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tv   Earth Focus  LINKTV  December 12, 2016 7:30am-8:01am PST

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>> today on "earth focus," the impact and politics of climate change. climate scientist michael mann speaks with correspondent miles benson. coming up on "earth focus." >> we will have years like this more often than not. and we've had that for t the last 5 years. >> and there just aren't enough sandbags to go around. still not enough sandbags to gogo around. >> i haven't seen a winter like this in a really long time. or even maybe never. >> we've been seeing some s seve weather.r. expect to see more.
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it's coming. hurricanes, floods, droughts, raging wildfires, snowstorms, and tornadoes. is this purely nature, or are there m manmade, ththerefore controllable, factors at work? a warmer, moister environment can intensify storms, creating heavier precipitation. and this scientists say is why human activities may account, at least in part, for the rise in extreme weather we're expereriencing. >> the debate is settled. climate change is a fact. and when our children's children look us inin the eye and ask ife did all w we could to leave them a a safer, more stable world wih new sources of energy, i want us to be able to say yes, we did. [applause] >> as the obama adadministratitn rerenews its commitmentnt to ac,
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the debate over climate change remains polarized. climate scientist michael mann is a central figure in that debate. he was one of the scientists behind the development of the controversial hockey stick chart, which showed how temperature in the late twentieth century was exceptionally warm compared to the previous 900 years. this triggered a tax on dr. mann and the science behind his work, all documented in his book "the hockey stick and the climate wars." michael mann, you write that in mid 1990s, scientists werere abe to begin to connect the dots on climate change. . could you elaborate? >> we understood the basic science of the greenhouse effect nenearly two centuries ago. josh
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fourier, the same guy who discovered the law of heat conduction, understood that there was this greenhouse effecect. so we've known for soe time that the greenhouse effect exists and that we're incncreasg it through fossil fuel burning. by ththe mid 1990s, we had reacd a level of formal certainly about that that we had not before reached. we could actually attach a number to it. in the second assessment report of the ipcc published in 1995, the ipcc concluded that there was now a discernible human influence on the climate. now, there's an interesting storyy there. the language would have been stroronger than just discerniblble, but the delegaats of certainin participating natis like saudi arabia demanded that the language be watered down and discernible ended up being sort of a lowest common denominator. it was the one thing that everybody could agree on, the governments and the scientists. but we were able
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to say that we've seeeen the fingerprint now of human influence in a formal way. we could actually detect that human fingerprirint in the patttternsf clclimate change that we had measured. >> given the seriousness of the issue, can you explain why there has been so little action by policymakakers? >> well, unfortunately, many off our politicians are beholden to fossil fuel interests. i mean, let's make no mistake here. we're talking aboutut taking on the m most powerful industry y t ever exexisted on the face of the eartrth, the fosossil fuel iindustry. they've e chosen to fight back using hundreds of millions of dollars, for example, in the u.s. to fund what, without exaggeration, is the greatest disinformation cacampaign evever run. in fact, there was a memo that was
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published 2002--actlly, it was leaked. was a l leaked memo from a republican pollster named frank luntz. and he was advising his clients, essentially fossil fuel interests, that back in 2002, there was this closing window. the public was now bbecoming cononvinced by the scientific community that human caused climate change is real. and if they were to become convinced about this, they would demand policy actions be implplemented, action b be take. but what luntztz said was that there's still a window of opportunity left, according to his polling, according to the focus groups that he had done, to confuse the public, to cloud their understanding of the issue, to try to make it seem as if the science is stilil fiercely contested. and what he said was as long as the public thinknks that scientists don't agree, that there isn't a scientific consensus, they can be convinced that it might be
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too costly to take action. and so that's exactly what the forces o of climate change denial have chosen to do ever since. . they've doubled down, if you will, in this campaign of disinformation. >> i want t to do my part on global warming. all yes on 23 says is... >> the e effort through televisn advevertising, t through thehe cultivation of so-called experts who attack the science, talking heads,s, the cultivatatioof tatalking heads who appearar onk radioio, who appear on cacable television, they've created ththis very elaborate network of think tanks and advocateses to create confusion in the public mindsetbout this s issue of human caused climate change. >> so what we're seeing here is a drastic change in climate, aren't we? >> well, climate has always been changing, but this is nothing to do with man. >> i have made a case, a very
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sololid, sciencnce-based case, against anthropogegenic global warmiming. >> a m me thks s someone is playing fast and loose with this whole subject. >> yes, they are. i m mean, basically global warming causes less snow except when global warming causes more snow. it causes less cold except when it causes more cold. >> if we're going to penalilize producers of carbon monoxide, then we all--every time we eexhale, we'rere breaking the l. >> it's getting warmer, you knoow, in jupiteter, and they 't have e any suvs drivingng arounn jupupiter. >> they said there were gonna be more tornadoes, more hurricanes, no ice in the arctic, increasingly hot weather. you have to stand up and point out that every year now for 15 years, they've been wrong. >> the dreaded polar vortex. do you know what the polar vortex-- have you ever heard of it? well, they just created it for this week. >> all they need to do is to convince the public that
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the science is uncertain. and that's why you'll find some of their advocates who will deny that climate chchange exists, dy the science altogether, but others who will----who are somewhat more surreptitious in their attack will concede some of the scientific evidence, but will say that there's too much uncertainty, t that the impacts might bebe substantially smaller than what the scientists who study impact say. so there are these vararious lines of attack from denying clclimate e change outright to simply contesting that it's a problem. the only commononality being the argument that we don't need to transition away from our reliance on fossil fuels, an argument, that's of course, that's very convenient to the fossil fuel interests who are e funding all l of this disinformation.
