Good evening, and welcome to Conversations Live: Climate Change. I’m Patty Satalia [phonetic]. President Trump has called human induced climate change a hoax, vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, and withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the international climate accord that sets a global action plan for avoiding climate destabilization. Why aren’t more Americans demanding action on climate change despite the overwhelming evidence, and what’s at stake? Tonight, our panel of experts will describe the extent of the problem and take your questions. Now, let’s meet our guests. Dr. Jonathan Brockopp [phonetic] is the Director of the Rock Ethics Institute Initiative in Religion and Ethics at Penn State. He’s currently developing a new course at Penn State called The Ethics of Climate Change. Dr.
Michael Mann is a distinguished professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of Penn State’s Earth Systems Science Center. Dr. Richard Alley is an Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences and an associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. He and Professor Mann participated in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which was co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Thank you all so much for being with us. You can join tonight’s conversation. Our toll-free number is 1-800-543-8242, and our email address is email@example.com. You may also tweet your question or comment using the hashtag #wpsuconversations. So, I’ll begin with you, Professor Mann. One thing viewers and listeners might have noticed from that introduction is that no one on this panel is a climate change denier, and to accurately represent the scientific view on climate change, we would need to have 97 climate scientists who agree that this is happening and that there’s urgency behind it. And, three scientists who do not.
So, until recently, that was common for programs like this to do exactly that, and so I ask you, explain how that sort of false equivalency creates fake debates. >> Yeah, I mean, it’s what I call the false objectivity of balance. You know, we don’t have a member of the Flat Earth Society debate a NASA expert when we’re talking about the latest space mission. Why is it that when it comes to politically contentious issues, like climate change, there is, as you say, this façade in the way many media outlets present the issue, as if it’s a debate between two equal sides when, as you elude to, a minimum of 97%, more recent studies say at least 99% of the published literature of the scientists who work in this area concur with the consensus that global warming, climate change is real.
It’s caused by human activity. It’s already a problem. It’s going to be a bigger problem if we don’t do something about that. That isn’t just, you know, the three of us. That isn’t just scientists at Penn State University. That’s the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which was founded by a Republican President, Abraham Lincoln back in the 19th century, has weighed in that climate change is real, caused by human activity, with that consensus, as has every scientific society and group in the U.S., in Europe, around the world that’s weighed in. This is the consensus of the world’s scientists. >> You know, I want to put this, look at this through a moral lens, and I’m reminded of an editorial that Leonard Pitts just wrote in which he talked about, you know, a reporter, rather the editor of a newspaper who had an overzealous reporter who was looking for balance in a situation where balance wasn’t in order. And, he said, “Five minutes for Hitler. Five minutes for the Jews.” >> Exactly right. Yeah, one of the things when we talk about climate change in terms of a moral issue, it helps us to contact with our core values.
It gets this debate out of the political arena and into somethings that, really, we can all agree on. Americans are justifiably proud of the EPA, the fact that we have this long history of working for clean air and clean water. This is something that people agree on across the political spectrum. We, here in central Pennsylvania, really enjoy the natural environment, and we treasure this. So, why wouldn’t we respond to something that’s a threat to our livelihoods and to the national, and to the natural, environment? When we think about it in those terms of our core values, it helps to shift the debate and get us to talk about things in a way that, I think, includes more people. >> Well, speaking of the debate and the EPA, that brings me to you Richard Alley. You once said, “I get to learn what nobody knows, and then I get to teach people to do good things with that knowledge,” and today, we’re living in an environment where the EPA is banned from posting information about climate change, where any mention of climate change has been eliminated from the White House website, and on and on and on.
What’s your reaction to that? >> We can hope that this is temporary. We can hope that the science will come back forward. The science is clear. Mike said so, and it’s very clear, and we have so many interwoven lines of evidence that support each other that we know what’s going on. The science is the middle of understanding, and the science used improves the economy as well as the ethics, as well as the environment, as well as the national security, if we use it wisely. >> In other words, addressing this problem will respond to, if your concerns is our economy or ethics, responding, or climate action will lead us all in the same direction. >> Absolutely. It doesn’t matter right now whether you’re most concerned about jobs or most concerned about national security or most concerned about rare and endangered species, you would move in the same direction policy wise, and that will help the economy. >> So, explain to me why this debate has gone unabated and why it appears that we’re moving in the opposite direction that you say makes sense.
>> So, I’m hopeful that behind the scenes, below the surface that you’ll see a lot of motion and directions that will help, that you see renewable energy spreading and fairly hard to hold down, that you see the nations of the world, all of them got together and said we need to deal with this. >> And, in fact, China and India are ahead of us in terms of the clean energy revolution. >> Well, that’s right. I mean, the rest of the world has made a decision. They’re moving ahead. This is the great economic revolution of this century, the clean energy, renewable energy revolution, and what we have to decide as a country. We’re not going to get to decide what the world does. They’ve already made a choice. What we get to decide is whether we’re going to get on board with that or we’re going to get left behind, and since when have we as a country been a nation of followers? We’ve always been leaders, and how tragic it would be if, at this moment in time, we choose not to be leaders and embrace this transition that’s underway.
