Margaret Atwood on Climate Change: Anti-Science Can Only Be Surmounted by Economics

If you look at the history of what happened to Darwin when he published, what would you call that? Yes he was hugely attacked at the time. And it's often a case of people do not want to give up their cherished beliefs, especially cherished beliefs that they find comforting. So it's no good for Richard Dawkins to say let us just stand on the bold bear promontory of truth and acknowledge the basically nothingness of ourselves. People don't find that cozy so they will go around the block not to do that. And that's very understandable and human. And religious thinking, you know, the idea that there's somebody bigger than you out there who might be helpful to you if certain rules are observed, that goes back so far. We probably have an epigene or something or a cluster of epigenes for that and you see it a lot in small children that there is a monster under the bed and you can't tell them there isn't.

They don't find that reassuring. What you can tell them is yes there is a monster under that bed but as long as I put this cabbage right in this spot it can't come out. So yes anti-science. When science is telling you something that you really find very inconvenient, and that is the history of global warming and the changes that we are certainly already seen around us. First of all it was denial. It could not be happening. Now there's grudging admission as things flood and droughts kick in and food supplies drop and the sea level rises and the glaciers melt big time. I have seen that; been there. You can't deny that it's happening but you then have to pretend that it's nothing to do with us. So therefore nothing so we don't have to change our behavior. That's the thinking around that. And that can get very entrenched until people see that by trying to solve the problem jobs can be created and money can be made. And that will be the real tipping point in public consciousness in this country. Other countries are already there.

Norway, which is an oil state, is a huge green country because they know that the fossil fuel thing is going to run out so they are already preparing for that. If we were tall forward looking more of us would be doing that, although Elon Musk is the wave of the future. He's got the all electric car; he's got the rapid pre-charger for it; and he's got the Powerwall, which is a home battery storage unit that you can recharge through solar and then run your appliances off it when it's dark. And that is probably going to be the connecting link. When that becomes cheap enough and efficient enough you ask anybody, I don't care who they are, if you could get off the grid and have a car you could recharge your self and appliances you could run yourself just off some units on your roof or in your backyard would you do that? Everybody says yes. So that's the idea whose time has come. And now it's a matter of the price.

So mentalizing the entire world with wind turbines is not going to be the answer, it's going to be individually owned and controlled off the grid electrical systems..

Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options

– Ya know, you're slowing settling. I'm Teresa Mangum, the director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies here on campus. And our mission on campus is to encourage research, scholarship and arts practice across disciplines. And also across the community and the university. So, this conference today, could not be a better example, I hope, I think, of what happens when we put the arts, humanities, social sciences and scientists in a pot and stir. I wanna start by just very briefly thanking the organizers who have done an amazing job. They have worked very hard to put this conference together. And you'll be hearing from them over the next two days. But they are Brad Cramer, from a professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences. Barbara Eckstein from English. And Tyler Priest, who is in both History and Geographical and Sustainability Sciences. They've also been supported by Erica Damon and Andrew Hirst, two wonderful students here at the university that you'll get to know over these next few days.

And we've had numerable community and campus partners work with us to plan this conference and to support it. And they are all noted in the program. But I want to mention just a few of our community partners that include the Old Capitol Museum, the Englert Theatre and FilmScene. And then our co-sponsors on campus. Our main co-sponsors include the University of Iowa's International Programs, the Office for the Vice President of Research and Economic Development, the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the National Foundation's Iowa Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program, the University of Iowa Provost Office, the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research here, and the College of Public Health, and Environment and Health Sciences Research Center. And I hope that you will take a look at the program at the many other departments and offices who generously contributed to make this conference happen.

I'll also just mention that following the lecture and discussion, we are having a reception at Brix, which is just a few blocks away on Linn Street. And we welcome you to join us. I'm gonna say two words and then turn things over to Todd to get us started. A 2012 essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books, bears the title "Welcome to the Anthropocene." The author David Biello, is the editor who oversees environment and energy for the journal Scientific American. In this review, Biello ponders the rising sea of literature about the fate of the environment. His comments are a fitting beginning for our conference. He writes, "It is far less interesting "to write about all the ways the world is wrong "than all the potential solutions. "Even in the heart of the most cancerous situation "the Gowanus Canal, where I live," he writes, "the Superfund site, "there is still beauty and hope to be found. "Plants carve a roothold "in the canal's collapsing wooden walls, "jellyfish pulse beneath kaleidoscopic oil slicks, "and green algae blooms in the fecund waters, "thanks to occasional pulses of sewage overflow.

"One day, oysters the size of dinner plates could return." He goes on, "Gliding in a canoe through this toxic waterway, "among the most polluted in the country, if not the world, "affords a unique perspective on nature's resilience "as well as humanity's. "After all, the Gowanus would not have "become a Superfund site "and therefore on the way to a cleaner future "if not for those of us who wanted "to use it for something different "than a flushing tunnel for waste. "Things can get better, "and there's a large portion of humanity "working towards that these days, "a global hive mind connected by the internet. "In the end, science will give us clues and imagination "but it is our own imagination that will light the way." And he concludes with a challenge that I would pose to all of us. "The most important literature we write in the Anthropocene "will be the words that enable us "to ensure breathable air, "drinkable water, nutritious food, "and the persistence of the abundant life "that makes it all possible on this rocky mothership.

"We'll also need a robust history to keep us honest, "We need an enduring, resilient, hopeful literature "for the Anthropocene." The organizers and my wonderful staff have spent the past two years debating, studying, fundraising, teaching and collaborating, as they planned this conference for us. Now, working together as artists, performers, activists, and all the rest, scholars and scientists. It's our job to find those words and images. And then to use them to inspire change. We're counting on our collective imagination to cast a bright light. And our collective conversations over the next few days, to take us farther along the way. Welcome, to the Anthropocene. (applause) – Good afternoon, thank you for braving the cold to come here about global warming. We have a great program in store for you.

I'm happy to see so many people show up and especially see so many of my students here. It's really nice to have this finally underway. Just another, Teresa mentioned some of the sponsors. I also want to pay a special thanks to Teresa and her staff at the Obermann Center. She's a fabulous leader. And gave us great counsel and direction in planning this conference. I also want to mention the Assistant Director of the Obermann Center, Jennifer New, who was really one of the creative forces in planning this symposium. Erin Hackathorn, who's been our field marshall, and has handled all the financial and logistical details in really an exceptional way. And Miriam Janechek, who has created the digital presence. The great website, if you haven't taken a look at that. and looked through the resources page and what we've created. The Twitter feed, it's really a nice resource that I hope will stay around for a while.

I'm not gonna talk about the Anthropocene so much as I wanna just say a few words via intoduction, about energy in Iowa. Many of our participants come from outside of Iowa, long ways. And maybe wondering why we're talking about energy in Iowa, which is for most people, is a farm state, not an energy state. But Iowa really is an energy state. I moved here a couple years ago from Houston, where you could find an energy symposium or energy conference everyday of the week. So it is a little unusual to be talking about energy in Iowa. But it probably won't be, as we move forward. It is a corn and soybean state. 23 million, 36 million acres devoted to corn and soybean. And if you paid attention to the Obermann Factoid Friday's, you would know that this is more than all the land in the U.

S. national parks in the lower 48 states combined. But it takes a lot of energy to plant and fertilize and harvest and transport those crops. And probably even more important, 47% of the coy, soy, I'm sorry, 47% of the corn crop in Iowa goes to the production of ethanol fuel. Iowa produces 30% of the nation's ethanol. And somewhere close to 47,000 jobs are linked to the ethanol industry, regardless of what you think of it. And so, Iowa is an energy state in a kind of contradictory way. Some people might, from some perspectives. It is also the third largest wind-producer in the United States, after Texas and California. More than 5,000 megawatts of installed capacity, 3,200 utility-scale turbines. 27% of the state's electricity generation comes from wind. Iowa was the first state to pass a renewable portfolio standard in 1983 that required the utilities to purchase wind power. And there's something close to 8,000 jobs connected to the wind energy industry in the United States.

Another way in which Iowa's linked to energy that may not be obvious, but will become more obvious in the next several years, is that North Dakota Bakken Crude rolls along the eastern and western borders of the state by rail. Another way that Iowa is getting close, or closer to the fracking industry, the hydraulic fracking industry, is just across the border in Wisconsin and Minnesota. We have large-scale frac sand mines, that mine the St. Peter Sandstone, which is a uniform and perfectly round form of sand that they use in hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania and especially in the Bakken. And it's threatening to spill over into some of the northeast counties of Iowa. So fracking, even though we don't actually, ya know, frack for oil and gas in Iowa, we are very closely connected to it. Iowa's long been a crossroads for migration and transportation.

And it is becoming a crossroads for energy too. There are two controversial transportation proposals that are before the state at the moment. One has a corridor running diagonally from the northwest corner of the state to the southeast corner of the state. under study for the construction of a pipeline to carry Bakken crude oil to Patoka, Illinois. And, along a sort of similar corridor, but a deviating corridor from the Bakken line, is a proposed, a proposal for a 500 mile high-voltage direct current transmission line that would bring wind power from the Buffalo Ridge region of Iowa, and South Dakota and Nebraska, to Illinois to plug into the grid in Illinois and deliver cleaner energy. It's called the Rock Island Clean Line. So wind, hydrofractured crude, ethanol, and then also solar.

