always showed the same thing. But needless to say the national consensus did do this. They produced this report. Not four years ago and it came to two conclusions. One of them was global warming is real it's happening it's happening right now it can be observed. The second was there are still many questions that we need to answer about what exactly the impact will be. Now you would think that the key point is that global warming is real it's happening right now and it's potentially quite dangerous. They also pointed that out but the administration used on it. There are many questions that need to be answered and they put in place a 10 year you know research program. Now there's a lot of good things about that and there's a lot of important things that still need to be researched. But I really think that you're not going to change the basic conclusion that you know global warming is real it's happening and the only way to do anything about it is to curb your emissions of greenhouse gases. You just it's really hard to get around those facts.
We you know the caller talked with let's include them this is a listener in Charleston on number two. Good morning.
No crying not being written on the subject but the parallels between our present paradigm which party capitalism. Well talking to you. It's going to be nonexistent until. There are some sort of revolutionary activity we can talk things to death and have done so from the freaking country and you're a guest as you indicated. No in my opinion there is no push to change how we live how we actually organized how we produce the goods and services that we need to maintain what we now have as urban mainly urban living. But your guest have any opinions about that and when and what can we expect. My opinion is that we are not going to stop using fossil fuels the last tree is burned the last lump of coal and the last drop of oil have been wiped out the fent by the end of it can really saw him hang up and take your name too.
Thanks for the call.
Well that's a very depressing but not unrealistic view that I mean I think you know the last one to call people have done calculations if we you know really decided to run through our fossil fuels without any regard to what we were doing to the atmosphere what could we do this here too low and they're just you know sort of astronomical just completely off the charts.
And so if we were to do that we could you know just completely change the atmosphere and completely alter the climate of of of the world who has stated right hadn't been you know tens and tens of millions of years.
However I believe that we will not be able to do that because long before then we will start the very very serious consequences and so you know on some level there's a can a brake on thing. But whether we will be able to take action prior to that just on the basis of a fore knowledge on the basis of what we've been warned about. And so we can avoid some of the most disastrous consequences. I I can answer that I I have to agree that the signs out of Washington are not good.
Yeah well you know. That leads into an area I want to ask you about in your report you you speak with you know several people about measures we might take to actually reduce or even even stabilise greenhouse rains and what that would require and in particular I want to ask you talk about a rubber Sokolow so stabilization wedges these various strategies for even stabilizing greenhouse gases.
RAY Well some scientists at Princeton. This is where your franking got together and said What. Let's say we wanted to keep the CO2 levels from doubling up. Sometimes consider the benchmark of a sort of between you know very serious effects of global warming and disastrous effects although I should point out that that's that's not clear that would be and that would be a matter of scientific debate when to know what sort of what the disaster level.
But let's take that as a benchmark. And in part one of the reasons that Target has been forced to be honest was because they thought it was potentially achievable or certain things that are lower. Enter the realm of really could we even do that even if we tried at this point. So they took that as a benchmark and said what what you need to do. And they decided the first thing you need to do is not let your commissions grow over the next 50 years. And how could you do that.
Well they came up with a variety of different ways and these include things like instead of building coal plants we should build nuclear power we could I should say we should they didn't take a position on that there's a bit here the options we could put up windmills we could put up stories we could build nuclear power plants all those things are emission free. Instead of have flying cars that you know get 20 mpg we could buy cars we could buy cars that get 40 miles to town or 60 miles to instead of driving 10000 miles a year as we all do we could drive 5000 of these are all steps that we could take that would essentially keep emissions from growing they would simply stay the same over the next 50 years. That would still mean that 50 years from now we'd have to take very dramatic action. To reduce emissions further but they thought that that goal of stabilizing them would sort of buy us time and allow us to me come up with new technologies that would allow us to reduce our use of fossil fuel still further.
And some of those there are these different wedges that cycle describes you know the number 11 fold of a voltaic technology solar power. It would have to essentially be on a massive scale.
As a young and I think that view I think of the exercise was very sobering to a lot of people and people who would who would say well we can do this all we need to do is use renewable sources of energy. But you look at the numbers and. They're pretty daunting. Solar power is only produced when the sun is shining. So you need a lot a lot of solar panels to produce the kind of like you get from a coal plant that runs you know 24 hours a day.