>> And, we feel like we are leaders, but in fact, when you look across the globe, a lot of people are leaving us behind. So, in my class, I have students take on and research what’s going on in terms of energy, the energy signature, the renewable energy in different countries. And, students picked Kenya. They discovered that Kenya is now producing 80% of its energy from renewable resources. Kenya– >> Kenya? >> Kenya is developing the Africa’s largest wind farm. Kenya is developing a ground based energy production program. So, Kenya is doing all this work, so all these things are happening the world over. We are the ones who are suddenly finding ourselves behind the curve. >> You know, speaking of leadership, the Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw. He was the former Chairman of the Council on Economic Advisors under President Bush, and he says that our elected officials are not leaders. They’re followers, and once they realize what the public wants that they will get on board.
And I say that knowing that the majority of the members of Congress are climate deniers, despite the fact that the majority of Americans believe that this is a pressing problem that needs to be addressed. >> So, I’m not entirely sure they are climate deniers. I have gone and talked with several members of our delegation, Republicans and Democrats but especially Republicans. They’re really interested in finding out what they think, and I have had Republican Representatives from Pennsylvania tell me, “Oh, we’re not like this other Republicans. We understand climate change is happening.” And, I say, “Well, will you say that publicly?” And, they say, “Well, we need to be pushed from the– ” exactly as you’re saying, “from the people. We need to hear this is something important.” >> But there’s a difference between saying it’s happening and saying that it’s human caused, because you can get on board with this happening, but that doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it.
>> Exactly. This is something I know you’ve heard quite a bit of. >> Yeah. I mean, there are a fair number of in the closet Republicans on this issue, and what I mean is there are a number of prominent Republicans, names that we all know, who will tell you in private that if they felt the political environment– >> Shifted. >> Wasn’t as toxic. >> Oh. >> — they would act on this issue, and, you know, one of the leaders on this issue was John McCain and Lindsey Graham, another leader. And, what’s happened is this sort of discourse, the political winds are such that that part, the Republican party, the official position of that party has shifted enough in the direction of delay and denial that a Republican who does speak out about the importance of acting on climate change might find themselves subject to a primary challenge funded by [inaudible] interests like the Koch Brothers. >> And, in fact, Bob Inglis of South Carolina lost his position and says just what you have that there are lots of closet Republicans who are afraid to come out and say what they, what they believe.
We, the public, need to help change that, but I’m going to go to a, quickly to our first phone call. This is Bill from Port Matilda. What’s your question, please? Do we have Bill? >> Hello? >> Hi. Bill, do you have a question for our panel? >> I do. >> Shoot. Go ahead. >> [inaudible] Some say the reason-Hello– Yes, can you hear me? >> Yes. >> Yes, I do. Some say the reason for the apparent scientific consensus on climate change is that the research funding only goes to those who believe it’s happening and that it’s caused by human activity. Could you comment on that and explain what the funding process is, please? >> Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Bill. We want to do science, and we sort of, if you do science, you have to care about learning. You have to care about knowledge. You have to care about helping people, but you also have to have a little bit of an ego. And, you sort of want to discover the next thing. If you go to Washington and you go down to the Mall, there’s a statue of Einstein there. And suppose, in your mind for a moment that Einstein had spent his whole life doing physics and at the end, he said, “I have learned nothing that Newton didn’t know.
I have nothing to add.” Would his statue be there? If we could upset global warming, we would do it [clap] in an instant, and we’d be famous. And, we’d win prizes, and it would be fantastic. The idea that somehow, we’re in a cabal to get funding to do this is just so far from what we do. We find the most interesting things that will learn new knowledge, and we push forward on those. >> Michael Mann. >> What Richard said is exactly right. If you’re a scientist, you understand the way you get ahead and the way you publish articles in the leading journals, nature and science, the way you bring in grants isn’t by saying, “Oh, yeah. Those other scientists are right. The consensus is correct. Give me the grant money.” It’s not the way it works. You have to point out something new. You have to find something that we didn’t already know.
You have to help us understand the uncertainties that do exist because the fact is we know enough to act. We know enough to conclude that the climate is warming, the climate is changing, the globe is warming, bad things are happening as a result of that. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still uncertainties about. What are the precise impacts going to be on rainfall and drought patterns here in central Pennsylvania? We need to know that. We need to prepare for the changes that are going to come, even if we do act. We’re going to see a certain amount of additional climate change just from the greenhouse gasses we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere. And, to answer those sorts of questions, scientists are at the leading edge of this science trying to understand the uncertainties that remain, and that’s where scientists spend their time, resolving the real uncertainties, not the fake uncertainties about whether climate change exists, whether it’s caused by human activity, whether it’s already leading to sea level rise and worsened drought.
We understand those things. What we’re trying to understand are the fine details. >> All right. We go to Frank who’s calling us from Hillsville. Go ahead, please, Frank. Hello, Frank? >> Dr. Frank Valis, retired chemist [inaudible]. My question you’ve been talking about a little bit. How we going to ever convert– convince the new president that we have a problem here? For instance, my tulips are coming up outside right now. >> Mine, too. >> [inaudible] cover. >> Right. Richard Alley, can you comment on that? >> Frank, you can help. This is, I mean, it’s real, and the question is how do we make the voices loud enough to make it clear and answer this sort of misinformation? And, I think it’s going to take a lot of people recognizing the good that can come out of this recognition.