Just last year, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of third-party power purchasing agreements. Which is going to provide a boon to, and it's called the Eagle Point Solar case if you're interested in learning more about it. Which will be a boon to solar power development in Iowa. So a lot of things happening around energy in this state. So, I think it's an appropriate moment to think about energy cultures. To think about energy transitions. And in the context of our concern over the environment and over climate change. So, we'll be having fabulous speakers speaking to some of these larger issues. But I just wanted to, ya know, make sure you had that in mind, that we, even though you may not think of Iowa as an energy state, we are an energy state. So, welcome and thank you. I hope you can stay around for events tomorrow, Saturday. And enjoy the program.

And I'll turn it over to my co-organizer, Brad Cramer. (applause) – I'd like to once again thank everybody for coming out this afternoon. As well as, of course, all of our organizers and sponsors for this wonderful event. And very shortly, we'll have our esteemed colleague, Dr. Lonnie Thompson, up here to speak to you. And just very quickly wanted to discuss this topic of the Anthropocene. And hopefully, cut off some denial science very quickly before it ever begins. And so there is indeed yes, a debate among scientists, over whether or not the Anthropocene should be an official designation within the geologic time-scale. Okay, as it turns out, there is actually a group of people in the world whose responsibility is to determine official names for parts of earth history. Okay, very much like Pluto is no longer a planet, right? That's because a group of people decided that Pluto was no longer a planet. That does not mean that Pluto doesn't exist.

(audience laughs) It just means that it's not a planet anymore. Okay, same issue with the Anthropocene. The concept of the Anthropocene is very much predicated upon this idea that humans are now the dominant factor in geologic change on earth. Whether or not it is an official part of the geologic timescale is irrelevant to that conversation, okay. So, the fact that we are clearly the dominant factor of geological change on earth. That's not being debated. Whether or not it becomes an official time period, that's a completely different discussion okay. So, what Dr. Thompson will be up here to give us a wonderful lecture here in just a moment, is about the evidence of impact on climate by humans. Some of the best evidence that we have today comes from ice cores. Ice cores give us the ability to determine all sorts of perimeters in terms of the ancient atmosphere in the ancient earth system.

Dr. Thompson spent much of his career working on recovering those ice cores from very high altitudes, very inconvenient places. All sorts of difficult challenges to actually get at those records. And much of that discussion is what he'll be presenting us today. So without any further adieu, please Lonnie if you would come on up. I give you Dr. Lonnie Thompson, who is a distinguished university professor at the Ohio State University. He's also a senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. Yes, and will be giving you your first lecture on our symposium of the Anthropocene. (applause) And one last request is please turn off your cellphones. Okay, thank you. – Alright, thank you very much. Thank you Brad. It's my pleasure to have an opportunity to come and speak to you today.

And I want to thank the organizing committee for inviting me. It's my first time to Iowa City. And I've enjoyed my interactions with faculty and students. And so I wanna talk about climate change and the evidence that we have found from the glaciers. And I wanna start out with some graphs, because that's what scientists do. But I'm going to change. I hope to serve as a transition into other disciplines because I do not believe. I've been studying climate for 30 years. and producing records. And if you look at the trends that we're on, we're still on those trends. And so how do we bring about change? And that's really gonna take all of us working together. First I wanna say that this is not a one-person activity.

It takes a team. Anything that you do takes a team, and we have a great team at Ohio State. We've had students and post-doc's take support from various organizations that make these things happen. And we've now drilled in 16 countries around the world. That could not be done without the collaboration of people in countries around the world to make that happen. So, it's really a team effort. But I think the problem is an extremely important one. So first of all, the earth's climate is changing. And the world is getting warmer, even though you might not think that here in Iowa today. But there's no debate about this. This is a scientific consensus around the world. And then we'll talk about glaciers as recorders of climate change. And this is when we drill into them. We get an ice core, we can look at how climate has changes through time. And then glaciers also are indicators of climate change. They respond when it gets warmer.

They retreat when it gets colder. They advance. So they are also an indicator of how things are changing. And I will also show you some evidence that in some places these glaciers are smaller then they've been in over 6,000 years. But then I wanna go onto the human side of climate change. And about eight years ago, I determined that we need a better understanding, Scientists need a better understanding of people. And why we do anything. And I had an invitation to speak to behavior analysts. 5,000, international conference, of why we do what we do as humans. And I thought this would be an opportunity. But when I was preparing for that talk, I. B.F. Skinner was one of the founding fathers of that discipline. And he was very optimistic when he was young, and middle-aged. But by the time he became 80, he was very concerned about whether we as species, can act in our own best interests.

And there were two things he was concerned about that relates to climate. And one is, one of our characteristics, is that immediate consequences outweigh delayed consequences. When we talk about climate change, we often talk about, ya know, what's gonna happen 20 years, 50 years, or in our children's lifetime. And so we, as a species, do not react. We're here and now type of people. And then, consequences for the individual outweigh consequences for others. We might be concerned about people being displaced in Bangladesh, but we'll be more concerned if we are displaced. And that's just some of the basic of our characteristics. Then I wanna talk a little about our options, and what I see is the greatest challenges in the 21st century. Then at the end, kind of a segue to Marles lectures, there's a new documentary produced by Ethan Steinman.

And it's called "Glacial Balance." But what he did was to go down the access of the Andes in South America. Looking at what's happening to the glaciers. and interviewing people that you would probably never hear from that live in these remote parts of the world. And we're all part of this human species on the planet. And so you get a different perspective from that. He also went up and filmed our last drilling project in that part of the world. So, there's a real difference between weather and climate. And I wanna talk a little bit about that. Global climate change involves many changes. It's not just temperature. We're looking at things like changes in precipitation, sea level, glaciers, sea ice, ecosystems. There's so many parts of our systems that are impacted by these changes. There have been three major scientific assessments in the last year, in 2014, that concur that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, as well as aerosols, into the earth's atmosphere are the dominant cause of the warming that we've seen since the 1950's on this planet.

Our need for energy underpins the documented rise in greenhouse gases, and we need to address how we will power the human enterprise in the coming decades and centuries, because of that. So, if we look at the temperatures, How they're changing. These are our instrumental records. And we can see that temperatures have risen about .95 degrees C or 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit over the period for which we have been measuring temperatures on the planet. And our warmest years on record have been 2005, 2010 and 2014. And probably the more telling of this is that if you look at the 15 warmest years on record, 14 have occurred since the year 2000. So, the planet is definitely getting warmer. And we can look at to where that warming is occurring and you can see that it's centered up here in the high latitudes in the Arctic and their reasons for the feedbacks in that region.

The climate of the last 30 years has been remarkable. There's been an increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. And there are examples of these, and I'm gonna show some of those. The amounts of droughts and fires that occur on a global scale. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models predict that these types of system responses to global climate change will become more frequent as we go forward in time. If you look at the decade, the decade changes in temperatures starting from 1961 to 1970, and coming up to 2001 to 2010, you can see how these are concentrated in the higher latitudes and on the continental areas of the planet. And particularly, this arctic amplication is occurring. As you melt back the sea ice, reduce the size of the glaciers. You're exposing darker surfaces that absorb more radiation, natural radiation coming in. And this tends to accelerate this process.

This is our record of what's happening to sea ice up in the Arctic. This is a closed basin. And in 2012, we had the minimum amount of sea ice and it was 19% below the previous minimum which was in 2007. And when you look at these records, what you're gonna see is the timing of when these things are occurring. And this is, it doesn't really matter which record you're looking at, you see the same trends that are taking place. So, amongst the changes, these are the Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover. And this has been decreasing, as you can see here. That's also another indicator of warming. If you look at the change in the global average, upper ocean heat content, you can see how that is rising over this same period of time. However, as human beings, we respond to what's happening in our own backyard.

And I wanna use this as an example. This is, I'm from Ohio, so last year was a very cold year in Ohio and in eastern U.S. And particularly in January. So if you look at the temperature distributions on the planet in January, you can see that yes, in our part of the world, it was extremely cold. But they were setting record temperatures up in Alaska, over in southern Greenland, and over in the Beijing area in China. And when you look at these temperatures of the planet, you have to look at the global average. And so, January 2014, actually was earth's fourth warmest January since we've been keeping instrumental records. Even though you would never be able to prove it in this part of the world. I'd like this diagram to show the difference between the weather and climate. And in this diagram, the man walking the dog, is the climate.

And if you ever watch the one walking the dog, they go in a straight line. However, the dog is going from fire hydrant to a piece of paper and going back and forth. Well the dog, is actually the weather. And I think probably, and Mark Twain said it best, when he said, "Climate is what you expect, "weather is what you get." And I wanna use Iowa City as an example. Last January, in Iowa, the 30 year average we would have expected to see temperature average of 23.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 4.7 degrees C. But what ya got was weather which was 13.1 degrees Fahrenheit, and minus 10.5 degrees C. So there's a big difference in taking averages over 30 years and looking at this season to season variability. There's been natural mechanisms changing the climate on this planet through time.

And these are a few of them here. Changes in the output of the sun. We have an 11 year solar cycle. We have a 90 year Gleisburg cycle. And the energy from the sun is what drives the climate on this planet. We have changes in the amount of volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere. Every time we have a major eruption that puts tephra and sulfates into the stratosphere. The temperature at the surface of the planet actually cools for one or two years until that material falls out. We have internal variability. We have monsoons, we have ENSO's. And these have been with us for thousands of years, and they affect the climate. Now on top of that, we have the human factors. And these are non-natural mechanisms. These are changes in the concentrations of greenhouses gases. And we can measure that. Our longest record comes from in the atmosphere, actual measurements from model NOAH. We measure those gases in the air bubbles, in the ice, and we can take that record back in time to get a perspective on that. Changes in aerosols and particles also can cause changes in climate.

