Direct Connection; Panel Discussion On Global Warming
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Live from Maryland Public Television. This is direct connection with Jeff Sulkin.
Hi everybody thanks for tuning in for a special edition of direct connection as part of Maryland Public Television's Chesapeake Bay week. Tonight we're focusing on global warming. In a moment we will talk with the experts on the subject and hear all sides of the debate. But first a short clip from the influential Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth.
This shows the number of days that the tundra in Alaska is frozen enough to drive on it. Thirty five years ago. Two hundred twenty five days a year. Now it's below 75 days a year. Because the spring comes earlier and the fall comes later and the temperatures just keep going up.
I went up to the North Pole.
I went under that ice cap in a nuclear submarine that surface through the ice like this since they started patrolling in 1957. They have gone under the ice and measured with their radar looking upwards to measure how thick it is because they can only surface in areas where it's three and a half feet thick or less. So they have kept a meticulous record and they wouldn't release it because it was national security. I went up there in order to persuade them to release it and they did. And here's what that record shows starting in 1970 there was a precipitous drop off in the amount and extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap.
And later we will have another clip with a different viewpoint from the BBC produced program Global swindle. Now let's meet our guests in the studio Don Bosch president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. And Tony Pande co-host of WCBS radio's weather talk and a meteorologist for WUSA TV. Gentlemen thanks to both of you for being here. But let's find out what each of you thinks is happening and why you think it's happening. Don first.
Well I mean my specialty is on Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay but I follow very closely the literature on the climate change science and over it very carefully this recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been released to develop the international scientific consensus. And the scientists there presented really compelling evidence that indeed climate change is happening now it's not something that's just in the future. We've had about a 1.3 degree Fahrenheit change in the average temperature of the earth since the turn of the last century. We've had acceleration of sea level rise and so all the signs are there that things are changing. And if we look at the best scientific information that we have we can make projections about the kinds of changes that we see as a function of how much CO2 and other greenhouse gases are admitted. And those shows some pretty scary scenarios for the rest of this rest of the century a much warmer areas of the earth that are drier and warmer areas. And in our area for example of what wetter winters the changes that have great significance in terms of everyday life in places like the Chesapeake Bay parts to the question why are those things happening. They're happening because we have enriched the atmosphere with several gases that are beyond their concentrations that existed before the the primary one is carbon dioxide. We know from the burning of fossil fuels we've increased the crease the concentration of those from about two hundred eighty or so parts per million to about 380 parts per million so it's substantial increase. In addition to that there are other greenhouse gases that are admitted by humans. One is methane generally from agriculture animal production nitrogen oxides and then also the ozone levels at the ground level not the attic not the stratospheric go to high level ozone levels but the ground level. All of those constitute a greenhouse gas effect that keeps the heat that comes down from the sun from escaping our atmosphere and so it warms up much like a greenhouse.
Tony where would you agree or disagree with that.
I don't agree with a whole lot of it to tell you the truth. My biggest problem is the way that the media is portraying climate change nobody's going to argue that the climate is not changing and it's getting warmer the question is why. And my problem with the way the media is doing this in OK let me just draw a little scenario here for you used to work in television news right.
Still do something. OK now.
You seem weathercast. How accurate is the seventh day of a seven day forecast. Generally it's a little a little flimsy except when you're out of now in your considered news opinion would you lead a newscast if I had snow in the seventh day of the seven day forecast. Depending what else was going on but I had to travel really not ok. So why does the media in general you me me use media as an umbrella here. Why does the media think it's okay to take the answers from these climate models which are based on the same mathematics. Correct me if I'm wrong based on the same mathematics that we use. For the modeling that we do the seven day forecast with why do we take the answer 20 years 50 years or 100 years out as gospel truth and then run with the headlines and scare people to death with things like the billions are going to die from famine. Baltimore and Washington are going to be ocean front property in 50 years. Why do we take those answers as gospel truth we shouldn't do that you know.
So your first concern is we're taking a short term measured trend and extrapolating out from the past decade or two out for a century.
Right and it's the same mathematics again that we use to do the 7 day forecast. It's not the same models right but it's the same basic mathematics we haven't invented a new form of mathematics yet that has does not have the inherent flaws that have the same effect. The short term model runs. That's my biggest problem is that you were hyping the situation and scare people to death.
But first let me just say I'm all for cleaning up the atmosphere I'm all for finding alternative fuels I'm all for everything that the global warming people are saying that we should do.
I just wish we could get people to do that without having to scare them to death. What about their maybe who do.
Is there a link though between say carbon dioxide and the greenhouse theory and climate change. I'm looking at the.