>> Well, I want to go back to what we were talking about earlier. I think you said this, Jonathan Brockopp, and that is that if you live in central Pennsylvania, you have a state representative, a U.S. representative, a senator, and now a president who all deny, at least in public, that climate change is real. And then, you’ve got what you’ve said, Michael Mann, and that is that this is the best funded, most carefully orchestrated assault on science the world has known. So, who is behind the assault and why? And, I think that will help people understand whose information you want to be believing. >> You know, that’s right. I mean, there is, you know, a very powerful industry, the fossil fuel industry, that obviously has a stake in this matter. They’d like to continue selling, mining and selling fossil fuels to the world, and that’s understandable. At the same time, we are understanding that if we continue to do that, we are going to see worse and worse impacts on our lives, on our environment.
And so, we need to find a way to transition, to allow energy companies to transition away from their focus on fossil fuels towards renewable energy. The more enlightened companies are already doing that, and you know, we have to communicate our concerns to our local representatives. I’ve met Glenn Thompson. I think he’s a good man. I think he’s very supportive of the science we do here at Penn State University. He’s very supportive of this university, and I think we need to engage folks like Glenn. We need to engage our local legislators so that there is, sort of, a ground swell of support to act when the environment is favorable. And, the environment may not be favorable in Washington D.C. over the next two or four years, but at the same time, we’re seeing California– We’re seeing amazing things happen in California on the west coast; in the New England states. 30% of our population, now, is in the state that is incentivizing a shift away from fossil fuels and incentivizing renewable energy. So, we’re making progress.
We need to make more. >> But, you’re saying in four years, and I’m thinking of something that the President of Friends of the Earth says. He says, “We can’t afford another four years of delay and four years of attacking the science and four years of ignoring an issue of such consequence.” So, I ask the two of you, Jonathan Brockopp and Richard Alley, you know, are we reaching a tipping point? What’s at stake here? You know– >> So, one of the problems, and I know Richard, you’ve talked about this a lot, is that the longer we wait, the more difficult it’s going to be to make the conversion to a clean energy economy. And, this, again, is something that’s going to affect people.
It’s going to make their lives harder. If we had started way back when, when the National Academy of Sciences first determined that climate change was an issue. >> Back in the 50s. >> Well, but in the 50s, but then continually on, right? You can go to the Rio, you can go to the Kyoto Accords, you can go to all these different things that have happened. If we had started then to bend slowly and develop and move to a more efficient economy and off of fossil fuels as has been done in Europe, as has been done in many other countries, the German Energiewende is a really wonderful example of all this. Then, that process would have been a lot easier. But, now, here we are, and if we’re really going to stay to 1.
5 degree rise, then we’re in trouble. If we’re going to, you know, settle for a 2 degree rise, we’re still going to have to make a very significant change. So, that’s right. The next four years are, in fact, crucial, and we cannot wait. >> I want to go into an email that came into us before the program. If we can get that on the screen. This one comes from, that’s not the right one, but we’ll get to it. I’ll read this one. This is from James. Are we better off making sacrifices now with year 2017 technology or waiting until the year 2027 to throw better technology at the problem? If you had a time machine and a big pile of financial resources, would you rather go back to year 2007 with those financial resources to invest in year 2007 technology or forward to employ more advanced technologies. Richard Alley. >> Yeah, so the economists are very clear on this.
You start early, and you start slow. And you start turning, and you just keep turning. If you see, if you’re the captain of the ship, and you see the iceberg way out there, you turn easily and slowly, and you miss it. You don’t ram up to it and try to miss at the last minute and maybe crash. And so, what they say is give industry, give inventors, give people confidence that you’re not going to pull the rug out of them immediately. You start slowly and you keep turning, and then the technologies develop with the need. Don’t wait until the last minute. The costs go way up if you wait until the last minute compared to starting slowly and keeping it off. >> And yet, we’re hearing that there’s a freeze on grants and contracts, so that’s cause for concern. But, you had something to add, Michael Mann.
>> Yeah, there’s a misconception, a widespread misconception that we need a miracle, we need some new technology in order to solve this problem. In fact, you know, folks like, you know, Steve Jobs, not Steve Jobs– >> Okay. >> Microsoft– Bill Gates, have used that terminology. We need a miracle to solve the problem. The fact is the miracle has already happened. We have the technology to meet our projected energy demand decades from now, in a matter of decades, with renewables if we scale up existing renewable technology, existing technology. We don’t need new technology to do it. >> With growth. >> And, I’m reading– And I’m– >> Absolutely. >> I’m reading that wind and solar are on par on the grid right now.
>> That’s right, they’re approaching what we call a grid parody, which means that they are competitive or nearing competitiveness with fossil fuels even without taking into account what we call the externality, the damage that’s done by burning fossil fuels and impacting the climate. If you were to put a price on carbon, which California’s doing, the west coast states are doing, the New England states are doing. Then, suddenly, you level the playing field, and renewable energy is even more competitive. There’s no stopping it, ultimately. >> Okay. >> So, that’s the production side. On the consumption side, I got a little miracle right out in the parking lot myself, which is my– >> It’s a bicycle– no? >> My electric car. No, a bicycle’s fantastic, but the electric car is this story of incentives gradually, over time, and the fact that we have so many new electric cars that are on the market.