Sulfate aerosols can actually lead to cooling. And black carbon can actually lead to warming. So it depends on what types of particles we're looking at. Then there's also changes in reflectivity, or the albedo of the planet. As we need more and more land to support what is now 7.3 billion people on the planet. And when you change the surface of the vegetation, you change the albedo of the planet. So, a lot of different ways that we are impacting. Now, this is the immediate disturbing diagrams. These are the measurements at model NOAH that Charles Keeling started. He passed away in 2005. And if you go to the National Academy of Sciences, when you go into the hall, you'll see this on the wall. And unfortunately, there have been five IPCC reports. And if you look at the trend, it's not only increasing, it's actually accelerating. And we first crossed 400 parts per million by volume in 2012. And this year we crossed it in January of this year. We'll probably get up to about 402 parts per million by volume later this spring. Now, this is probably to me, the most interesting video that I've seen that kind of captures the Anthropocene relative to CO2.

So, I want you to take a look at this. This allows you to actually see how CO2 is emitted, where it's being emitted from. This is a NASA video for the year of 2006. And we'll take a look at that. – [Voiceover] Hi, this is Bill Putman. I'm a climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. What you're looking at is a super-computer model of carbon dioxide levels in the earth's atmosphere. The visualization compresses one year of data into a few minutes. (lighthearted music) Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas affected by human activity. About half of the carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel combustion remains in the atmosphere. While the other half is absorbed by natural land and ocean reservoirs. In the Northern Hemisphere we see the highest concentrations are focused around major emissions sources over North America, Europe and Asia.

Notice how the gas doesn't stay in one place. The dispersion of carbon dioxide is controlled by the large-scale weather patterns within the global circulation. During spring and summer, in the Northern Hemisphere, plants absorb a substantial amount of carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Thus, removing some of the gas from the atmosphere. We see this change in the model as the red and purple colors start to fade. Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere, we see the release of another pollutant, carbon monoxide. This is a gas that's both harmful to the environment and to humans. During the summer months, plumes of carbon monoxide stream from fires in Africa, South America and Australia. contributing to high concentrations in the atmosphere. Notice how these emissions are also transported by winds to other parts of the world. As summer transitions to fall, and plant photosynthesis decreases, carbon dioxide begins to accumulate in the atmosphere. Although this change is expected, we're seeing higher concentrations of carbon dioxide accumulate in the atmosphere each year. This is contributing to the long-term trend of rising global temperatures.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, will be the first NASA satellite mission to provide a global view of carbon dioxide. OCO-2 observations and atmospheric models like GEOS-5, will work closely together to better understand both human emissions and natural fluxes of carbon dioxide. This will help guide climate models toward more reliable predictions of future conditions across the globe. – I don't believe I've seen a better video to actually visualize and show you how these concentrations vary and they get distributed. And the fact that we all live on the same planet, and it's all connected. And to me, it's a very telling video. There's always been natural greenhouse effect on the planet. And that keeps the earth warm. About 14 degrees C or 57 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes life as we know it, possible. So what we're really concerned about is the enhanced, the anthropogenic greenhouse gases that are warming the earth even more. It's the added effect. And this is not new.

The science of the impacts of greenhouse gases, we've known for over 200 years. But we've, these earlier scientists didn't know is that we would develop the technology to extract all these fossil fuels, the carbon of the past, and release it so quickly back into the atmosphere. So this is certainly, the science is not new, it's based on chemistry and physics. We have models that allow us to look at how any one forcing will impact the climate on the planet. And I'm just gonna show a couple of these. This is going from the North Pole to the South Pole. This is what you would expect, if in the atmosphere, from greenhouse gases. We expect the troposphere, down where we live, to warm. But we'd expect the stratophere above, to actually cool. If you're looking at changes due to volcanic eruptions, You put material into the stratophere, tephra and aerosols, that will absorb radiation coming from the sun And the stratosphere will warm and the surface will cool. If you're looking at its driver being the sun, that radiation goes through both the stratophere and the troposphere.

So of you have an increase in output of the sun, both layers will warm equally. And you can combine all of these forcings. And that's done here. So you look at what we know about the last 100 years. And look at how we have expected temperatures to change. That's a model. And models are models. But what you can do is you can actually go out and measure, observe what's happened in the real atmosphere. And if you do that, what you see is up in the stratosphere, temperatures have been cooling. over the period for which we have a record. Except during times when we have volcanic eruptions like Egon, El Chichon, Pinatubo. Temperatures rise. Down in the troposphere, where we all live, temperatures have been rising at all levels in the atmosphere. So the response is expected from greenhouse forcing. And it's predicted by the climate models. It is not forced by the sun.

If it was forced by the sun, both of those layers would be warming. So this is how you fingerprint what the drivers are that are causing the changes that we're seeing. We also satellite observations of the solar output over the period when we've been setting maximum temperature records. And you can see that here. And what you see is there has been no change in the output of the sun over that period of time. So this is all about fingerprinting the causes. So, if you look at the actual temperature record. You can see it here. If you look at only the natural factors in the last hundred years, this is what you would expect. If you combine the natural with the human factors, this is the blue curve you see here. And you get a very good match to the observations, and the measurements that we have. And that's how you do the fingerprinting. There are a number of these recent documents that I've mentioned have come out in the last year.

This is one from the Royal Society of the U.K. and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. And it kinda goes through all the questions that you might ask. And what we, the evidence that we have for each of those questions. But the atmosphere and the oceans have warmed. The Arctic Sea ice is strongly declining in the summer. Arctic sea ice is becoming thinner and younger. The sea-level is rising. And climate variability is increasing with more extremes. If we look at our carbon dioxide record coming in from the ice cores, this is the last thousand years. So we were running along at about 280 parts per million by volume, 'til the Industrial Revolution. And then you can see how rapidly its been rising. This overlaps with the Mauna Loa record, which is the dark line here. So you can see how rapid that change is. So if you were using CO2 as an indicator of the Anthropocene, you'd probably put a date of about 1800 for this change. With the ice core records out of Antarctica, we can go back 800,000 years, and look at CO2 and temperature on the planet.

And this is the CO2 concentrations. And you can see they range from about 280 to parts per million, max, during warm periods. They dropped to about 280, 200 parts per million during glacial periods when they had big ice sheets in North America. And if you look at the temperature reconstuctions for the last 800,000 years, you can see that these are very much in sync. If you look at where we are today, aroundive to that 800,000 year history, you can see that there is no analog to 400 parts per million by volume recorded over that period of time. But what the real concern is, if you look at that trajectory that we're currently on, it's where we'll be by 2100. And what, how that will impact the climate of the system, and all the ecosystems on the planet, and including us. So these are tremendous changes. We talk more about carbon dioxide because it remains in the atmosphere for a very long time. We talk about decades to the millennium for its residence time. There are other greenhouse gases that you can measure in the ice cores. So these are 800,000 year history's carbon dioxide record, Methane, nitrous oxide, they all show this very large increase in the last 200 years.

And but if you look at the residence time in the atmosphere, you can see that CO2 is a hundred to thousands of years. Methane is only 10 to 11 years before its oxidized into CO2 in the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide is about 150 years. And the CFC's are about 65 to 120 years. So that's why you see a lot of discussions on carbon dioxide. And if you say, well what if we found a solution for our energy needs? We found alternative energy. And we stopped producing CO2 tomorrow, which is not gonna happen. How long would it take for CO2 to decline in the atmosphere? And this is looking forward in time. And you can see it when you're out. a hundred years, you'd still have about 1/3 of the CO2 that's currently in the atmosphere. When you're out a thousand years, you'd still have 20%. So it's gonna take a long time to turn the impacts of CO2 on the climate system. And it's kind of interesting to look at our best estimates for when did we have 400 parts per million by volume of CO2 in the atmosphere.

And we have to go back in the geologic record to about three million years, to the Pliocene. And in the Pliocene, temperatures were about two to two and a half degrees warmer. And sea level was 22 meters, or about 72 feet higher. And so this kind of shows the shoreline on the East Coast during that period of time. And that water was coming from, these are the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica today, and this is the projection of what they looked like about three million years ago. So those were the sources of that water. So the drivers are really us in a big way. This is the population of the planet. So we're at 7.3 billion. Estimated to be at nine billion by 2050. But it's not just this. It's what we need. So if you look at in 2013, just animals that we needed to feed these people.

We have over 30 billion fowl. These are chickens and ducks and things that we need to support. 1.9 billion sheep and goats, 1.4 billion cattle, One billion pigs, 400 million dogs, I have three of them. 500 million cats. You know this is a requirement. And this doesn't talk about the crops and things that we also need. And you can compare these numbers to the pre-exploitation number of American bison, in this part of the world. There are only 60 to 80 million. So humans are having tremendous impact in so many ways. You've probably all seen this picture of the earth on the International Space Station. About 65% of the world's electricity today is coming from fossil fuels. And, but what's really interesting is if you look at what the world is expected to look like by 2030, at our current rates of growth. So that's only about 15 years from now.