Relationship right here about the graph with me over the last 400000 years they plotted it in the movie The inconvenient truth I'm sure you see this. I'm sure you've seen this graph before a million times. The plot between CO2 and temperature and it goes up and down the CO2 goes up and down and it shows the relationship between the two. If you look really closely. I think it looks like the temperature goes up first and then the CO2 goes up. And if you look at a plot with methane in temperature you see that even more clearly than you do with temperature and CO2 that tells me that the temperature is the catalyst for the CO2 change not the other way around.
What else you could do and do you see it that way. Where do I start.
HE What are you first of all first of all talk about what we know from evidence rather than making forecast for the moment. And we know that 11 of the last 12 years have been of been in the 12 warmest. True years of the measured record true. So that should tell us something that something's happening but this isn't even chances of that happening are very very little if this isn't even the warmest period in the last thousand years.
The Greek The Vikings were harvesting grapes in Greenland right about thousand years ago the variations in temperature that Tony talked about have several several factors including including greenhouse gas concentrations in addition to other factors which which which govern climate variations. Things like the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere as a result of volcanoes. Things like sunspots things of this sort. Solar flares things of that sort. So if you take that you take those drivers OK and then you and then you use our best science to try to understand what the influence of those drivers are. You cannot explain the temperature changes that we've seen without adding into that the effect of CO2 and other greenhouse gas buildup. If I now turn out OK. So that's what we know based upon the record. That should be at this point beyond debate. Seems to me what Tony is then saying well you know we take the take the the models that have been developed the physical models. And we use those to predict to forecast weather. And so how can we trust them to forecast the climate. The differences are several First of all we're not trying to predict exactly the temperature in the year two thousand thirty nine. We're talking about broad general trends. Secondly we are trying to using those models in ensembles they're a whole very number of competing models that have progressively gotten better. So the analysis is not based on just one model but based on a whole series of model that give us a range of possibilities based upon the best knowledge that we have. So would you use those models to tell me you know you're going to have a high tide in high temperatures on a certain date and in a certain year in the future. Definitely not. But what the models are used is to say if indeed we are going to change the greenhouse gas concentrations in the globe on this trajectory and we have several possibilities depending upon how much we admit OK if they're going to be changing two rather than three hundred eighty parts per parts but a million are we going to go to 600 or 800.
Let me throw in a question can you make some very very good estimates of what that consequence would be.
OK the global temperature we know the percentage of the atmosphere that's carbon dioxide today and we know roughly what it was 100 years. I don't know how we know that but we know it. Does the amount of stuff that we've burned either commercial power plants factories automobiles add up to enough carbon dioxide output to explain what's happened in the atmosphere and other do those two numbers right.
Actually actually they they more than add up. And the difference of course is that various parts of the Earth's system can absorb and take out carbon dioxide the principal one is the ocean. You know carbon dioxide in the atmosphere some of it will be dissolved in the ocean and so and then we have to look at the amount of CO2 that's dissolved in the ocean in fact what we've seen is that that's actually causing another problem related to climate change and that's the acidification of the ocean. So the more CO2 agree carbonic acid goes into the ocean it's becoming less acidic which is a really serious problem for things like corals that secrete calcium carbonate in from from from the ocean. So so it goes also in the fact that in some places including the Northern much of the Northern Hemisphere we're increasing trees are taking a lot of CO2 out so the biomass in in in in temperate in boreal forest is increasing. Also removing carbon from.
Carmen and Tony are not pros CO2 right.
Absolutely not I don't work for an oil company I'm all for cleaning up the environment. But I think this is becoming so politicized now that people with a different opinion are almost afraid to speak out. The state climatologist from Virginia State Climatologist from Delaware both anti global warming and both of those states the governors told them Look you can't do that you can't say those things if you're going to be representing our state. Dr. Gray from the famous hurricane forecaster also on the other side of the coin taking a whole lot of flak for his opinion on global warming. Joe Bastardi the chief forecaster for macro weather put out a statement saying look I can't talk about global warming anymore because there's too many people writing letters to my bosses I'm afraid I'm going to get fired.
Let me let's say this to be a good place where they do is take a look at another clip that we have a British documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle which challenges a lot of what Al Gore said in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth. And here is a clip from that.
Since the mid 19th century as temperature has risen by just over half a degree Celsius. But this warming began long before cars and planes were even invented.
What's more most of the rise in temperature occurred before 1940 during a period when industrial production was relatively insignificant. After the Second World War during the postwar economic boom temperatures in Syria should have shot up. But they didn't. They fell. Not for one or two years but for four decades. In fact paradoxically it wasn't until the world economic recession in the 1970s that they stopped falling.