Mine is a Volt. It actually has a gas generator in it. It’s a range extender, so 40 miles on electric, and then, it keeps going. So, it’s already happened. >> And, we could eat chicken rather than beef, and that would have an enormous impact. Go ahead, Richard Alley. >> So, there’s been, the International Monetary Fund, the International Energy Agency recently looked at subsidies, and you know there are places that we’re helping renewables a little bit. And, they said, across the world, in the United States, if you have a full accounting, we are subsidizing fossil fuels a lot more than we’re subsidizing renewables. >> Right. >> And, yet, they’re competitive now. >> Yeah, right. >> Which is amazing. >> So, as Mike said, and make it. Level the playing field. >> — they’ve had decades, decades to develop. >> Yep. >> And, clean energy is relatively new. >> I want to get back to that email we had a moment ago, and then I’ll go to phone calls.
This one comes from John. He writes, does the panel believe that 1.5 degrees centigrade of warming from preindustrial levels is too dangerous, that our current level of warming of 1 degree Celsius is already causing accelerated carbon cycle and arctic albedo feedbacks and that we must engage in a national mobilization effort to both reduce our GHC emissions as rapidly as possible and extract CO2 from the earth’s atmosphere to counteract the release of CO2 from warming soils, sea level rise, and the impacts of ocean acidification? Which is probably a bit more technical for most of us, but in layman terms, answer that, someone, if you would. Jonathan Brockopp. >> Well, so, this is a choice that we have, right? The scientists can only tell us what they foresee might happen, and the possibility of various feedback loops. That’s all that science does. Science doesn’t tell us what we have to do, and so this decision to stop at a 1 degree or 1.
5 degree, 2 degree mark, that’s ultimately a moral decision. That’s a decision about the world that we want to see and develop for our family. It’s also a question about the risks that we’re willing to undertake because someone put it in the sense that we’re running this experiment, and we’re inside the test tube. It’s– this is the only earth we have. We don’t know what happens when you ramp up 2 degrees at this kind of speed, and so there is some real concern about that risk. And, the risk is higher the higher the temperature goes. >> And, the idea that we can ruin this planet and go off to another one, we know that that just isn’t going to happen, not in our lifetimes or our children’s lifetimes or our great-grandchildren’s lifetimes. >> Yeah, I mean, and you know, there’s this notion that there’s, somehow there’s this threshold out there that defines dangerous human influence on the climate, and if we can just avoid crossing that threshold.
Well, there is no one number. If you are, you know, a farmer in Texas or Oklahoma who lost, you know, 30%. They lost 30% of their cattle in the 2011 drought which was made worse by climate change. If you lost your home to Superstorm Sandy and the extra foot of global sea level rise meant 25 more square miles of flooding along that coastline. >> If you’re living in an island nation. >> And island nation that is literally being, you know, as sea level, the oceans are literally encroaching on you. Dangerous climate change has arrived. You don’t have to wait for another half a degree or a degree of warming. So, it’s simply a question, not where’s the cliff, and can we avoid going over it? >> And, the tipping point. >> It’s how far are we willing to go down this ever down-sloping highway towards disaster. We want to take the earliest exit we can. >> All right.
If you’re just joining us, I’m Patty Satalia, and this is Conversations Live: Climate Change on WPSU. Our guests tonight are Dr. Jonathan Brockopp, the Director of the Rock Ethics Institute Initiative in Religion and Ethics at Penn State, Dr. Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, and coauthor with political cartoonist Tom Tool of “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy”. And, Dr. Richard Alley, an Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Penn State and author of “The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change and Our Future”. Our telephone number is 1-800-543-8242, and our panel is ready to take your phone calls. If you’d prefer to email us, our address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And, now, we go to Helen, who’s been waiting patiently from State College. You’re on the air, Helen. You there, Helen? >> Yes. >> Hi.
What’s your question for our panel? >> Okay, I’m ready. My phone’s off, and my TV is off. Hello? >> Yes, go ahead. >> Good evening. I’m greatly concerned about our current President’s restrictions that he’s placed on the EPA and the scientists concerning information to the public, particularly about scientific issues and climate change. My concern is that this is reminiscent of Hitler’s Nazi Germany where they changed facts and made them truth so the that the public would go along with it. I don’t like the fact that this is happening, and I want to be an informed citizen. What do you as the panel suggest that I and my friends do to push the government, the administration, or whomever I need to see or talk to about lifting these restrictions and making our government information free, or [inaudible]? >> All right, Helen. Thank you for your phone call. We’ll let Jonathan Brockopp take a shot at that first. >> Well, thanks Helen for that question.
I think one of the most important things you can do is to join a group, to be part of a larger social group of people who are working together on these issues. It’s really important not to feel alone when it seems like the whole world is going crazy and there’s all this other information out there. >> You know, and you’re involved in Interfaith Power and Light, where the religious community, whether you’re, what all congregations, you know, are taking a stand and saying that this is bedrock conservatism and this is caring for creation is, you know, a religious thing to do, really. >> That’s right. Yeah, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light works with different congregations. I was just at a meeting here in State College at Trinity Lutheran where people were talking about Pope Frances’ encyclical on climate change, Laudato si’, and so, to talk with other people, to have that conversation, to feel like you’re not alone. This is really important.