So this is from General Electric. This is what they expect the earth would look like at night on our current rate. We have over a billion people that do not even have electricity in the world today. And one of the aims is to bring electricity, which is very important to lives of people, around the world. So the real question is, where is that energy gonna come from that supports this growth. Well we've been looking at ice cores for the last 37 years. We have these long records, like the one I showed from Antarctica going back 800,000 years. We also have long records out of Greenland. But we've also been looking at the high mountain regions in between. This is a view of the Quelccaya Ice Cap margin in 1977, back when I was a graduate student. And this is the same place in 2002. And so it kind of brings home the picture that only are you losing a very important history of the past, but you're also losing a very important water resource. There are many things we can measure in the cores.

And where you have very distinct wet and dry seasons, like in the monsoon or down in South America. You can actually see these annual layers in the cores when you're recovering them. And of course you have to have laboratories. We have class-100 clean rooms, mass specs. We have over 7,000 meters of course, that are at minus 35 degrees C. It's the only tropical collection of ice on earth. And becoming more valuable everyday at OSU. And we also design and build the drills, a light-weight equipment that allows us to get up to about 20,000 feet to recover the cores. This is what a typical high mountain drilling operation would look like. And we experiment with different types of energy. Solar power, special diesels that'll work in cold environments to provide the energy for these. And so we've been drilling at these, on these mountaintops. And I'm just gonna show that these records in the tropics, actually spanned very long periods of time.

And when we started, no one, including us, believed that we could get histories that go back into the last ice age from the tropical mountain glaciers. But this is just one. This is Huascaran, it's the highest tropical mountain on earth. And the drill site is right in here in the col. And the reason you need very light-weight equipment is that they have to go across crevasses. And you have to use porters, or you have to carry this equipment up, six tons of equipment. Set up the drill site. And in this case, 53 days later, bring that six tons of equipment, plus four tons of ice, frozen ice down. And keep it frozen, and get it out of the tropics and back to the freezers at Ohio State. We have through time, improved the drills that we use, the piler for those.

So two cores to bedrock. We always do two so we can look at reproducibility. Of record, these are 168 meter cores. And you can see that in the upper part, you see it's very, these annual variations. It's the last hundred years. You see it in the isotopes. You see it in the dust records. You see it in the nitrates. which is related to vegetation in the Amazon. So they're very high-resolution records. And this record goes back almost 20,000 years. So, it's our first view of actually being able to look at what the isotopic record looked like in the tropics during the last glacial period. Up until this date, they were only found in Greenland and Antarctica. We could also look at nitrates, which are very low, which suggest lower vegetation out in the Amazon in the source areas. And the dust increases a hundred-fold, which suggests it was much dustier in this part of the world at that time. So you can reconstruct that history. So over the last 37 years, this is the place where places our team have recovered ice.

And the whole idea is to put together a global picture of climate as it's recorded in those glaciers. I think we often forget that we live on a sphere. And because of that, we have 50% of the surface area of the planet actually in the tropics between 30 North and 30 South. We have 70% of the people that live on this planet in that same zone. So it's an important area to understand. It's also where the water vapor, our most important greenhouse gas in the system, is being pumped into the atmosphere. So, and these actually show the drill sites in the lower latitudes where we now have wreckers. I'm gonna take you just to one of these down in the Quelccaya Ice Cap because it's such an unusual part of the world. We first drilled this ice cap in 1983. And we did that using the first ever solar-powered ice core drill. And back in 1983, solar power, the technology was not very well developed. And we got a lot of push-back that this would be impossible.

But it was the only way that you could get a power source into this remote part of the world. It was a two-day journey by horse. So when these horses and these bags are at the panels, and you can see the drill cable here. And this was the setting and this was the first solar-powered drill that was developed. And it, not only did we drill one, but we drilled two cores of bedrock from this ice cap. 160 meters using solar power. This is an unusual ice cap. You can see the drill site here. This is in the tropics. We're only 14 degrees south of the equator. 150 kilometers to the east, you're in the Amazon basin. You wouldn't think there would be so much ice at this latitude. And if you look down the crevasse on this glacier, you can see those annual dust layers every dry season. If you go into the crevasse, you can actually see how uniform these layers are.

And if you get an ice core, you can actually measure the thickness of the layers and reconstruct what precipitation has been in the past. And so, this is what an ice core looks like when it's recovered. And the records are brought back and they're analyzed. And these are isotopes. These are a temperature proxy, and they show the annual variations at this height. And every dry season, there's a dust layer. And so you can go back in time. And this record actually goes back 1,800 years. This is the last thousand years. This is the isotope record decato averages from the 1983 core, which was brought back as bottled water samples. Then we went back 20 years later, in 2003, to bring back ice cores. We had developed the technology to keep the ice frozen to get it back so we can preserve and archive for the future. And if you look at these, first of all, you'll note the reproducibility of the record over a 20 year period. And you can see in this record that it was warmer in this part, in the Medieval warm period, a little ice age, and then you can see the warming in the 20th century.

You can look at those annual layers, and reconstruct the precipitation in that valence record. The browns are dry periods. So this period is warm and dry. A little ice age starts wet, becomes dry. And you get into 20th century precipitation has been above average. So you can reconstruct these histories back through time. This part of the world is impacted by El Nino's that have tremendous global impacts on precipitation patterns. And if you're in South America, the northern Peru and Ecuador are very wet. during El Nino periods. Southern Peru is very dry. And what we've found is if you look, in this part of the world. If you go there pre-Spanish time, there've been many cultures and empires. This is the Inca Empire. And with this annual record, we can work with archeologists and anthropologists and actually look at how precipitation and temperature was varying during the times of rise and fall of those cultures. And if you do that, these are the blue curve here's a precipitation, high precipitation's blue.

The droughts are indicated here. When you look at that through time, these are cultures, the Moche culture was a coastal culture. And the capital was on the coast. When you get into the wet period in the highlands, we have development of the Tiwanaku and the Wari cultures. And the capitals move to the highlands. When it becomes dry in the highlands again, these cultures, in this case it's the Chimu culture, and the capital is moved back into the coastal area. And then when the rise of the Incas, is during this period, when it's getting wetter again. And this was the largest empire developed in that part of the world. And of course it came to an end when the Spanish arrived in 1531. But what is interesting is if you take that history and how people have moved through time, and you look at where we are today.

In the last hundred years, it's been wetter than average up in the highlands. And so, based on the past, people should be moving to where the water is. But since 1947, people have been actually moving from the highlands to the coastal desert. And to places like Lima, Peru, looking for a better way of life, education for their children. And now, over 50% of the population in Peru is actually in the coastal desert. And they have huge water shortages. In that country, 86% of their electricity is from hydropower. That water is also used for irrigation. It's also used for municipal water supplies. And Lima, Peru has severe water shortages today. And now they're talking about putting in tunnels through the Andes, to capture water that goes into the Amazon, and bring it across for their city.

But it's a lot of policy. Peru is the biggest asparagus producer on earth, now. They produce the asparagus out in the desert. And so they have to divert water from the Santa River in order to do that. And the question is, whether these things are sustainable. And they're certainly, we can raise similar questions here in this country. If you look, you can look at the impact of climate on people. But you can also look at the impact of people on the environment. And in this part of the world, mining has been a big issue, with the. It was developed in these pre-Spanish cultures. But it really took off when the area was colonized. This is actually a silver mine that is underneath a glacier. And actually going and so just two weeks ago, in the precedings of National Academy, we had a paper that looked at lead in the Quelccaya Ice Core as a indicator of mining activities.

And so, here's the Quelccaya Ice Cap. And there are three lake records here. And this was Potosi was a huge mining operation down in Bolivia. And if you looked at these records, you look at the silver production from the New World, from Peru and Potosi, you can see how this has varied through time. And you can actually see the evidence of the lead from those operations in the ice core. And so, if you were looking at the human impact in this part of the world, the first time we see evidence of that is in 1580 A.D.. There's lead deposits in Greenland that date back to over 200,000 years ago that came from mining operations in Spain. So, the human impact on the planet is quite large. We've been working on the Tibetan Plateau. This is the largest plateau on earth and it's got over 46,000 glaciers. Some of these records go back over 750,000 years. But one of the things that we see in all these ice cores, are all the thermonuclear bomb tests that humans have done in the atmosphere. That radioactivity goes around the world.

And so if you were looking at the Anthropocene as the development of nuclear weapons, and testing, you can see here the Ivy Test. This was a U.S. test at sea-level before we knew how dangerous these things were. You can see that in glaciers around the world as a spike in chlorine-36. And if you look at the Soviet test in 1962-63, we use these as timelines in the ice cores because we know when the tests took place. And we can measure those radioactive layers. Okay, so if you look at the last 2,000 years. Just kind of sum up what we see in the tropics. This on the Tibetan Plateau. And this is the last 2,000 years in South America. And some places you can see the Medieval Warm Period and other places you don't. Ya see a little ice age, and then the warming in the 20th century. So if you combine them, this is what's going on in the tropics over the last 20,000 years. Medieval Warm Period, a little ice age. And the real enrichment taking place in the 20th century. And you can compare that to temperature reconstructions from tree rings. Historical observations in the Northern Hemisphere overlap with their instrumental record. And what stands out is the last 50 years.