And it turns out that you get one way you know which I won't go into the back because of what that is.
But it is it was deputed that we seven of these steps and it was globally not just in the U.S. you needed solar arrays covering the area basically the size of Connecticut.
There are other ideas we could talk about with that we may follow up but I wanted to. Well actually one of the questions I wanted to speak to is not only are we not doing these wedges at the current time in their ideas that are on the table that perhaps should be pursued but in fact if you look at the development of additional sorts of energy producing activities especially in the developing world the opposite is the case that we're actually you know sort of increasing the future output by building more plants especially like in China that is just on the verge of building a lot of coal fired power. Plans and so forth.
Yes well that's a really a really scary thing although I should point out that you know China is often used and you often hear I've heard people say well you know it doesn't matter what we do the Chinese are just going to you know keep spewing out CO2 and what difference does it make so why should we bother and I should point out that we are going to be we are by far the biggest emitter in the world of CO2 and we are going to continue to outpace China for many many years to come. No matter what the Chinese do they and and they are intent on outpacing us. Now many people would argue that you do not. It is absolutely clear that we need to correct missions and the Chinese in to curb their emissions then without both of those things this problem cannot be solved. For him or it I think would be a better word. And I think people who look at this problem and are very concerned about it would say we probably are going to need to assist the Chinese the Chinese have a much you know lower standard of living than we do. They have historically put less CO2 into the atmosphere so on some level you could say they have but there's a death in the world than we do. And if we want to solve this problem we're probably going to have to take the initiative and and funnel money to them and the Europeans as well and I think that that is probably what is going to have to happen that we're going to have to contribute to their shifting to different sources of energy as opposed to developing the way we did. They're going to happen.
We're going to have to try to encourage them to develop differently.
We just have about maybe 12 minutes left with our guest Elizabeth Kolbert she is a staff writer at The New Yorker. MAGGIE. Scene we're talking about her three part series the climate of man which looks at the science and politics of climate change. If you'd like to join our conversation in the time remaining You should certainly do that. The number around Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. Toll free anywhere you hear us 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. Your last point leads neatly into the thing I want to ask about the international treaties for example the Kyoto Protocol that seeks to address the stabilization or reduction or at least you know slow the growth of greenhouse gases.
What would for example the Kyoto Protocol require of the various parties.
Well the clear purpose.
Divided the world into two groups the developed nations basically and developing them. And they required of developed nations of which we are one obviously that they reduce actually reduce their emissions below 1990 levels and as time went on and emissions kept going and growing. This goal became that much more you know difficult to meet. But all the industrialized nations in the world in developed nations in the world decide and Australia are committed to this goal. It's unclear whether they're going to meet the goal but they're committed to trying to meet it. We are the only we and Australia are the only country that has rejected even a goal. As for developed countries they had no obligation. But one of the way that and I thought the point here only last till 2010 and you'll need a new treaty. Developed countries could meet some of their obligations by investing in these clean energy technologies for developing countries. So one hope would be that through those investments you could ameliorate some of the problems of developing countries. You know jacking up their CO2 production.
Now there's been some criticism of it in terms of fairness that it demands more of you know the industrialized nations of you know the developing countries.
Well you know absolutely a demand for more of developed nations and there's no doubt about that and you know it it depends on what your notion of fairness could be. To be frank in a developed country developing countries would say well we we didn't create this problem in the storks way if you look at emissions you know they're absolutely right. Developed countries created the problem and now to say well now everyone needs to participate in the solution you can see how from the developing countries point of view that would not be considered fair. Now you can also see from an American company's point of view competing against a Chinese company. We have limits they don't they can say well that's not fair. So it depends on your view of fairness.
But the overall goal is a guess what the international community needs to essentially address to be the model for the kid a protocol and it's worth keeping in mind because it wasn't something that as you know came out of the blue it was the model for the Kyoto protocol with the agreement that phased out clearer for carbon that created the ozone hole in which everyone agrees with that. Also potentially you know disastrous situation. And what happened was developed countries had to save them out first in developing countries had to give a timeline again or still in the process of getting them out and it was considered basic Once again a matter of fairness and it has been very successful we are phasing out for a fourth part and then we are dealing with the ozone hole. So it was the hope that the same thing could be done with CO2. But it turns out that that has been you know much much more careful.
