Climate Change Conversations: Causes, Impacts, Solutions

Impacts and Consequences of Climate Change

Public broadcasting stations have recorded public lectures, interviews and call-in shows with scientists, historians, and policy makers focusing on the impacts and consequences of climate change. Many of the conversations documented in this exhibition include discussions about environmental impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise, ocean acidity, longer and more frequent heat waves, stronger and more frequent storms, floods, and longer wildfire seasons. The items in this section focus on other types of impacts, including effects on health, war and conflict, crop yields, the economy, and changes in biological systems.

At a public event titled "After Copenhagen: Global Climate Change Conference," held in Boston in 2010, WGBH recorded a talk given by Kim Knowlton, PhD, a senior scientist with the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC). According to Knowlton, climate change has negative effects on allergies, respiratory health, heat stroke, and mental health, and increases the spread of many disease-causing pathogens. WGBH also recorded a public talk given by Gwynne Dyer, a journalist and historian in war studies, who discussed how some areas of the world will become uninhabitable, including low-lying coastal and hotter regions, a situation that will impact national security through increased stress on global immigration pathways. When WILL hosted a call-in show with climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe in 2003, she reported some regions including the Great Lakes, climate changes like higher temperatures at higher latitudes and more variable precipitation will have negative impacts on crop yields. Likewise, a call-in discussion with writer and journalist Charles Wohlforth included a discussion about how receding glaciers in Alaska will affect runoff and water resources. Writer and photographer Jonathan Waterman spoke about his expedition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 2006, a voyage which revealed melting permafrost, change in tundra foliage, disappearing glaciers and dying forests. In 2004, Paul Higgins, Visiting Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley answered listeners’ call-in questions on WILL and stated that "even the more moderate climate change scenarios . . . will also change the distribution of the goods and services that biological systems produce and that will certainly have implications for what regions and populations have resources, the resources that they need." He continued, "it's important to realize that human civilization has struggled at times with relatively small changes in climate, and we're talking about much larger changes expected as a result of human activities . . . certainly larger climate changes than any human society has ever had to endure."

Next: Advocacy

Flooded streets in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

Courtesy of FEMA