Now, I can tell you that is you go to the U.S. Senate and you talk about isotopes, they kind of glaze over. Because people have a hard time relating to isotopes, unless you're in that field. So I wanna talk about the visualization of the change. Because that's what we relate to. In 1983, when we drilled the Quelccaya Ice Cap, it had annual layers all the way to the summit. When we went back in 2003, you can see how the layers have disappeared. The reason they had disappeared is it's now melting at the summit. And water's going through the core's fern level and smoothing those out. So that melting started in 1991 on the summit of that ice cap. This is what I see is, and this is my favorite quote about ice. This is from Henry Pollack's book, "A World Without Ice". "Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, "reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. "It is not burdened by any ideology "and it carries no political baggage "as it changes from a solid to liquid.

"It just melts." And I think this is probably the thing that's most compelling. So if you go to the Andes, back down to the Quelccaya Ice Cap, I've showed the changes that have taken place on the margins since 2002. But if you look at the whole area, this is a Landsat image. This is Cordillera Vilcanota, Quelccaya. This is in 1988. And if you look at this place 18 years later, initially you'll see lakes developing around the margins of this ice cap. But if you look at the change that is taking place in 18 years. All those yellow areas are where we've lost ice. And so we've lost 25% of the area of ice, in this region, since these observations were made. And you can find very old photographs. This is one from 1935 in the Cordillera Vilcanota. You can see the glaciers here. These were done on glass plates in 1935. But it allows us to go back to the same rock that this guy was sitting on in 1935. And look at the glaciers in 2006. And if you overlap those, you can actually see where the glaciers were in 1935. Where they are, these white areas, in 2006.

And you see it's not only the area, but they're thinning from the top-down. And this is something that's very difficult to see on a satellite. This photo was taken in 1978, of Qori Kalis. There's no lake in this valley. And this is going to fade into 2011. So, 1978 I'm a graduate student. By 2011, I'm pretty much the age I am now. And this is what you see from this survey point overlooking this valley. And I think if you go back to these places. And I've had the opportunity, you see these changes taking place. And they're taking place around the world. There's another development on this ice cap. This is 1977, this is now a lake in here. And this is the backside of that lake in 2002. You see a person here for scale. That wall's a hundred feet high. And the whole thing is retreating. And at the base of this wall, we found a wetland plant deposit.

Two meters across, perfectly preserved. We were able to collect that plant. And we were able to have it identified, and carbon-14 dated. And it's 5,000, this first plant we found in 2002, 5,200 years old. And it tells us this ice cap hasn't been smaller for 5,200 years. Otherwise, the plant would have decayed. And we took some botanists down. There are over 10 different species in these wetland plants. And they're rooted, they're in growth position, which is absolutely amazing underneath a glacier. You can see where the wall was in 2002. Three years later, here's the plant. And you can see where the wall is. And plants, other plants have continued to come out. And you can start to map out how this glacier has behaved in the past. All the plants collected on this side of the lake here, date about 4,700 years. When I first went to Qeulccaya, this was all ice. So this is a new lake. In 2011, there was land exposed on the other side.

And we collected plants there. Those plants are 6,300 years in age. So if you go back 6,000 years ago, it took 1,600 years for the ice to move from here to here. It's taken 25 years for it to move from here, back to expose those plants. So it's the rate of change that we're really, really concerned about. And I'm gonna take you very quickly around the world. This is not just in the Andes. If you go to Alaska, this is the Muir Glacier, 1941. Same place in 2004, 98% of the glaciers southeast Alaska are retreating in today's world. We've done a lot of work over in Tibet. Very important place, very large area. The one of the largest glacier stores of fresh water with over 46,000 glaciers.

It's sometimes referred to as "Asia's Water Towers." Because the source of many of the major rivers, in this Ganges or Brahmaputra River, are starting glaciers up in the Himalaya's. And so many people are affected by changes in those water supplies. Hard to find old pictures, but this is one from 1921. And you see the mountain peaks here. This is the same place in 2009. So you can see the lakes that have formed. The glaciers that we have studied there, which are now over 7,000, but they're over 46,000. They're retreating. We have histories that go from 1970 to the present. They're retreating more in the Himalaya's and southeastern Tibet, and lesser amounts as you go into the interior. So it's not a uniform retreat across the plateau. If you go to the Alps, you can find very old pictures. This is 1903, and these are all glaciers.

And you can see where they are in 2005. 99% of the glaciers in the Alps are retreating in today's world. Kilimanjaro in Africa, as a place that we drilled in 2000. Here's the earliest photo, 1912. This is where we are in 2006. The first map was made in 1912. And we've continued to compare these maps. And we've continued to have aerial photographs flown. And by 2013, we had lost 88.3% of the ice that was present in 1912. 40% of the ice that was on the mountain, when we drilled there in 2000, has disappeared. One of the things we did on the Furtwangler Glacier you can see here, is we, in the hole that we left when we drilled, we put a stake, all the way to bedrock. And that stake has been measured since we left it there. And if you look at what's happened to it, this is 2012. You can see the top of the stake here.

And then by 2013, the ice is gone. You can no longer go there and recover that history. And out of six places we drilled, two are now gone. And this actually shows the thinning, a measured thinning. And it's about a half a meter a year of ice loss from the top down. This is what Furtwangler looked like in 2013. This was all one glacier in 2000. And as they break up, they expose darker surfaces. More energy is absorbed. You speed up the process. So the last place I wanna take you is to New Guinea. Most people don't know there's a glacier. It's the only glacier between the Himalaya's and the Andes. The oldest photo we could find was taken in 1936. Here's one from 1991, and 2001. These are Landsat images. This is in 1989. The blue areas are ice. 20 years later, this is what is looks like.

A lot of these glaciers have disappeared. When we drilled here in 2010, these are the drill sites. And where a tent sat here for two weeks. It's the only glacier I've ever drilled where it rained everyday on a glacier. If you wanna lose a glacier, you rain on it. And the surface actually lowered 30 centimeters in two weeks. And if you calculate that on a year, that's about seven meters. The ice is only 32 meters thick. And that suggests this glacier's gonna disappear in the next five years. And you can say well this is 2010. So this is what the ice field looked like in 2010. I'm gonna show you an image from 2011, or 2012. And then 2014, just about six months ago. And if you will look at these depressions that are starting to form here. And the height of this wall. You can see that the change in four years that have taken place. So, it'll go to 2012, and you see the size of these holes.

And then you look at it by 2014. So these glaciers will disappear. And those histories will be gone from that part of the world. Our best models, this is from my PCC, with 800 parts per million CO2. We'll have an application of warming at high elevations in the low latitudes because late in the heat release from water vapor. And that's where these glaciers are setting. And that's why we believe they're responding so quickly to these changes. And these changes have impacts on people. This lake form wasn't there when I first went to Quelccaya. Our cap was always here. That lake grew in size. Here is what it looked like in 2006. When we went back in 2007, it was gone. It had drained. And if you go around this ridge to the other side, this is the bottom of the lake, and all the water flowed in the valley below. And it's drowned alpaca. And as the glacier retreated back, it made another exitway to the south. And in the valley to the north, where they used to graze their alpaca, these things are usually covered with water right up to the edge.

And they're bright green, and the alpaca feed on those things. Those have dried up and they're now gone and they no longer engraze in that valley. This is Qori Kalis Glacier in 2005. In March of 2006, there was an avalanche, fell into this lake. You see a pasture here, there's usually alpaca there. And so, when there was an avalanche, you can see there was a mini-tsunami and breached the natural dam, the moraine. And flooded the valleys down below. But the point here is this would not have happened before 1991 because there was no lake in this valley. These are all very recent, recent developments. There's been a lot of recent work on what's happening in Antarctica. Western Antarctica is the only ice sheet that's grounded below sea-level.

The loss of the Pine Island Glacier, the Thwaites Glacier. and we were very concerned about these because of the volume of ice and water in these glaciers. What we have is warm ocean water coming in underneath these ice shelves. Melting the glacier from underneath. So you have this ice shelf decay, ice stream discharge, and the ice sheet decay. It melts away, they thin very rapidly. The problem in West Antarctica is that the ice sheet is grounded below sea-level. And once you leave these pinning lines where these islands that hold it, there's nothing to stop it from collapsing. And the rate of retreat is just been really fascinating. And it should, there's nothing to stop it once you unpin them. So what that does to sea-level remains to be seen.

But there's potential of six meters of sea-level rise just from that one ice sheet. So, if you look cumulative globally, this is what's happening to the glaciers. They're disappearing. If you look at sea-level, you can see that the rate of rise 1870 to 1924, .8 millimeters per year. 1925 to 1992, 1.9 millimeters per year. And from 1993 to 2012, 3.1, and the latest values are 3.3 millimeters per year. And that's exactly what you'd expect if you're melting the ice and the glaciers on land. But sometimes it's hard to look at a chart and see what that means. These are areas on the planet where we're now documented ice loss. So we have recent rapid melting of glaciers. And so we can say climatologically, we are in unfamiliar territory, and the world's ice cover is responding very dramatically.

So if you just take a conservative estimate, and say what if we lost 8% of the ice that's now on land. This is the Gulf Shore and Florida. If you lost 8%, we've lost 25% of the area of ice around the Quelccaya Ice Caps since I was a graduate student. On the big global scale, what would that do to our shoreline? So, here we are at 8% loss. This is what it would look like. So the potential impact, and sea-level is global. And we settled our cities and sailing ships. We have lots of people living at the coastline. So these are a potentially, will have great impacts on human beings and our infrastructure. So it's never any one thing. It's the composite of all evidence. that drives the science community to conclude that the earth is getting warmer.