And, the other thing I would say that’s important is to actually support journalism. Newspapers, buy a subscription to a newspaper. Don’t just read it online. We have to make sure that those news organizations that are out there, like WPSU, that are actively digging for the information to present this information to the public, that they are in existence and they are supported. >> And, how about things, Michael Mann, like 314 PAC? >> Yeah, so 314 PAC is a political action committee that has been formed to try to get more scientists involved in our political discourse, getting scientists to run for office. Now, I know a lot of scientists probably should never run for office, but we have something to bring to the table. And, the more diverse our policy makers are as a group, the more our voices are collectively heard. And, I would add to what Jonathan said.
Make your voice heard. There’s so many ways. Find other people. Find groups that can provide you the support you need, but make your voice known, make your voice heard. Because our local legislators have to be hearing from the people in order to provide. >> Because I, that’s right, and I’ve heard our local legislators saying that their constituents don’t believe that climate change is a pressing issue. Well– >> Prove them wrong. Prove them right. >> All right. So, we go to Leonard who’s calling us from Black Moshannon. Go ahead, please, Leonard. >> Yes, I believe in climate change, but I was in Florida on the Peace River looking for Indian artifacts and shark’s teeth. And, I was, I ran into a professor of one of the universities in Florida, and I asked him why we were finding shark’s teeth so far inland. And, he said to me, in the last 5000 years that Florida has been underwater several dozen times.
So, doesn’t this seem like global warming is a natural phenomenon? If that’s true that Florida’s been underwater that many times in the last 5000 years, it’s, what do you think about that? And, I’ll take my question off the air. Thank you. >> All right. Thank you, Leonard. Richard Alley. >> Yeah, yeah. Thank you, Leonard, and greetings. Florida has not been under water many times in the last 5000 years. There’s, people have lived there. You can find their artifacts there, and they were happily living there. Farther back, if you go millions back, now you can get times that Florida was underwater, and there’s a little more time for the crust and the mantle to do the things that they do. So, do not worry about that. We actually have high confidence that what is happening now is not natural cycle. If anything, over the last few decades, nature has tried to cool us off a little bit, so you know, we’ve been watching the sun with satellites for the last 30 years. The sun has dimmed just a little bit. We have blocked the sun with particles from our smokestacks just a little bit, and yet it is warm. If you were to ask how much of the warming that we’ve seen recently is caused by our greenhouse gases, it’s a little more than all of it.
>> Oh, my gosh. And, you said the sun dimming, and you know, lots of people will say one of the myths is, “Oh, we’ve got climate change because the sun is becoming more intense.” >> As Richard eludes to, the sun and volcanos have actually been pushing the climate slightly in the opposite direction. That’s a temporary trend. So, we’ve actually overcome a small natural cooling trend to warm as much as we have. In that sense, human activity is responsible for more than 100% of the warming we’ve actually seen, but there’s a misconception here that’s worth addressing which is this idea that if it was ever warmer in the past than it is now, that that somehow contradicts the reality of human caused climate change. The fact is 100 million years ago, due to long term tectonic changes, as Richard was eluding to, plate tectonics and natural processes over millions of years can actually outgas CO2 into the atmosphere and build up high levels of CO2. And, 100 million years ago, they were higher than they are today.
What happened was those same natural processes, over 100 million years, buried all that CO2 below the surface of the earth in the form of fossil fuels. What we are doing right now is unburying all of that carbon, but not on a time scale of 100 million years. We’re doing it on a time scale of about 100 years, and there’s no precedent for those sorts of rates of change in the composition of our atmosphere and the warming that’s happening as a result of it. >> Wow. Do you want to add something to that? >> Very quickly, yeah. If we burn all the fossil fuel, life will go on. This is about us, and the question is will we be happy in that world. And, the answer is pretty clearly, no. >> No. >> And so, yes, life will go on, but will we and the other things that we really like here go on. And, that’s the more interesting question. >> And, of course, humans will survive, but what about other plants and animals and.
>> Well, so the fact is is that these time scales are really hard to imagine, right? Because we only live for an average of 70, 80 years, and yet we’re talking about these millions of years’ timescales. Human civilization only goes back about 7 – 8 thousand years, and so within that world, the planet has been relatively calm and safe and the temperature’s been pretty constant. So, we don’t know what this is like, the movement that’s happening. And, that’s just the point about, yes, there has been life, a kind of life, but not the life that we’re used to. And, really important here is agriculture. Agriculture, based on the concept of a fairly even planetary temperature. When that changes, when the water cycles start changing, then our agriculture system is at risk. >> All right.
We go to Kate, who’s been patiently waiting to get in her call. She’s from State College. Go ahead, please, Kate. >> Hi. Thank you. My question has to do with carbon dioxide. As I understand it, there’s the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now is about 40% higher than the baseline if you go back and compare it before the [inaudible] starts, okay? And, and that one of the things that’s happening is that plants, some plants have been identified to be growing and thriving better because of the enriched carbon dioxide– >> Poison Ivy. >> — in the atmosphere. Okay, so the thing I’ve been looking for and I haven’t been able to find, but I want to know if it’s out there, is, is– I’m sorry about that. >> That’s all right. >> Is anybody researching to find out if there’s a human health consequence, say, for instance, a disease, to having more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Like– >> I think we, I think we get the gist of your question.
