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💬 "How the IPCC Climate Report Can Spark Action"

Columbia Energy Exchange

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

Host: Bill Loveless
Guest: Dr. Kate Marvel | Research Scientist | Center For Climate Systems Research at Columbia University
Category: 💬 Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[5:13] “The main conclusions of the IPCC report are things which are extremely solid. So there is an unequivocal […] human impact on the climate. Humans are responsible for basically all of the warming that we've seen so far. And the warming is manifesting itself in increased frequency and severity of extreme events. So that is a new aspect of this report, that certainty that humans are causing climate change. And climate change is causing worse and more frequent heat waves and storms and droughts and contributing to sea level rise.”

[6:31] “We understand how climate change contributes to those extreme events, because it's basic physics that describes climate change. And it’s basic physics that describes its impact on these events. So for example, something like a heatwave, we know that as the world warms up, we're going to see more extreme heat waves like we've seen in the US this summer. We also understand very, very well, […] that warm air holds more water vapor. And so that means that when it rains, it pours, there is more water that can get dumped on us, about 7% per degree celsius of warming. We understand that warm air is thirsty or air, and that sucks more moisture away from the surface. So we're expecting droughts to increase in some regions and a warming climate. So I think the physics and the science behind these connections has been understood for a long time. But it's really been advances in what we call event attribution, advances in our ability to take a specific extreme event and calculate what fraction of the risk of that event came about due to climate change. So that has been an area in which science has really advanced since the last IPCC report. And I think that along with you know, this very well established physics has enhanced our confidence in the human fingerprint on these worsening extremes.”

[8:37] “We can choose where we're headed with the temperature increase. It's true that under any scenario, we're going to see warming continuing through the middle of the century. But there is a huge difference between a world in which warming is limited to 1.5 degrees celsius or 2 degrees celsius, and one of which it warms 3 or 4 degrees. So I think it's important to stress that there is nothing special about those targets. The climate doesn't measure itself in degrees celsius. And we're not doomed if we exceed 2 degrees, we're not safe if we stay below 1.5 degrees. I think the thing to hold in mind is the more emissions reductions, the better. The more the temperature rises, the more dangerous things become.”

[9:57] “We can be more precise in the carbon budget about how much we can burn theoretically, before we blow past these limits. But I think it's really important to note that these limits, they're made up. The world doesn't know what 1.5 or 2 looks like. But the world does know what minimal emissions, maximum emissions reductions looks like. And so I think the thing to hold in mind is to cut emissions as rapidly as we possibly can.”

[11:03] “I think it's important to note that this report is only one part of a three part report. […] I think it's important to remember that there is a working group two, which focuses on impacts, and that is highly relevant information as we adapt to a changing climate. And then there's also working group three, which focuses on mitigation on solutions. […] We need to understand the changing climate, and we need to adapt because it's going to continue to change regardless of what we do. But we also need to understand how to mitigate those changes, how to avoid the worst. And what this report is saying is that it is completely possible to avoid that worst case scenario.”

[13:27] “Fossil fuels, industrial agriculture are so ingrained into every aspect of our life, that it is going to be […] extremely difficult to decarbonize. But difficult doesn't mean impossible. […] We know what to do. We know that there are an array of solutions that we have right now. We don't need to wait for a huge technological breakthrough to come in and save us. There is still room for technology, there is still room for innovation, but we know a lot of the solutions already. The constraints on climate action are political and economic. They are not technical. And so we know that those solutions exist. And we know that we are already seeing progress. We need just to see faster progress.”

[15:12] “The best case scenarios where the earth is very insensitive to carbon dioxide are completely ruled out. But on the other side, those worst case scenarios where the earth has a sensitivity of 5, 6, 7 degrees celsius to a doubling of carbon dioxide, we think those are also very, very unlikely. And what that means is that this is a great window for climate action, because it means that it's necessary. The climate is sensitive to carbon dioxide, but it's not going to be useless. […] We're not all doomed. There is action that will matter. I think that is the take home message of this report.”

[18:41] “It's very useful to note that this is not just a scientific problem, climate change is touching every single aspect of human existence. And that can be really intimidating, that can be really terrifying and paralyzing, but it can also be extremely motivating. Because if it's touching every aspect of our society and everything everybody does, then that means that there are solutions in all of those areas as well.”

[25:47] “I think COVID […] it illustrates the limits of individual action to stop climate change. Because carbon dioxide is cumulative in the atmosphere. And what is really needed to stop it is systems change. During COVID, many people stopped flying, people stopped driving, and there was a decrease in carbon dioxide. But 2020 was one of the hottest years on record. And what that illustrates is that we don't just need people to stop doing things that they like to do. That's not how we solve climate change. We solve climate change by changing the way that we generate energy. We solve climate change by rebuilding our cities. We have to build our way out of climate change, we have to think our way out of climate change. We can't just all of a sudden sacrifice, stop doing what we do.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 32 min | 🗓️ 08/17/2021
✅ Time saved: 30 min

Additional Links:
IPCC Report 2021