The loss of Arctic sea ice, increasing temperatures in the air and ocean, increasing humidities, decreasing snow, temperatures rising in the lower atmosphere, glaciers retreating. The ocean's sea surface temperatures are warming. The heat content is increasing. Global sea-level is rising. Air temperatures over land are rising. These are all very consistent stories of a warming of planet. So, I wanna get to the human side of this, because I think this is very important. So, how to manage a world with threats from climate change, rising sea-levels and rising energy consumption. I think this is our biggest challenge in the 21st century. We certainly can make the argument there's "A Perfect Storm" that's brewing. The ingredients are the fact that carbon dioxide has its very long life-span in the atmosphere.

There's an inertia in the climate system. It'll be 20 to 30 years before we see the impacts of what we've already done on the climate system. We have positive amplifying feedback says you remove ice and you increase the absorption on the planet. And we have fossil fuel addiction around the world. We can talk about an alternative world, a brighter world. More renewable energies, cleaner air and water, enhanced economic development, better jobs. And I grew up in West Virginia. And they even invited me back to talk on this issue. because I'm from that area. But the fact is, that most coal miners were employed in 1924. And the maximum coal production in West Virginia was in 2002. Miners were losing jobs because they're being replaced by technology and machines and the like. So I go back and talk to the young people.

If you wanna have a future, you look at the alternative energies. This to me is the growth area for the future. But humans being what we are, it's these extreme events that actually get our attention. And I'm just gonna go very quickly through the last couple of years. In 2011, in Ohio, was the wettest year on record. And we had many floods. These are very expensive when they occur. But this is a global, this is 2011 in Pakistan. And Munich Re, who is one of these companies that insures insurance companies, and distributes the risk globally, actually sees the impacts of these changes. So the overall losses in 2011, were $148 billion, weather related losses, of which $55 billion was actually covered by insurance. The rest was picked up by taxpayers or individuals of those costs. In 2012, we had Superstorm Sandy. And you see "super" in front of typhoons and things now. And they're still trying to recover from this.

It's cost over 60 billion dollars. But some things you don't often note, is that there are 45 superfund toxic waste sites within a half a mile of the coast in New Jersey and New York. And these become at risk when sea-level rises and you have potential higher and higher storm surges coming in. You look at fires in this country. These are record fires. And what again is so compelling is the timing of these. We're talking about areas burning the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. In 2006, 9.8 million acres. 2007, 9.3, 2012, 9.1 million acres. These are tremendous impacts. The flood in 2013 in Boulder, Colorado. It doesn't flood in that part of the world. And most people did not have flood insurance because they haven't needed flood insurance.

And this brings up one of these characteristics of human beings. The fact that the consequences for the individual outweigh consequences for others. If it's your home that's going into the river, then you become very concerned about these changes. This is Super Typhoon Haiyan. The death toll was in the thousands and the damage was over $14 billion. Only about two billion was actually insured in the Philippines. This is a poor part of the world, most people don't have insurance. Then you come to last winter. This is ice and freezing rain in Atlanta, Georgia. Very unusual in this part of the world. But at the same time, if you went to Australia, record temperatures were being set in the summer there. And this is why you always have to look at the global picture. And the floods in England in 2014. The losses were $1.

7 billion. The winter of 2014 was the wettest on record since records began in 1910 in that part of the world. And then you come into this winter. And the snow's at Boston, chances are they're gonna have a record snowfall since they've been keeping records in that part of the world. And the impacts of these are tremendous on infrastructure and people. Last you know, seven feet of snow, I mean it's a lot of snow. So then if you look in California, the drought out there. That's now a 500 year drought. And this is what the drought situation looked like in 2012, 2013 and then last week, and now. And if you look at the snow pack in Sierra Nevada, it's only 1/5 of what it should be at this time of year. So even though they're had some storms there, it has not alleviated that drought. If you look at weather catastrophes around the world from 1980 to 2012, you can see these are storm-related, weather-related catastrophes.

You can see how they're increasing. And if you look at the cost of those, in the last 10 years, that's averaged about 184 billion dollars a year of which $56 billion was covered by insurance. There's a lot of variability from year to year, depending on what storm and where they hit, as to what that actual cost is. But it brings back another human characteristic. Immediate consequences outweigh delayed consequences. When we start seeing these changes and the cost of those changes in the here and now, then the opinion on climate change issues will change. So, looking forward, I think there are three options out there. One of these is mitigation, which means taking measures to reduce the pace and the magnitude of change in global climate that are caused by human activities. And here you can talk about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. You can talk about enhancing the sinks for those emissions, taking them out of the atmosphere. We can actually talk about geoengineering, to counteract the effects of greenhouse gases.

We can talk about adaptation, which means taking measures to reduce the adverse impacts on human well-being that result from climate change that do occur. And examples of adaptation include changing agriculture practices, strengthening defenses against climate-related diseases, building more dams and dikes. But this is a moving target, and we're not very good at regional prediction of changes. Then the last is suffering. This is the adverse impacts that are not avoided by either mitigation or adaptation. And I think these will be the options as we go forward. But there are positive things, and you mentioned at the beginning. And I think this is absolutely true. And I've been really impressed with the changes that are underway. Conservation, increased efficiencies, four-cylinder hybrid cars, electric cars.

We have Tesla. Google's gonna produce an electric car. You have technology will be one of the answers to these changes. Fuel cells, fuel emission, coal burning power plants, solar, geothermal, ethanol, wind-powered plants, mass transits, light-rail systems, buses. Housing design toward more compact cities. Development of nanotechnology, LED technology. But it doesn't mean too much if you just make a list of this. It's what we're actually doing that counts. And I come from Ohio State University. We're one of the largest public universities in the U.S. And we have very strong campaign for sustainability at the university. We have over 70 student organizations that are focusing on sustainability. We're ranked number three by EPA and the 20 largest universities using green-power.

25% of our electricity comes from wind. We have, we recycle in that big stadium where we play football games. The 98.2% of the waste that's generated. We've put 7.1 million dollars into increasing efficiency in conservation infrastructure in our existing buildings. And we have 37 alternative energy buses on campus. We are putting in these electric car charging stations. We hope to recycle 90% of the materials generated on campus by 2030. And in 2012, we planted 916 trees on the campus. So, it's what we do. And the thing that I'm really encouraged about is this is something that's coming from the bottom up. It's not coming from the top down. And I think this is the way the change will come. Now, I wanna tell a personal story that happened in 2011. And I think I understand skeptics much better after this. 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma.

And as I climbed these mountains I noticed it was getting harder and harder. But, the beauty was there was a medicine for that. And you could take that and you could continue to do what you were doing. And in 2009, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. And my cardiologist, at Ohio State, he said, "Lonnie, this is what's gonna happen." He said, "You're on the threshold. "You're gonna drop to another threshold. "But out here in the future, "you're gonna have to have a heart transplant." And I looked at him and said, "You're crazy. "I have climbed the highest mountains "in the world. "This old heart works pretty well. "And you're gonna tell me "that I have to get a heart transplant?" So, I have fought this for two years. And I was on this drill site in 2011, and I couldn't breath to get from the tent to the drill site. And when I got back home, I went directly to the emergency room. I was on a heart pump.

Then put in an LVAD. An LVAD is a turbine they put in your old heart that it runs on electricity. You have batteries you run in the day, and at night you plug into the wall. And it really gives you a new meaning of sustainable power. (audience laughs) And this was in April of 2012, Ellen and I received the Franklin Medal for Science, the Environmental Science. To go there, I had to go off the transplant list 'cause you can't be more than two hours from the hospital, if you're on the list. But this was gonna take four days to go up. And so they took me off the list. I came back on a Saturday, and on Tuesday I got the call that they had found a match. And I went in, in the morning, and by the next day, I had a new heart. And then, one year later, I was back at 20,000 feet on the Zangser Glacier in Central Tibet. Now the reason I tell this story, is that if you think about the climate change issues.

We, there are a lot of people who, ya know, we've been producing fossil fuels for a hundred years. And we've been, and a lot of people are making money from this. And there's infrastructure and investments. And then when suddenly this, we realize that this is harming the environment, and we're changing the climate on the planet, our first reaction as human beings is to deny it. But I think at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what I think, or you think. It's only what is, and what is, it's a matter of physics and chemistry. And at the end of the day, we will deal with it, because we'll have no choice. So, when I look at the 21st century, I think our biggest challenge is our learning how to get along with each other on this planet. And you can question how well we do that, today or even in the past. But the other part is learning how to get along with the planet. on which we depend for our life and our quality of life. And these two challenges deal with human behavior. And therefore, they're very closely related.

So, let me close with this view of the world. If we've learned anything from our International Space Program, it's how special this planet is for life as we know it. And when it comes to global climate change, nature's really the timekeeper on that. And none of us are wise enough to know how much time we have to make a change. But we do have good evidence that, that clock is ticking. And we need to get on with bringing about these changes. And so I wanna conclude with this and I would like to, I have a very short 16 minute video, just was produced. And it's by Ethan Steinman. And it's about people who live in the Andes. And I'm just gonna show you a very small section from Peru. But it's very important to understand that we share this planet with a lot of other people whose lives are also impacted by these changes. (applause) – [Voiceover] Okay, thank you Lonnie. You've done a really great job of sharing your personal research and what it's meant to the climate record, And giving us some very powerful images and information about how rapidly climate is changing in the last couple of decades, and accelerating.