>> Yeah, sorry. >> And, absolutely. The health consequences, in terms of diseases, insect borne and otherwise, as a result of a warming temperature. >> Well, thanks, Kate. >> Thank you. >> Thanks for the great question. And, it so happens that we here at Penn State are researching precisely those sorts of issues. I’ve been collaborating for a number of years with the great folks in the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences, some of the world’s leading experts in understanding the factors that influence the spread of infectious disease like malaria. And, it turns out that there are some fairly significant implications of global warming for the spread of malaria. Basically, you allow mosquitoes to live through winters that aren’t as harsh as they used to be– >> Or ticks. >> Ticks and other vectors of infectious disease, and there are even more subtle things that happen. The warming actually influences the rate of reproduction of the parasite that carries the malaria affliction, you know, that is the source of malaria, and so there are, is a lot of science that needs to be done and understanding how warming is going to influence that life cycle which, in turn, could increase the rate of spread of this disease.
>> So, is the Huck Institute saying that malaria, it could be a threat here in the United States, something that we’ve not worried about here? >> Well, I don’t want to speak for those experts. There are a number of, sort of, just basic demographic factors here in the U.S. that make it relatively unlikely to see the sorts of malaria epidemics we see in developing nations. A lot of it has to do with population density and the conditions under which people live. But, there are certainly infectious diseases like West Nile virus that we’re now seeing in the U.S. that can be connected to the warmer winters and the spread of this disease. >> All right. >> But, this raises an important issue about resilience, and the fact is is that we have a fairly robust healthcare system in this country.
And so, when new diseases arrive, like the Zika virus, we can quarantine, we can work with it, we can limit that disease spread. What happens with climate change and with the spread of these diseases is that you have countries that don’t have that kind of infrastructure, that don’t have that resilience, and so the people who suffer most from climate change are those who have the least resilience, those countries that are the poorest. >> And, they contributed the least to the production of the CO2. >> Exactly. I heard a figure that something like a quarter of the world’s population does not use fossil fuels. So, we, of course, use it in our cars and everything we do, but much of the world, a large, billions of people actually do not, and yet they’re the ones who are going to be suffering from the effects.
>> And, when we look at electrical consumption of one American versus one person from China or one person from India, it makes you realize the extent to which we’re contributing to the problem and not suffering from it. >> Exactly. My favorite comparative is between America and Europe because Europeans live a pretty good lifestyle, and yet their carbon footprint’s about half of what ours is per capita. >> Michael Mann. >> And, let’s note that the worst impacts of climate change are going to be felt by our children and our grandchildren, and there’s a deep ethical obligation that we have for that reason to act on this problem before it’s too late. So, as Jonathan said early on, as much as anything else, as much as it is an economic issue, a scientific issue, a political issue, climate change is an ethics issue.
>> All right. We go to Mikaiala [assumed spelling] in Boalsburg. Go ahead, please. Hello? Mikaiala? >> Yes. >> Hi. You have a question for us? >> I do. Yes, hi. Thanks for taking my question. I’d like to suggest that Penn State and the borough and other local governments must work together, and I’m wondering what you think it would take to convince our local, every community government across the state of Pennsylvania and across the country to commit to real, serious paradigm shifts, practical bans. For instance, petroleum plastic bans, clean building materials that don’t have formaldehyde and other toxins, clean and renewable energy, obviously. Somehow, everyone knows what’s going on but nobody’s making the final commitment, and I know that it could become financially feasible for companies to actually make real change. But, I’m wondering why it’s taking so long for this moral and practical commitment to actually happen. >> All right, thanks for your phone call. Jonathan? >> So, that’s a great question Mikaiala, and thanks for raising that. It gives me a chance to talk about Penn State because the fact is is that Penn State has made significant reductions in its carbon footprint.
Penn State has not only reduced its carbon footprint by about 20% over 2005 levels, but in fact has a plan to get down to 35% below and is exploring ways to get down to 80% below. >> How did you get buy in, though? >> How’d you get buy in from Penn State? >> How did you get buy in, and what’s the trade off? >> Richard has a story about this, but I’m not sure. Because I’ve heard that there was a conversation that a certain climate scientist had with Office of Physical Plant many years ago and that convinced them that they had to start making these changes. The fact is, though, the Office of Physical Plant is made up of engineers. Engineers like to be efficient. It’s just asking them to do their job, so when they take images of the Bryce Jordan, the infrared images, and they discover that the caulking is causing all of the heat to run out of the building. And, just by caulking the building properly, they can save money. They love that stuff, and get Paul Moser sometime to talk to you about the cogeneration plant.
He loves speaking, so this is something engineers really enjoy doing is making the plant more efficient. >> So, we get Penn State to do it, but she wants to see this more community wide. Michael Mann, do you have something to add? >> Well, that’s right, and I think it is important for Penn State as an institution to set an example, as a good citizen. But, there’s no question that we have to generate the, sort of, tension demand that this problem deserves, and that, you know, ultimately arises from expressing, you know, your voice, making your voice heard, talking to your friends, your family members, your classmates, your church groups, getting organized and generating a grounds swell of demand for our policy makers to reflect our needs rather than the fossil fuel interests that might be funding their campaigns. >> You know, frown when you see someone using a plastic cup the way you might have frowned when someone lit up a cigarette in your restaurant when you were trying to enjoy your dinner.
