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Climate Science, Migration, Ethics, and Risk Management

UU-UNO Spring Seminar: Migration and Climate Panel, 2012

Jan W. Dash, PhD
Climate Initiative Chair, Unitarian Universalist UN Office Visiting Research Scholar, Fordham University Adjunct Professor, Courant Institute, NYU

  Climate

Science: What’s the problem?   Climate Impacts: Migration / Immigration   Climate Ethics: Why should we act?   Climate Risk Management: Action!   Appendix: What about the Contrarians?


Climate Science – Background

Science = Web of evidence from different sources
◦  Observations ◦  Physics, models, theory


Science is not Mathematics

◦  You never “prove” anything in science ◦  Always uncertainties (maybe small, maybe big) ◦  However can be quite (very) sure about some things ◦  Once convinced, they are skeptical about contrarian claims ◦  Informs us about risk from climate change ◦  Input into “what should we do”

   

Scientists are skeptics

Why should we care about climate science?


Climate Model = Black line. Consistent with temperature data (colored lines). Uncertainties (shaded). 1980-2011


Natural variation out (El Niños/La Niñas, volcanoes, sun changes) => global warming exists, due to humans


Global temperature: Last 1,000 years + next 90 years (IPCC, 2007; K. Hayhoe)

K.  Heyhoe 6

Climate Impacts - really serious
Climate amplifies naturally produced disasters   Impacts are being observed right now   Faint rumbling of the impacts on our descendants if Business as Usual BAU behavior continues   Impacts of climate:

◦  INCREASED: Mass migration / immigration ◦  INCREASED: Food shortages, Water shortages, Disease, Species extinction, Extreme weather, ETC ◦  US Navy sea level rise scenario: 6 feet this century ◦  Breakdown of financial, economic systems?

Why bad? Perturb earth like dropping your watch

Climate and Migration / Immigration
  Climate

impacts = increasing factor   Mexico: millions to US due to climate
◦  Climate change decreasing crop yields ◦  PNAS Report 2010: Feng et al
  More

millions will migrate due to climate Defense Review

◦  Asian Development Bank report
  U.S. Quadrennial

◦  Climate Migration: U.S. National Security Risk


Conference: Climate Change, Migration, and Security - Washington DC, April 18



The intersection of climate change, human migration, and conflict presents a unique challenge for U.S. foreign policy in the 21st Century. These three factors are already beginning to combine in ways that undermine traditional understandings of national security and demand a rethink of traditional divisions between diplomacy, defense, and economic, social and environmental development policy abroad. Addressing this nexus—of climate change, migration, and conflict—will be a core challenge of this century. As the number of migrants, driven in part by environmental degradation, continues to grow, the adaptive capacity of states worldwide will be strained, and new security gaps will appear in which non-state actors have the potential to flourish.

Related reports: only one week

China government report on climate impacts (1/18/12)
◦  Global warming threatens China's march to prosperity by cutting crops, shrinking rivers and unleashing more droughts and floods [Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change]


Oceans, climate change, and oxygen (2/11/12)
◦  Global warming could lead to more of the world’s oceans becoming “dead zones” [Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich]


Los Angeles and climate change (2/23/12)
◦  Rising sea levels will increase the likelihood of coastal flooding; rising temperatures will threaten the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which provides about a third of the drinking water (US Geological Survey)


Mayan civilization collapse, climate change (2/24/12)
◦  … likely due to a relatively mild drought, much like the drier conditions expected in the coming years due to climate change [Yucatan Center for Scientific Research, Mexico and U. Southampton, Britain]


Climate Ethics: Why should we act?
  Climate

justice: Poor have the smallest effect on climate – are hurt the worst   However, no place to hide
◦  U.S. will be hit very hard if we do not act
  Intergenerational

ethics: Our descendants

◦  More humane and cheaper for preventive action now rather than disaster adaptive action in future
  No

long-term solution to any problem without dealing with climate: Interconnected

Climate Risk Management = Action
  Recognition

of risks: 2 types

◦  Average risk: low impact ◦  Tail risk: high impact
  Rational

response to risk - lower it!   The best way to think about the response to climate is RISK MANAGEMENT
◦  If we do not act, today’s tail climate impacts will become tomorrow’s average climate impacts

Climate Action – no silver bullet. Progress exists, we need MORE
  Action

by individuals – GET INVOLVED

◦  Write letters to the editor – influential! ◦  Support renewables, efficiency, conservation
  Action

by organizations - NGOs, Universities, Faith-based, Corporations
◦  Citizen’s Climate Lobby

  Action

by governments all levels: City, State, Regional, National, International
◦  (Rep. Starks): Carbon Tax/Fee + Dividend


2007 Reports Science website

◦  Reliable, download free
  Skeptical   Real

◦  One-liners, refutation of fallacies

Climate website Mann – new book

◦  Professional climatologists – technical / excellent
  Prof. Michael

◦  Read it – great!

Climate Science Rapid Response Team
◦  Reliable Scientific Information for Media

UU-UNO Climate Portal
We have a moral and ethical imperative to learn about climate change / global warming, and to act appropriately and decisively.

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Bottom Line
  Human

activities are causing the global warming trend of climate change   Climate Impacts are observed now and will become far worse if BAU prevails
   

Immigration / Migration Many other impacts overwhelmingly bad

  It’s

not too late to prevent worst impacts   You can help   Thank you



Appendix about the Climate Contrarians preventing action

Disinformation, mostly out-of-field non-experts
◦  Example: Christopher Monckton
  No science degree. No position. No publications.   Gives talks, Congressional testimony. Full of ERRORS   Analogy: Actor misusing medical terms – unless you’re a doctor you can’t tell


Cranks exist in every scientific field, are almost always wrong, are not Galileo, are justly ignored.
◦  “Mavericks, charlatans posing as climate scientists” [as Prof. Kerry Emanuel of MIT calls them] ◦  In climate they get publicity, have big influence ◦  Right wing media climate disinformation (Fox, WSJ …)

Climate science expertise - counts
  Expertise

needs to be in the right field.

◦  Example: You don’t want your cardiologist – or chiropractor - to give a cancer diagnosis ◦  Not the right expertise
  Who

has climate science expertise?

◦  Filter #1 = PhD in science ◦  Filter #2 = Science faculty/research position at a recognized university, laboratory ◦  Filter #3 = Substantial recent publications on climate in peer-reviewed science journals

What do Contrarians Say?
  “We

Have No Climate Risk”. Mix of:

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   Create doubt = tobacco tactic (Oreskes)   “Science can’t prove so we shouldn’t act”   Ignorance or neglect of risk management