And also, putting a human face on this climate change. And it certainly sets a great tone for this meeting. I think this meeting is all about those conversations that take place around us. I think we're, it's been a long time here, but we certainly wanna entertain. I'm sure there's lots of questions. So, we're gonna take five minutes or so for questions. And then people can come up maybe afterwards and ask any more. So, yes. – [Voiceover] In your presentation, you showed the map of the sea where if would be at the current level of carbon dioxide, a few million years ago, planets So, we're at that level now CO2. Under what conditions will we then see that 72 foot sea level rise. Would it just take time or would it stop at 400? – It takes time, I mean these smaller glaciers in the mountains, they respond first to change. They're not that big. But you talk about a Greenland ice sheet, or Antarctic ice sheet. It takes a long time to warm them up. Get them moving, and to see the change taking place. So every glacier, depending on its size and its thickness, has a different response time to these changes.

But, because they're so big, once you get them moving, it's very difficult to reverse that trend. Yeah, it's an important question. – Other questions? – [Voiceover] Thank you for a brilliant presentation. So, I'm a city councilman here. My name's Jim, and three years ago, four years ago, when I was running for office, I was talking to a local developer. And I expressed to him my concern about climate change. He basically said, I don't have time to think about climate change. And besides, I don't trust anything coming from the federal government. (audience laughs) So, one of the things that makes me think about is how developers and others, who are really focused on how operating successful in your market economy. do not face, they don't see prices that reflect the consequences of burning CO2. It's the biggest negative externality there is in markets. So I'm wondering about them.

You really didn't mention the market economy, or a deeper level capitalism. You didn't mention that about how it's a real primary driver in terms of the production and use of fossil fuels, etc. And taking us down this road. So, I'm wondering what you think about what needs to be done in terms of affecting markets so that the developer and others like him that I talk to, will actually adapt change in their behavior to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions? – I think it's a very important question. And I have issues with market-based economies. I mean we see this now in universities. And you know, what happens is in a market-based economy, is that things that can make money, prosper. And things that don't make money, don't. And there are a lot of very important things about human history that we need to know, that need to be supported. And the people that do those type of research need to be supported. But when you look at, look at the marketplace. I mean, it's the real cost, understanding the cost Ya know, if you're a developer and you lose your development because an extreme event.

When these things, ya know, when these, extreme things happen, and then you spent your life working for, ya know, making this profit and growing. And in 15 seconds, couple hours, it's all gone. Then you're, you're view of the world actually changes. And as we have more and more of these extreme events, more and more people get impacted. And yeah, they question, yeah is this a sound way to move forward. I mean, I showed that we have 7.3 billion people on the planet. But, and that's growing. But consumption, consumerism is growing 10 times faster than that. As new countries come online, and can we sustain that? I mean, is there, I think we need to start thinking about sustainability. How do you have a good lifestyle and you maintain it for the maximum number of people on this planet? If you ever, If you're ever in a hospital bed and you're on this edge between life and death, what you realize is all the resources, all the money, anything you've accumulated in this life, really doesn't matter.

What really matters are your family, your friends and your colleagues. And the difference that you were able to make in the lives of people in the life that you led. And the rest of it, to me, is, ya know, I think our value system needs to be adjusted. What's important? – I think that's a good point to maybe think forward from this lecture today. And I think the other thing we can think about is that a lot of you have done is Lonnie you've done a really great job of informing us and powering us. And I think, keep this in mind, I was pretty special. You know, we're gonna have a whole bunch of people tromping through this state wanting to be president of this country. And wanting our votes. And I think this is one of those questions that we can be asking. Are they informed? Where do they stand? Where we can help asking them those questions. It can help shape our opinions. is we can carry that forward. And it's probably a good time, and a nice elevation to stop.

And I don't know if there's any other. We're gonna thank you. But are there anything else to say? So there's the information that's important for the reception. But again, let's give Lonnie a round of applause. (applause).

Art made of the air we breathe | Emily Parsons-Lord

Translator: Camille Martínez Reviewer: Krystian Aparta If I asked you to picture the air, what do you imagine? Most people think about either empty space or clear blue sky or sometimes trees dancing in the wind. And then I remember my high school chemistry teacher with really long socks at the blackboard, drawing diagrams of bubbles connected to other bubbles, and describing how they vibrate and collide in a kind of frantic soup. But really, we tend not to think about the air that much at all. We notice it mostly when there's some kind of unpleasant sensory intrusion upon it, like a terrible smell or something visible like smoke or mist. But it's always there. It's touching all of us right now. It's even inside us. Our air is immediate, vital and intimate. And yet, it's so easily forgotten. So what is the air? It's the combination of the invisible gases that envelop the Earth, attracted by the Earth's gravitational pull. And even though I'm a visual artist, I'm interested in the invisibility of the air.

I'm interested in how we imagine it, how we experience it and how we all have an innate understanding of its materiality through breathing. All life on Earth changes the air through gas exchange, and we're all doing it right now. Actually, why don't we all right now together take one big, collective, deep breath in. Ready? In. (Inhales) And out. (Exhales) That air that you just exhaled, you enriched a hundred times in carbon dioxide. So roughly five liters of air per breath, 17 breaths per minute of the 525,600 minutes per year, comes to approximately 45 million liters of air, enriched 100 times in carbon dioxide, just for you. Now, that's equivalent to about 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools. For me, air is plural. It's simultaneously as small as our breathing and as big as the planet. And it's kind of hard to picture.

Maybe it's impossible, and maybe it doesn't matter. Through my visual arts practice, I try to make air, not so much picture it, but to make it visceral and tactile and haptic. I try to expand this notion of the aesthetic, how things look, so that it can include things like how it feels on your skin and in your lungs, and how your voice sounds as it passes through it. I explore the weight, density and smell, but most importantly, I think a lot about the stories we attach to different kinds of air. This is a work I made in 2014. It's called "Different Kinds of Air: A Plant's Diary," where I was recreating the air from different eras in Earth's evolution, and inviting the audience to come in and breathe them with me. And it's really surprising, so drastically different.

Now, I'm not a scientist, but atmospheric scientists will look for traces in the air chemistry in geology, a bit like how rocks can oxidize, and they'll extrapolate that information and aggregate it, such that they can pretty much form a recipe for the air at different times. Then I come in as the artist and take that recipe and recreate it using the component gases. I was particularly interested in moments of time that are examples of life changing the air, but also the air that can influence how life will evolve, like Carboniferous air. It's from about 300 to 350 million years ago. It's an era known as the time of the giants. So for the first time in the history of life, lignin evolves. That's the hard stuff that trees are made of. So trees effectively invent their own trunks at this time, and they get really big, bigger and bigger, and pepper the Earth, releasing oxygen, releasing oxygen, releasing oxygen, such that the oxygen levels are about twice as high as what they are today.

And this rich air supports massive insects — huge spiders and dragonflies with a wingspan of about 65 centimeters. To breathe, this air is really clean and really fresh. It doesn't so much have a flavor, but it does give your body a really subtle kind of boost of energy. It's really good for hangovers. (Laughter) Or there's the air of the Great Dying — that's about 252.5 million years ago, just before the dinosaurs evolve. It's a really short time period, geologically speaking, from about 20- to 200,000 years. Really quick. This is the greatest extinction event in Earth's history, even bigger than when the dinosaurs died out. Eighty-five to 95 percent of species at this time die out, and simultaneous to that is a huge, dramatic spike in carbon dioxide, that a lot of scientists agree comes from a simultaneous eruption of volcanoes and a runaway greenhouse effect. Oxygen levels at this time go to below half of what they are today, so about 10 percent.

So this air would definitely not support human life, but it's OK to just have a breath. And to breathe, it's oddly comforting. It's really calming, it's quite warm and it has a flavor a little bit like soda water. It has that kind of spritz, quite pleasant. So with all this thinking about air of the past, it's quite natural to start thinking about the air of the future. And instead of being speculative with air and just making up what I think might be the future air, I discovered this human-synthesized air. That means that it doesn't occur anywhere in nature, but it's made by humans in a laboratory for application in different industrial settings. Why is it future air? Well, this air is a really stable molecule that will literally be part of the air once it's released, for the next 300 to 400 years, before it's broken down. So that's about 12 to 16 generations.

And this future air has some very sensual qualities. It's very heavy. It's about eight times heavier than the air we're used to breathing. It's so heavy, in fact, that when you breathe it in, whatever words you speak are kind of literally heavy as well, so they dribble down your chin and drop to the floor and soak into the cracks. It's an air that operates quite a lot like a liquid. Now, this air comes with an ethical dimension as well. Humans made this air, but it's also the most potent greenhouse gas that has ever been tested. Its warming potential is 24,000 times that of carbon dioxide, and it has that longevity of 12 to 16 generations. So this ethical confrontation is really central to my work. (In a lowered voice) It has another quite surprising quality. It changes the sound of your voice quite dramatically. (Laughter) So when we start to think — ooh! It's still there a bit.

(Laughter) When we think about climate change, we probably don't think about giant insects and erupting volcanoes or funny voices. The images that more readily come to mind are things like retreating glaciers and polar bears adrift on icebergs. We think about pie charts and column graphs and endless politicians talking to scientists wearing cardigans. But perhaps it's time we start thinking about climate change on the same visceral level that we experience the air. Like air, climate change is simultaneously at the scale of the molecule, the breath and the planet. It's immediate, vital and intimate, as well as being amorphous and cumbersome. And yet, it's so easily forgotten. Climate change is the collective self-portrait of humanity. It reflects our decisions as individuals, as governments and as industries. And if there's anything I've learned from looking at air, it's that even though it's changing, it persists.