>> The personal, you know, choices and behaviors is an important part of it, and we set an example for other people by making choices that cut our own carbon footprints. >> Okay, I want to go to this tweet from Max. He says, “I’m a local high school physics teacher. How can I better help my students understand the evidence and impacts of climate change?” >> Richard Alley? >> Hi, Max. Thank you. Bless you. Keep you. You’re wonderful, so thank you, yes. We have, first of all, you’re halfway there because you’re interested, and I have this nagging suspicion that they are getting wonderful things from you. Second of all, if you can keep them interested in physics, even if they don’t get the climate from you, by the time they get to us, we’ll get it for them. But, call me. Drop me an email.
We have resources for you. The information is there, and physics students are fantastic for getting it because ultimately, this rests on physics. And, we use physics, and the answers are going to be coming from physicists and engineers as well as designers and marketers. So, yeah. Drop me an email, and we’ll get there. Okay? >> Richard. We go to Dick who’s calling us from Johnstown. You’re on the air, Dick. >> Thank you. This question’s for the panel. Do you feel that the many deniers of climate change have a basic misunderstanding of the difference between weather and climate? Unfortunately, this includes our top elected new official, and neither weather or climate is a hoax. Thank you. >> Yeah. Well, there’s a famous quote from Upton Sinclair. “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.” >> Livelihood. >> His livelihood, his salary, and that’s part of the problem.
There are a lot of folks in Washington D.C. who understand the problem very well. They understand the science. It actually isn’t that complicated. They realize there’s a problem, but they, you know, in some cases, see themselves as advocates for fossil fuel interests who are funding their campaigns or they fear that if they express concern about this problem, like Bob Inglis of South Carolina, they will be primaried out of their congressional seat. And so, we have to change that dynamic. We have to change the incentive structure. For politicians who deny the reality of climate change, there has to be a price. >> A consequence for that. >> There has to be a consequence for denying basic, accepted science, especially when the stakes are so great.
Because we literally are talking about the sort of planet we’re going to leave behind for our children and grandchildren and not making the mistakes now that are going to sacrifice their quality of life down the road. >> All right. We go to Rosemary who’s calling from Altoona. Go ahead, please, Rosemary. Rosemary? We’ve got to get these phone calls going quicker. Okay. Ralph from Summerhill, you’re on the air. [ Dial Tone ] Okay. Is Ralph there? We’re going to jump down to C.J. from State College or maybe I’ll read an email that we’ve gotten and come back to C.J. who we want to be ready in just a moment. So, do we have another email. I know we’ve gotten lots of emails in the last couple of minutes. Can you get me an email? Okay. This is from Anna.
She writes, “Given Trump’s new cabinet and their denial of climate change, how much worse could it get before the damage is irreversible?” Richard Alley. >> Yeah, so some of the damage is already done and will be hard to reverse, but in general, and Mike said this somewhat earlier. The first degree of warming has low costs, and we’ve used it. And, the second degree of warming is going to cost a lot more than the first, and we’re committed to at least part of that and maybe most of it. The third degree of warming which is what we’re arguing about, is going to cost way more than the second one, and the chances of really going up increase as the temperature goes up. So, we’re, there’s not a tipping point that the world ends, but there are tipping points that we lose things we care about and the longer we wait and the higher the temperature goes, the more likely we’re going to hit those.
>> That brings me to something I read just yesterday about the, I think the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica and the fact that this Larsen C Ice Shelf is literally hanging from a thread about to dislodge. 1900 square miles of ice. What are the implication of something like that, and how far off is that? >> Right, so that one is not a huge implication, but it’s a step towards something fairly bad. So, if we don’t change our ways, we’re expecting something like three feet of sea level rise in the next century, and it could be two and it could be four and it could be 20. And, the chance that we will cross thresholds that commit us to loss of big chunks of west Antarctica and huge sea level rise is real. And so, when you start doing a, “Well, you’re not sure,” but, there’s a chance of really bad things, and the uncertainties are mostly on the bad side. Could be a little better, a little worse or a lot worse, but we’ll be breaking things.
>> Michael Mann. >> You know, Richard has spoken to one of the more egregious talking points we hear from contrarians. Well, there’s uncertainty in the science, so why should we act? As if we, you know, in any other phase of our lives we demand 100% certainty for anything. But, the irony here is, that Richard has just explained, the uncertainties in many cases seem to be cutting against us as we resolve them. As we learn more, we’re finding that the rates of change are potentially even greater than what we had predicted just five or six years ago. >> And, going back to that question of weather and climate. I think what people misunderstand is they say so it’s warm this year. It’s cold next year. That’s weather. It’s, I remember.
It’s warm sometimes in January. But the difference in climate is climate is long term. Our climate is when we’re looking ahead at the end of the century, and that sea level’s not coming back down again. The ice is not going to refreeze and put itself back in Antarctica. Once we have this warming in, it is locked in. >> Okay, so I mentioned that ice shelf that’s hanging from a thread. Then, we’ve got this push from President Trump to get the Keystone XL Pipeline going and the Dakota Access going. And, we hear from people like NASA’s James Hansen who says if the XL Pipeline goes through, game over for the climate. Respond to that, Michael Mann. >> Sure. As Richard already said, you know, we may be now committed to a degree and a half Celsius warming of the planet.