0 2 began decrease exponentially. In about 90 40.
About. The temperature actually began to decrease in 1940 and continued till 1975. So this is the opposite of a day. When the VCO to the increasing rapid today where yet the temperature decreasing then we cannot say that. CO2 and that they go together.
The other question I have regarding all that is our ability to change any of this we're not going to stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow. Even a very intense effort to do something about it maybe would yield a small drop. So how much difference. Is it going to make how much power do we have to actually affect the climate.
It depends on if you really think that we're the ones doing it. If you really think that we're the ones doing it then we have all the power. To stop it. If you know you're only going to get the natural cycle then you think now you don't have any power to stop it and all we can do is prepare for the climate change that is already happening.
What if the answer's in the middle somewhere probably is probably is in the middle somewhere I would agree I would agree with Tony that that that if if those if one of those two cases pertains that is if we are responsible. We have all the power and but I would disagree in that and I think that you know in terms of the vast majority I mean you know 95 percent or more consensus of climate scientists. Read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is there is virtually no certainty that humans are the cause of this increase in greenhouse gas gas concentrations nor the constant the increase in temperature I think.
I think it goes back to my point that you're going to see more and more people coming out on the other side that we're afraid to speak before.
When I did it on my radio going the other way I think I know used to be they had you had to give both sides now I think you have no idea.
Now a handful of deniers are such a small number that you can ignore them.
No no no you're going to see more and more of the Don Ayers coming out because more and more of them are and people feel safety in numbers. When I started talking about this on my radio show there were five e-mails to the general manager of my station saying you have to fire that guy because I think he's working for the oil company. Now thank goodness that my general manager was you know you said you're entitle to your opinion but by the way this is not the opinion of a gentleman I do Washington. I mean that's my point is I think you're going to see more and more people coming out that were afraid to come out before because their jobs may depend on it.
Look look look at look at look what what you just just read and watch if you're an average citizen. It used to be that in the Washington Post which is your newspaper and there would be every every few every few weeks there'd be an op ed infomercial buy by ExxonMobil. Yes the end will always be talking about this. There's uncertainty about climate change we don't know raising these many of these issues that Tony is talking about. Read their answers now. But there they are they get it finally they're realizing now they're ads saying we're going to be part of the solution we are at the vanguard of thinking about carbon sequestration in the like. That's where we need to have a constructive debate about what we can do as a society and using the best knowledge and ingenuity that we have to deal with this problem.
Tony if we if we do a multibillion dollar effort to. Sequester carbon which means lock it up somehow it doesn't get in the atmosphere. Is that money well spent.
Yeah I think we should be cleaning up we should be doing this for a zillion different reasons for health and economic reasons those are the two biggest right there we should be developing alternative fuels. We should be cleaning up the atmosphere to go outside and in a sticky summer day and take a deep breath. That will give you enough reason to go you know I'm having a severe I mean but I just wish we could do this without having to scare people to death that maybe we do maybe people like me are doing a disservice. Maybe people need to be scared to death to clean up I smell not I don't think scary people to death I want to give them a sense of the reality that we face.
And I I would agree that there are some some say chelation say chelation about it. The Gore clip and then the movie that was seen although I think the press has talked to a climate scientist and said What do you think about the Gore movie. Most of them the vast majority said he was right on most things they do say though that that some of the scenarios like for example this 20 foot sea level rise which would inundate New York and so on. That's probably that's not realistic at any rate. Any reasonable timeframe that's a that's hundreds of years away and we're going to have to leave it there.
Donna Tony appreciate your time today and I said yes and coming up the business of being green. We're back in a moment.
The reporter's public square investigating Maryland issues that matter not afraid to dig deeper to find the truth. Anchor Jeff song.
It's Charles Robinson. Lou Davis trusted experience. Get the real story.
And joining us now the studio are George Kilroy president and CEO of p h h r vaule and Tom Murray project manager of corporate partnerships for Environmental Defense. Gentlemen thanks to both of you for being here. George you before we talk about the Green Fleet initiative Let's talk about ph H and what you do there.
Sure Jeff ph is about a 60 year old company started right here in Baltimore and we manage corporations vehicle fleets typically commercial vehicles usually geographically dispersed companies that have hundreds of vehicles and more and more. We manage about 600000 in North America and provide everything from a financial financing for the vehicles to managing their maintenance managing their fuel managing their accident repairs pretty much. It's a disease. Whatever happens with their commercial fleet. So companies that have employees who have vehicles outsource that to to your company because it's not their core competency right now that's exactly what I think people would be surprised that the number of vehicles that some companies have for example is that the pharmaceutical companies they have literally as many as 10000 pharmaceutical reps and they're all driving a company car and you know that's quite an expense to manage.