It may not support the kind of life that we'd recognize, but it will support something. And if we humans are such a vital part of that change, I think it's important that we can feel the discussion. Because even though it's invisible, humans are leaving a very vibrant trace in the air. Thank you. (Applause).

The Greatest Threat to Existence as We Know it

imagine its a beautiful day in April of 2017 three children in different parts of the world are going about their daily lives as they do every day and as their parents have done for countless generations meet Hiro in Japan Hiro wants to be a successful banker one day just like his father but right now he is more interested in spaceships and planets Abasie lives in Kenya with his parents and grandparents one day he wants to travel the world in his own little sailboat akash lives in india with his big happy family when Akash grows up he wants to be the world's greatest chef and so life goes on hiro becomes an astronaut much to his fathers suprise Abasie travels the world in his sailboat and Akash opened his own restaurant in his home town they grow old and pass on having lived fulfilled lifes their children follow and thier children's children until one day in April of 2100 Akoh and his family are crammed with thousands of other people at Haneda Airport hoping it's not too late sadly the people of Tokyo never had a chance the once-proud city is reduced to rubble by tsunami the likes of which has never been seen Anassa lyes in the dark of his quiet home and he knows his time has come it hasn't rained in months all the crops and livestock have died and the well dried up long ago the people of Kenya suffer the slow death of starvation and dehydration oni draws ragged breaths in his hospital bed his body ravaged by disease is the last living member of his family the population of India has fallen drastically these are a few hypothetical scenarios from various parts of the globe while they may seem unrelated they all share a common catalyst climate change as 2017 begins and the United States presidency changes hands it has become increasingly apparent that the new regime is full of climate change deniers and fossil fuel advocates it is more important than ever to spread real information regarding climate change and the catastrophic effects it can produce within the next 100 years let's start with the common misconception when some people hear the term global warming they'll point to an instance of colder than normal weather like the Sahara Desert recently and say that's ridiculous it's snowing here this objection stems from a misunderstanding of how weather differs from climate weather refers to local changes over short periods of time such as minutes hours days or weeks typical examples of whether include rain clouds snow wind and thunderstorms climate refers to longer-term averages and maybe regional or global in scale and can be thought of as weather averaged over an extended period of time typically years or decades an easy way to remember the distinction is weather is what you get climate is what you expect now that we have a good understanding of how climate and weather differ let's look at the scientific consensus over ninety seven percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past 100 years are extremely likely to have been caused largely by human activity that number goes up to over ninety-nine percent if you include climate scientists who have not recently published scholarly articles most of the leading scientific organizations around the world have issued public statements endorsing this position there are too many to list in this video so i put a link in the description of organizations and their statements climate change deniers tend to latch onto studies that disprove the trend but you always notice that the studies are either not peer-reviewed come from a known anti-science publisher or come from a scientist in a completely unrelated filled with an agenda of their own so where does this problem come from the largest contributing factor to climate change is the burning of fossil fuels oil coal and natural gas all release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned carbon dioxide is considered a greenhouse gas which simply means it sticks around in the upper atmosphere and traps heat the more carbon dioxide is released the more the atmosphere heats up this temperature increase then causes other problems such as melting glaciers and polar ice as arctic ice melts it releases co2 and methane a more potent greenhouse gas compounding the problem by making the atmosphere even warmer the smelting morais it's a vicious cycle ok but where do we stand right now what's the damage as of the end of 2016 carbon dioxide levels are up by nearly 405 parts-per-million the highest in 650,000 years global temperatures up by one point seven degrees since eighteen eighty and nine of the last ten hottest years on record happened since 2000 the tenth being 1998 Arctic ice is shrinking at a rate of 13.

3 percent per decade and land ice is disappearing at a rate of 281 gigatons per year Greenland ice loss doubled between 1996 in 2005 and finally the global sea level has risen seven inches in the last 100 you're probably thinking well that doesn't sound too bad let's look at the consequences by category first the melting of polar ice of course we've all heard that global warming affects the poor polar bears but it's true and it's severe at the current rate of melting which is likely to increase the Arctic is projected to see its first ice-free summer by 2050 imagine that all of the ice gone and yes that likely means extinction for the polar bears within a hundred years and it's not just polar bears some species of ice dependent seals will die off if they can't adapt including harp ringed ribbon and bearded seals then there are the ivory goals and ox ivory goals have already suffered a ninety percent population reduction in Canada over the past 20 years then there's the walrus the arctic fox small plant eaters like ground squirrels hairs lemmings involves large planters like moose caribou reindeer and musk ox and meat eaters like weasels wolverines wolves foxes bears and birds of prey the melting ice is likely to cause a domino effect knocking out species that other species depend upon for food melting ice brings us to our next category rising sea level over the past 100 years the global sea level has risen approximately seven inches the more alarming fact is that the rate of rise in the last decade is nearly double the rate of the entire last century at this rate rising sea level puts coastal cities and islands at great risk SC water reaches further inland it can cause destructive erosion flooding of wetlands contamination of aquifers and agricultural soils and lost habitat for fish birds and plants most projections show the sea level will rise between point 8 and 2 meters by 2100 which would be catastrophic for many low-lying islands and much of the eastern coast of the United States more dire predictions based upon the complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet project a rise up to seven meters that's enough to submerge London the third category is the one with which most people are familiar global temperature rise as CO2 accumulates in our atmosphere the temperature creeps steadily upward the annual increase is measured at roughly 1.

7 degrees Fahrenheit this increase in temperature could cause the most drastic immediate effects of all three categories the list is long and distressing so here we go global warming will cause droughts and heat waves which are already responsible for killing more people per year than floods hurricanes lightning and tornadoes combined it will aggravate the spread of disease warmer weather allows disease bears to be active longer and further abroad warmer ocean temperatures will allow pathogens to flourish as we've already seen with the widespread coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef this coral houses twenty-five percent of all marine diversity and the reef is already declined by fifty percent in the last thirty years when the coral goes we'll lose hundreds of thousands of species dependent upon it for shelter which will collapse much of the marine food chain back on land fishing will suffer droughts will destroy crops and livestock and create a water scarcity pushing farmers and people in rural areas into the city this will cause overcrowding and help spark civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands like it did in Syria GDP is expected to plummet by twenty-three percent by 2100 caused by property damage from flooding droughts wildfires storms loss of productivity loss of tourism and illness you can see how quickly the situation can snowball wildly out-of-control it seems very dire but what can we do is it too late to stop the changes we put in motion it's hard to say for sure but the affect humans have had on this earth is severe and the changes have indeed been set in motion even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today global warming would continue for at least several more decades since carbon dioxide can linger in the atmosphere for up to centuries some experts believe we're approaching a tipping point a point at which abrupt perhaps irreversible changes would tip our climate into a new state however it may not be too late to limit some of the worst effects of climate change two important steps are required one mitigation the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and two adaptation learning to cope with and adapt to the climate changes that have already been set in motion recycling and driving fuel-efficient cars are important steps in the right direction but not sufficient on their own it will take a globally coordinated response such as clean energy agreements between nations as well as local efforts on the city and regional level such as sustainable City Planning public transportation upgrades and energy efficiency improvements so yes climate change is the biggest threat to existence as we know it and is deeply troubling that the United States government seeks to normalize ignorance of good science so if you're concerned for the future of the planet and generations to come do your part help spread this information because the earth truly is worth saving if you enjoyed this video please leave a like or a comment and subscribe to keep up with the latest content thanks for watching and we'll see you in the next video.

Environmental Encyclical: Pollution And Climate Change

Theological and philosophical reflections on the situation of humanity and the world can sound tiresome and abstract, unless they are grounded in a fresh analysis of our present situation, which is in many ways unprecedented in the history of humanity. So, before considering how faith brings new incentives and requirements with regard to the world of which we are a part, I will briefly turn to what is happening to our common home. The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification”.

Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity. Following a period of irrational confidence in progress and human abilities, some sectors of society are now adopting a more critical approach. We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet. Let us review, however cursorily, those questions which are troubling us today and which we can no longer sweep under the carpet.

Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it. Section I. Pollution and Climate Change Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. People take sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating. There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.

Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in different areas. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish. Industrial waste and chemical products utilized in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected.

These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. To cite one example, most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled. It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste which give rise to new generations of plants. But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.

A serious consideration of this issue would be one way of counteracting the throwaway culture which affects the entire planet, but it must be said that only limited progress has been made in this regard. The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.

Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes. Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity.

The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide. Things are made worse by the loss of tropical forests which would otherwise help to mitigate climate change. Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods.

It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation.

They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded. Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption.

There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies. Some countries have made considerable progress, although it is far from constituting a significant proportion. Investments have also been made in means of production and transportation which consume less energy and require fewer raw materials, as well as in methods of construction and renovating buildings which improve their energy efficiency. But these good practices are still far from widespread.

Ruth Little on collaborating with scientists and artists to effect climate change

I want to talk a little bit differently from some of the other speakers in the last couple of days about ways of knowing. According to the Cape Farewell Project that Pat mentioned, the future is the place where we’re all going to spend the rest of our lives, according to Charles Kettering, who invented the electric starter motor and freon refrigerant. So I’m not sure whether to thank him or abuse him for that. But we tend to agree with him.

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