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Popularising Climate Change [Updated]

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 at 10:39:37 AM EST

Crossposted from Think About It

[Update]This is an updated version of my earlier diary Popularising climate change in which I sought feedback from ETers and Th!nkers on my proposed script for an interview with Bulgarian National Television on the Think About It Climate Change blogging forum.

They have now broadcast the programme and an extract containing the dubbed interview is available here. As far as I can see they have used the interview in full and overlain it with some relevant footage on the impacts of and solutions to climate change. The interviewer is Think about it member  Hristo Hristov. [End Update]

I've been asked to do a Skype interview with Bulgarian National Television because of my involvement with the Think About IT Climate Change Blogging forum as part of their build up to the Copenhagen COP 15 Climate Change conference.

I've been given the broad outline of the questions in advance and what follows is roughly what I plan to say in the few minutes available.  I make no claims to being an expert on climate science, but believe we all have a responsibility to try and make the key issues more accessible for all.  

There is a political battle being fought against the status quo, the vested interests, and the climate change deniers who see no reason why they - or anyone else - should take any responsibility for the unsustainable exploitation of Earth currently being whitewashed as "growth", "development" and the unalienable right of man to plunder all he purveys.

I would welcome the assistance of ETers to refine the points which can, and should be, made in the course of a short interview to a general audience.


Questions:

1. Why do we need to bother about climate change?

The world's climate is changing all the time and there have been dramatic shifts over the last 4 Billion years since it was first formed. Most of these changes occur over very long periods of time - geological eras - but we have also seen ice ages and mini-ice ages, severe droughts and floods, in various regions of the world in the past few millenia. So the human influence is only one of many factors effecting long term climate changes.

What is different now is that there are 7 Billion humans on the planet - and growing - and we are all generating more greenhouse gases as our lifestyles become more affluent, and so our influence on planetary climate and the world ecosystem is growing all the time. Major climate changes are associated with mass extinction events - with many species disappearing altogether and others having to adapt quickly to survive.

So, regardless of the causes, we have to try and stabilise the global climate if there isn't going to be a major extinction event amongst humans - we are already seeing many other species facing extinction because of our destruction of their habitats. Many low lying areas face flooding by rising sea levels and other areas face droughts destroying local food chains. So while the effects will be localised at first, ultimately they will effect us all.

2. How does it affect the lives of ordinary citizens?

The science of climate change is complex and controversial - as all emerging sciences tend to be. So it can be difficult to explain in terms that non-experts can relate to. Yes, climate change models predict the melting of polar ice caps, rising sea levels, much more frequent extreme weather events, storms, floods, droughts, etc. But these are statistical probabilities, and it is not possible to conclusively state that human activity caused this or that change or storm event. There are other factors as well - Sun spot activity etc. - which we cannot control. However the key is to control what we can, as otherwise many of the trends will become self-reinforcing and irreversible.

3. What will Copenhagen change?

Kyoto was quite limited in its scope and did not include some of the worlds most polluting powers like the USA. So it has failed to have a major impact on climate change to date. The issue is only starting to become centre stage in the USA, and there are many vested interests with an interest in denying its existence altogether.

Hopefully Copenhagen will cement the development of a global political - as as well as scientific - consensus on the topic and agreement on the broad parameters of what has to be done. I think it is too late for a formal legal treaty to be agreed, but hopefully a political and operational agreement will be reached on the way forward which can lead to a binding Treaty in due course.

4. What can we do?

At a personal level, we can all obviously try to reduce our carbon footprints by using bicycles or public transport, buying more efficient cars, insulating our houses, and designing and promoting more sustainable products and lifestyles.

In terms of politics we have to overcome the power of vested interests and encourage our governments to promote more sustainable and energy efficient industries through progressive industrial policies, better waste management facilities, stricter building standards and codes, taxation incentives, and moving away from carbon fuels towards wind, hydro and solar energy technologies. In the short term some of these may cost more, but in the longer term they will enable a more sustainable and prosperous lifestyle for us all.

Display:
1. Why do we need to bother about climate change?

The Yangtze and Indus rivers both get much of their water from glacial meltwater. If those glaciers go bye-bye, then you have between one and two billion people, spread across three nuclear powers, facing freswater shortages.

That will not be pretty.

In terms of politics we have to overcome the power of vested interests and encourage our governments to promote more sustainable and energy efficient industries through progressive industrial policies, better waste management facilities, stricter building standards and codes, taxation incentives, and moving away from carbon fuels towards wind, hydro and solar energy technologies.

And stop privatising the energy sector. Not only does it lead to less reliable energy supply, it also encourages fuel-intensive energy sources (because private investors are wary of ponying up big start-up costs). Fuel-intensive, in this respect, means CO2-intensive.

In the short term some of these may cost more, but in the longer term they will enable a more sustainable and prosperous lifestyle for us all.

They actually don't.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 29th, 2009 at 07:29:58 PM EST
Thanks for this Jake.  I only got the call to do the interview yesterday evening and the interview was this morning so I didn't have much time to prepare.  It would have been great to have an example of how Bulgaria would be effected by global warming but I didn't get time to research it.  I don't know if they will use the interview, but if they do I will post a link.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 30th, 2009 at 05:56:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't get to the serious stuff without getting this off my chest:

over the last 4 Billion years since it was first formed

The earth's age has been determined, give or take a few tens of million years fault margin, at 4.56 billion years. Either climate began with its creation, or I'd like to know why it began 560 million years later...

Now, I know that we scarcely know anything about the Hadean period, that is, anything prior to ~3.8 Ga - but still...

by Nomad on Mon Nov 30th, 2009 at 05:48:31 AM EST
The only point of mentioning it was to highlight the distinction between long term climate change and immediate catastrophic weather events which may or may not be attributable to climate change and anthropogenic causation.  I don't want to get into the finer points of two decimal places because that implies an accuracy and a certainty which we just don't have.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 30th, 2009 at 06:01:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm too late, but I could have done some stuff about the pretty weird climate Bulgaria "enjoys". The north is pretty stormy and is their main agricultural belt. They'd be up the creek if crops are smashed in the fields by unseasonal summer storms, which have happened. Also storms tend to flood Sofia, which is inconvenient.

also, due to distrust of corruption, they don't have many reservoirs (dams break if they're built badly) which means that it's hughly susceptible to drought. Bad news guys.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Nov 30th, 2009 at 02:42:05 PM EST
Well I did mention the increased incidence of storms and floods and droughts in a general way, so maybe that will resonate somewhat.

BTW - the interview is being dubbed into Bulgarian for broadcast on Wednesday, so I will post a link if I get one.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 30th, 2009 at 03:00:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't wait to hear your Bulgarian Brogue.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 at 01:36:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It gets better after a bottle of Bulgarian red...

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 at 01:38:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 2nd, 2009 at 01:49:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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