Tell us. Tell us about the Green Fleet initiative and what you're trying to accomplish.
Sure. Peachey first got in interested in this. Or involved in this. The environmental issue around fleets about 10 or 15 years ago when regulation was being proposed they would have an impact on commercial fleets and our concern has always been that an unintended consequence of too much regulation would be companies would do away with the fleet until say Jeff you drive your own car I'll give you $500 a month and 10 cents a mile and then you have no management of that fleet so you have no way of measuring so. Our approach has always been to manage fleet is better than an unmanaged fleet from an environmental perspective. And a number of other perspectives as well. So we've been involved in it for a while but about four or five years ago. We realize that maybe we could make a difference and be part of the solution. When it came to these issues rather than just kind of a watcher of what the regulation was and we got together with Environmental Defense and started talking about how could this make sense for businesses so that's how we got into it.
Tom when when when you hear about a fleet of 600000 vehicles out there. How do you see that as a as a big pollution machine or is an opportunity to do something.
Well you know we I think we see the opportunity environment defense we were out there trying to address environmental problems and we think if we want to if we want to change America you've got to change American business. And that's what working with folks like a lot of other business leaders because the opportunity to improve efficiency in the fleet is also the opportunity to save money reduce emissions and do something that's good for the environment helping the bottom line but also doing something that's good for the planet.
Well how exactly is this going to work are all those pharmaceutical reps going to be driving Prius's or what. What's it actually mean on the ground.
Jeff you know it all starts with allowing us to come in and we already have a lot of this information and helping a company understand today what their impact on the environment is and the good news is exactly what you said is you know the two things go hand in hand. Fuel is the highest operating expense that a company can have especially at $3 a gallon. So having an impact on the amount of fuel they use really makes good business sense. It also have a as a positive an impact on the environment. But we start with letting companies know what they have a thousand vehicles What impact does that have on the environment and frankly most of them don't have a clue so we kind of tell them what that is and help design plans along with Environmental Defense to come in and say if you make these changes you can still meet your business objectives. But at the same time you can have a positive impact on your business but lower your operating costs and a positive impact on the environment.
What's an example what sort of changes are you suggesting and and how receptive are your clients to that.
Some of this. Well the plants first of all it's really gaining some momentum just some of the things we've been talking about. It's on the news every day there's new regulations being passed. So it's nothing that anybody can be able to run and hide from everybody is going to have to deal with it. What the changes that we've been suggesting to companies are to make sure that they have the right type of vehicle the right size vehicles don't oversize a vehicle don't oversize the power in a vehicle maintain vehicles. Take a look at some of the alternative fuel vehicles that are out there which frankly are a little more challenging two to cost justify a hybrid and then some of the other things but the combination of reducing the operating expenses and reducing the impact environment by having the right vehicles. And the other thing that went with environmental defense that we've done is suggesting to companies of ways to invest in carbon offsets by maybe taking the money that you save on how prating side and spending it on a carbon offset.
I think what you were just talking about is really interesting you know I feel like we're seeing kind of this perfect storm right now of issues that are driving companies to move forward on climate change. You've got increased media and stakeholder attention to this issue. We've got fluctuating fuel prices and we've got kind of a growing level of concern about domestic security and energy security all kind of adding up to make climate change be kind of a top tier business interest for companies and strategic companies like ph ph but a number of others across the country are saying. A carbon constrained world is something we're going to have to operate in and let's move forward and figure out how to take advantage of that opportunity to cut costs create new lines of business manage future risks build our brand.
In about half a minute somebody who may be watching us planning to purchase a vehicle they're not a company they're an individual. What should they look at.
I think that you know we would encourage them to look at the most fuel efficient vehicle that meets their needs and budget. For some people that might be a hybrid where there are tax and sounds available to help with bring that cost down for other folks it's just a properly sized vehicle with the with the needs of their family.
All right Tom Murray and George Kilroy Thanks to both of you for being here and you'd appreciate that. And that is our program visit us at NPT dot org for more information on tonight's program and the schedule for more Chesapeake Bay week programs here on NPT. Thanks for watching and have a good night.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- Episode of Direct Connection featuring a panel discussion on global warming between Don Boesch, Ph.D., President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and Tony Pann, co-host of WCBM radio's Weather Talk and a meteorologist for WUSA-TV.
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Speaker: Boesch, Don
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