Two degrees Celsius warming of the planet, that’s three and a half Fahrenheit, is a threshold of warming where many of the scientists who study the impacts of climate change have, you know, determined that that’s where we really get into some of the worst changes. It gets worse and worse as we go on, and at two degrees Celsius, three and a half Fahrenheit warming, things really start to get bad. Well, we’ve already probably committed to a degree and a half warming just from the carbon we’ve already burned. There is the better part of at least another couple tenths already in the pipeline. So, that only gives us a few tenths of a degree wiggle room, and if we, you know, extract all of the oil from the Keystone XL Pipeline, that alone would be enough to put us over that two degree Celsius threshold. >> And, we’re talking about fuel that’s not for the United States. It’s going to be shipped overseas, so. >> That’s right, so it doesn’t even help us with energy security because it’s just going out on the global market.
>> Right. So, we go to Rosemary. Rosemary, sorry we lost your call before from Altoona. You’re on the air. >> Yes, I wanted to ask about tornados. It seems, when I was growing up, you only heard about tornados during the spring and summer months, but now, you see these tornados in January and all year long. And, I wanted to know if that had to do with climate change, and also, I was curious. I think I heard somewhere that the United States has the most violent weather in the world because we have tornados and hurricanes, so I wanted to find out if that’s true. And, I’m going to hang up. >> Thank you. Richard Alley? >> Yeah, so we do have fantastically violent thunderstorms, and we do get hurricanes. So, you could, you could argue about what’s the most violent weather, but we’re in the running for the most violent weather. That’s natural. There are pieces of the effects of global warming on weather that are very clear. If we make it warmer, we’re going to have more heat waves and fewer cold snaps.
We’re going to have more intense peak rains when it comes. We will tend to get more droughts and more floods. We don’t know how many hurricanes we’ll get, but the biggest ones can get bigger. What happens to tornados is still a little bit in the uncertainty category, but we can have more intense rainfall, more intense storms when they get to their peaks. So, there are people looking very carefully at the research on this as to whether we might spin them up a little more. But, tornados are sort of in the we’re not sure about that one, yet. >> Yeah, and I get in trouble for not, you know, mentioning that in my department of meteorology at Penn State that we have some of the world’s leading tornado researchers, and if you talk to them, they’ll tell you that this is really complicated stuff.
We talked about what are the actual uncertainties? And that’s where they are. How are tornados in the southeast U.S. going to change; the seasonality of when we get tornados. What states are most prone to tornados? That’s all potentially in flux, but we don’t have all the answers. >> All right. We go to C.J. who’s calling us from State College. Go ahead, please, C.J. >> Yes, I guess I’m on the other side of this whole issue here. First of all, I remember that I sat with a– watched a show with Democratic Senator Edward Markey from Massachusetts, and at that press conference, he indicated that Professor Mann’s hockey stick theory is not something that they backed. And, a second thing was UK Climate Change Group was given $500 million, and basically, after it was all over, they had no report for it, and they put basically pocketed half a million dollars, or $500 million. >> Okay. >> The other thing is Solyndra Scandal. $500 million was given, and it’s considered a failed startup.
I mean– >> Okay, let, we, we’re running out of time, so I’m going to let our panel respond to that. Michael Mann? >> Sure, since I was mentioned by name. I’m not sure what the caller’s referring to. Actually, Ed Markey was a big supporter of us at the University of Massachusetts where I did that research and has been a big supporter of our research. The hockey stick is this curve that my coauthors and I published nearly two decades ago that shows how dramatic the recent warming is. And, it became, sort of, an icon in the climate change debate, and as a result of that, it got, it’s been heavily attacked by contrarians in the climate change debate. Sometimes, I’ve been attacked personally. I wrote a whole book about it, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” which is about my experience in the center of this very contentious, really a political debate. There is no scientific debate. The IPCC, the US National Academy of Sciences, they’ve all weighed in. Actually, scientists are now even more certain that the recent warming is unprecedented as far back as we’re able to go.
So, those conclusions have been, you know, supported and replicated. >> And Solyndra which comes up all the time. >> So, you know, who wants to take that one? >> Yeah, I’ll try. I mean, Solyndra was part of sort of a venture capital undertaking, and when you do venture capital, some of them win and some of them lose. That whole portfolio, as I understand it, was wildly successful. But, if you’re doing venture capital, not every single one wins, and so what has happened is a loss out of a successful campaign has been blown up in the press to look very bad. But, in fact, the push to generate solar cells has been wildly successful, and the price of solar cells has plummeted. And, the ability to put them on your roof or the roof of somebody in Arizona has gone through the roof. >> It’s actually a good news story.
>> It’s a news story. >> Yeah, which, you know, sometimes you have to wonder, you know, who was the source of perpetuating the negative story and you never hear the positive aspects of it? We’re just about out of time. Literally seconds, but Sweden is on target to become the first carbon neutral country in the world because the citizens have demanded it. So, with just a couple of seconds reminding, remaining, what can citizens do or should they do? >> Yeah, I mean, as we said, just make your voice heard. We will solve this problem. The world is on track to do it. We just need a little more momentum to get the U.S. on board. >> All right. And, our thanks to tonight’s guests Dr. Jonathon Brockopp, Director of the Rock Ethics Institute Initiative in Religion and Ethics, and Penn State Professors Michael Mann and Richard Alley. For all of us here at WPSU, thanks so much for tuning in.
Have a good night. [ Music ].