We have several callers waiting to talk with us let's include our next listener from Terre Haute. The line number for Good morning.
Hi my name is Jimmy and I'm an educator and I really feel strongly that educators need to focus a lot more on teaching critical thinking skills. So the fact that Bush is president despite the overwhelming evidence that he it was not the most qualified person for the job so that we really have a terrible problem with people not being able to analyze evidence and the issues surrounding global warming. Again so that we have people that are running our country that are not looking at scientific evidence instead they're looking at Michael Crighton M.D. He's not he's not a researcher he's not a scientist and they're looking at him instead of the person speaking on the matter. That was my first point. Critical thinking is definitely lacking in our country. And eventually if you're an educator you need to start doing that more. And the second point is about renewable energy. It would be great if we had a government that would currently give us incentive to do more renewable energy.
It really works best in like solar and wind mills and a small hydro electric really works best at the local level. My husband and I are thinking of me. Putting in from the solar panels we also have an opportunity to maybe do a little hydro electric thing at our place. I think Costa Rica last summer and all of the electricity in this little place in the sun generated by a very small hydro electric generator that was just a tiny little stream of water. So renewable energy at the local level is something we probably should be looking at more and I just hope that someday soon. The people running this country will start looking at evidence and the people that are electing these people will start looking at evidence and voting for people that are really the best people for the job.
OK thanks for the call. Thanks.
I don't think any response you want to make on that or.
Well I certainly agree with the caller that you know it's it it's it's kind of a daunting I suppose I use that word to think that our elected officials.
Well Michael Crane is an expert on warming. That is that I think is one certainly.
Well I want to ask you about something and I promise we'll get to the callers who are waiting quickly after this but you know doesn't the media also play a significant role in either clarifying or putting the fog you know spring the fog as you put it. It seems that the notion that the media has to balance the issue with say on one side you know the vast majority of climate scientists who say this is really serious. And as you point out they they think it's more serious really than than anyone I mean scientists are reluctant to get you know all upset about things but in this case you know they feel justified they're more concerned about it than just about anyone else. You know and then the media will report that but then they will because we have this notion of balance will give equal time to Michael Crighton or someone who isn't you know industry sponsored spokesperson who says yes but there are many questions you know and how you know I guess I'm asking you as a reporter how do you deal with that I mean you clearly your piece is very strong in the sense that you you know you sensually it's not this attempt to say oh yes but we can't really decide because there are different views.
Well I think. You know that's a very good point and people have written a lot about it and now there's this balance in the notion of balance has really obscured the issue and I think there's a lot of truth to that and I will not refer to a study that I referred to in the piece that I think was very very illustrative and woman and and in California and the University of California did a study and you looked at all of the articles on climate change the key word Clementina in a certain database which is the leading research database and analyzed and said Did any of these articles take the position that global warming is not occurring.
And what he found was that 75 percent of the articles took the position that global warming is occurring. 25 percent of them dealt with questions of climate or things like that and they didn't take any positions and not it's and this is more almost a thousand articles that have appeared over a 10 year period and not a single one of them took the position that global warming is not occurring. And her point was you know you can sit around waiting for a scientific consensus or you can acknowledge that there is a scientific consensus that is there and I think that that is the point and I think that you are going to see that increasingly are reflected in stories about global warming because the scientific consensus is there. There are still a few you know sort of outliers that you can find scientists even you know who didn't funders who disagree about virtually anything you can probably find scientists who will say you know we still have doubts about evolution but that is not the scientific consensus.
OK. We have several callers will launch one who as many as we can. Next up someone on line number one from Stewart's. Good morning.
I've heard before that you would have to cover the size of economic solar power to do any good. Well you wouldn't actually cover Connecticut for the money you already spread out. I don't see you. That's fair use. Thanks because I mean I would gladly have my home car but still in my home.
