Climate Science, Impacts, Risk Management, and What We Can Do

NYU Seminar Talk March 2013

Jan W. Dash, PhD
Climate Initiative Chair, Unitarian Universalist UN Office Climate Science Rapid Response Team Matchmaker
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Outline – Overview of Climate
  Climate   Climate

Science – Most relevant fact = Impacts: Many, almost all bad

◦  Recent Global Warming is due to us ◦  Example Sea Level Rise ◦  So What?
  Risk

Management & What can we do?   Ethics: Why should we do anything?   The Pseudoscience Deniers
◦  What do they say? Who supports them?
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Science Fact: Recent Global warming exists, due to humans. Natural variation out (El Niños/La Niñas, volcanoes, sun): Average temperature going UP

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Global Warming / Climate Impacts
  Many

impacts – practically all bad   We see impacts now, only faint rumbling of future impacts if we do not act
◦  Less FOOD – crops die at high temperatures ◦  Less WATER – glaciers, snow packs melting ◦  More DISEASE – insect vectors moving north ◦  More WARS – over food, water
  Other

examples: Sea level rise SLR, Ocean acidification, Extreme weather (Sandy)
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U. S. Navy is concerned
  Sea

Level Rise Scenario: 3 - 6 feet by 2100

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NOAA data, projections to 2100

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SLR and Global Warming

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So What? – Vulnerable US (NOAA) East Coast “hot spot” for SLR

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Migration, war, national security
  Millions

worldwide now living in coastal regions will be displaced by rising seas   Where will they go?   More wars will result

  Pentagon

 US National Security issue
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◦  Quadrennial Defense Review 2010

Small Island Nations Threatened
(IPCC Extreme Climate report 2011). Following Talk this seminar

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Ocean Acidification, Higher Temperatures, and the Food Chain
  Ocean

absorbs CO2 => carbonic acid   Ocean acidification hurts food chain
◦  Algae, shellfish, coral reefs… => fewer FISH
  Higher

sea temperature hurts food chain

◦  Phytoplankton decrease => fewer FISH

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What about SANDY in NJ/NY?
  Global

warming puts more energy into the weather system for extreme events   Specifics making Sandy worse
◦  Sea level rise. Higher sea temperature. Also:
  Arctic T   Details

up  more jet stream instability

◦  Maybe some influence on Sandy turning left

complicated, and exact attribution not possible, but probably global warming made Sandy worse.
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Sandy, Jet Stream, Global Warming

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Climate Risk Management
  Recognition

of risks: 2 types

◦  Average risk: probable, low impact ◦  Tail risk: less probable, high impact
  Rational

response to risk - lower it!   The best way to think about the response to climate is RISK MANAGEMENT
◦  Stop BAU = Business As Usual ◦  If BAU, today s tail climate risk becomes tomorrow s average climate risk
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What Can We Do: Climate Mitigation – no silver bullet. Progress, need MORE
  Action

by individuals   Action by organizations
◦  Corporations, Universities, Faith-based, NGOs
  Action   Action

at all levels of government

◦  City, State, Regional, National, International

to support non-fossil energy   Mitigation Volume IPCC = 1,000 pages   Please note: Citizens Climate Lobby
◦  Carbon Tax + Dividend back to people
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Climate Ethics
  Climate

justice: Poor have the smallest effect on climate – are hurt the worst
◦  U.S. will be hit very hard if BAU prevails ◦  More humane and cheaper for preventive action now rather than disaster adaptive action by our descendants in the future

  However, no

place to hide

  Intergenerational

ethics: Our descendants

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Climate Science Deniers / Contrarians / Faux Skeptics
 

We Have No Climate Risk 4 trenches:
1.  2.  3.  4.  Deny global warming Deny human influence on climate Minimize climate impact risk Exaggerate cost of climate action mitigation

  Oppose
   

climate action, renewable energy   Create doubt = tobacco tactic (Oreskes)
Science can’t prove so we shouldn’t act Cherry pick, propose flimsy arguments
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Contrarian/Denier Pseudoscience Disinformation – Ex: Arctic ice loss

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North Carolina and Cnut the Great (Reuters) - Lawmakers in North Carolina voted to ignore studies predicting a rapid rise in sea level due to climate change and postpone planning for the consequences.   Cnut the Great ordered the sea not to rise 1000 years ago
 

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Who Supports Contrarian Deniers?
  Fossil

Fuel Co. FFC – Exxon Mobile, Koch

◦  FFCs want to be able to burn every available carbon molecule (gas/oil/coal) in the ground ◦  Otherwise STRANDED ASSETS ◦  Would reduce FFC $wealth, $stock price
  Libertarians: Tea

Party, Koch, Faux News...

◦  Basically oppose government action ◦  But governments must act to mitigate climate ◦  So libertarians try to “kill the message”
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Here are some resources
   

IPCC Science Report 2007 Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment Skeptical Science website – see “one liners” UU-UNO Climate Portal: soup to nuts climate U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review (2010)
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     

Bottom Line – We have a big problem and we can solve it
  Human

activities are causing recent global warming trend of climate change   Climate impacts mostly bad, observed now, and will become far worse if we do not act   Climate action is opposed by strong forces
  NOT

too late to prevent worst impacts   You can help

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Thank You

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