From the whole side of my house.
Thanks. OK that's a good point you know that's a good point you make and I think that they were just trying to give people a sense of the scale of the effort needed. It's certainly not an insurmountable problem and you're right Connecticut is not that big compared to the surface of the earth. So you know it certainly can be done.
Well I think the earlier caller alluded to this too that you know locally generated energy you know might be a significant part of a solution and that you know it's a different economic model so it's maybe difficult to implement.
But I think that's true but I think that the point I get you know go back to the point if these guys are going to make it it's an important one and yeah and and they've got to get to the other point which is we really need to use less energy and it's very hard to solve this issue by renewable energy alone.
Need a lot of different things probably and probably need to use less energy and you have to assume that people in the Third World are going to be using more energy it's really not fair to say. You know we use all this energy and they should really just stay at what they were there out of you know one hour of electricity a week so you have to assume they're going to ramp up.
And so that means we had to have to ramp down a couple calls where do we go next to a listener in Kankakee on line number two. Good morning you're on focus 580.
We're calling her at least reason to look good. Perhaps rather than average ability to affect public policy what plan or program for maintaining and improving the health of the eco system. Thank you.
I'm sorry the question is What would I recommend as a plan for yeah what we been talking a little bit about the various ideas that are on the table at least on some table somewhere in the use of these wedges and so forth. So I think you know the caller was in essentially asking for you know maybe more in terms of what are some of the strategies and you know we could certainly talk about that. I mean one of the things that you write about is is well there's one scientist that you interview who is maybe a little bit more you know futuristic thinking about the stuff satellites that collect solar energy in orbit and being that I mean there are a number of these ideas that perhaps could provide part of. Solution.
Well I think that is the point the point of our interview to a physicist at NYU who is making the point and I and unfortunately you know sadly think that he was probably right and that gets back to the point that you know people in developing countries are not going to say well we we sort of accept this standard of living because of a Climate Change home so there's a huge huge potential need for energy out there in the world and our potential desire for you and to meet that point with to meet that without you know can we find the planet by burning fossil fuels. We need a breakthrough kind of missions free technology and I think everyone who looks at this problem would basically agree that over the next century if we don't find that kind or somehow shift to that kind of energy and perhaps there is our advances in solar or wind power that can be made but something that is providing emissions free energy because this is a long long term problem this is you know the future. This is forever basically.
We're about two minutes left will squeeze in one last caller from Belgium one number three.
Good morning good afternoon. Maybe we can end on this thought sir. The entire discussion we've had here so far has been pretty much homocentric In other words global warming is something that people are concerned about because it's a people problem. But if we look back to the history of the earth the earth didn't care where there was high carbon dioxide levels in the beginning or in the land and different times throughout the history. There have been high carbon dioxide levels from very high other types of flow of greenhouse gases. So really what we should really think more long you know in our Earth sense because if we destroy the earth you know it's just us that's gone. It's not the rest of the earth it will find some way to modify itself and other creatures will come along and live or maybe even plants will do much better because they do like a lot a little bit warmer and a lot more carbon dioxide so. OK it's just a problem that we have to concern ourselves with. Mother Nature doesn't really care how we deal with problems she's going take care of it in the long run anyway.
I think that's a very good point. You know we should be concerned because we are here. But as for you know life life on Earth life on earth will go on I completely agree with that it will be different but it will go on you know.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- The Climate of Man
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- WILL (Radio/television station : Urbana, Ill.)
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- WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
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- With Elizabeth Kolbert, journalist and staff writer at The New Yorker who wrote a three-part series titles "The Climate of Man," which examined the science and politics of climate change. The series won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Public Interest, the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award, and the 2006 National Academies Communication Award.
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Guest: Kolbert, Elizabeth
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producing Organization: WILL (Radio/television station : Urbana, Ill.)
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Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: focus050527a.mp3 (Illinois Public Media)
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- Chicago: “Focus; The Climate of Man,” 2005-05-27, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-9c6rx93p51.
- MLA: “Focus; The Climate of Man.” 2005-05-27. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-9c6rx93p51>.
- APA: Focus; The Climate of Man. 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_16-9c6rx93p51