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>> you talk abobout the scientization of politics. whatt exactly does that mean? >> one of the other things that they've done is to co-opt politicians, like james inhofe, senior senator of oklahoma who has declared climate change to be the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the american people while it continues to ravage his state because indeed oklahoma has been at the front lines of the impacts of climate change on the u.s. the record drought, the record heat that they've seen in recent years. but, you know, other politicians like joe barton, who was the chair of the house energy and commerce committee, a large number of politicians, sadly many of them on one side of the partisan divide, republicans in particular, whose campaigns have been financed heavily by fossil fuel interests and who are now doing little more than acting as advocates for fossil fuel interests. when it comes to the question of, you
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know, passing legislation to deal with climate change, that's really the scientization of politics that i was t talking about. this idea that the underlying scientific evidence is just a political football toto be contested as ay other political issue would be contested. and there are politicians whose j job it is to contest that evidence. when in fact, yoyou know, that's not the way sciencece is. there ar't two equally valid sides. there's a reason that the flat earth society no longer prevails in our public discourse, because they were wrong. the earth isn't flat. we accept that. gravity does exist. there are propositions in science. and, you know, i'll tell you, if there was a vested interested, if there was a huge industry tthat would stanand to profifit greatly if the theory of gravity
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were wrwrong, you wouuld see the theheory of gravity being contested in our u.s. senate. >> talk about the hockey stick and why it became such an icon in ththe climate debabate. >> well, it's this curve that my co-authors and i publishshed now 15 years ago. we attempted to estimate the temperature of the earth back in time. now, there's only about a century of widespread thermometer measasurements around d the wor. so we can only document fromm instrumental measurements, thermometers, how the globe has warmed over the past century to century and a half. and we know it's warmed about a degree celsius, about a degree and a half fahrenheit. what the instrumental record can't tell us is how unusual is a warming like that over that period of time. could it be that that sort of warming happens naturally over a century time scale? to try to address that and relatated questions about hw
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the climate h had changed in the past, my co-authors and i attempted to make use of what we call proxy climate records-- natural archives likeke tree ris or corals or ice cores or lake sediments that tell us something about how the climate changed in the past. and often these records are available not just 100 years, but 1,000 years or even further back in time. and so we took all of the information that was available at the time frfrom recorords ofs sort, soso-called proxy records, to esttimate how the temperature of the earth, specifically the northern hemisphere where we had the most data, how the temperature of the northern hemisphere had changed over the past 1,000 years. and what we found was--although the estimates are uncertain, as you can imagine because we're not wororking with thermometers, we''re working with thehese very imperfect natural thermometers like tree rings and ice cores. so there's this band of
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uncertainty. but even when you look at the band of the uncertainty back in time, you see that the recent warming is outside of the range that we see over the past 1,000 years. there's no evidence that a warming of this magnitude happpens naturallyly, at least s ffar back as we cocoulgo. it led to a chart, which depicts temperatures starting out fairly warm 1,000 years ago, getting colder as you descend into the depths of the little ice age, and then, of course, the rapid warming of the past century, the spike at the end. it was the shape of this long term cooling followed by this rapid spike that sort of resembles a particular sports implement, a hockey stick. and it got named the hockey stick. the curve was featured in the summary for policymakers of the third assessment report of the ipcc, the 2001 report. and it quickly became an icon in
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the climate change debate. >> are the severe weather patterns we're seeing today relatted to climate change? >> we are seseeing the loaoadinf the weather dice is the way i'd descrcribe it. you cacan't lookt any one heat wave and say, you know, climate change caused that particular heat wave with any great degree of certainty because there's a lot of sort of natural variability in the weather, the vagaries of the weather. you can get unusually hot d days just from chance alone. you can get unusuaually cold days from chane alone. one of the things you can do is tally those rolls. so these are random rolls of the weather dice. and the question is, are we loading those dice so that 6s are coming up more often? well, it turns out 6s, by some measure, are now coming up twice as often as they ought to. and what i mean by that is if you look, for example, at the u.s., you look at the rate in which we are breaking records for all-time warmth and you tally over all of
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the locations across the country, all of the days of the years for all of the, you know, hundred or so years where we have good data, and you look at how often we are breaking all-time records for warmth vs. all-time records for cold, ok. iin an unchanging climate, in the abssence of human causeded climate change, that ratio shoould be one to one. you shoud break cold d records as oftftens you b break warm records. what we're e seeing i is we're now, f you look at the e past few year, for example, seeing warm records, all-time heat records, broken at 3 times the rate cold records are being broken. 3 times the rate you would expect from chance alone. that's actually l like rolllling 6s the times as s often as you would expect. . so rather than rolling a 6 one in 6 times as you would expect frfrom a fafair die, 6s e coming up half the time, so every other roll is a 6. >> is climate change happening faster than we expected? >> the current trajectory that
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wewe'rere on leads to the concln that within a matter of a couple of decades we may see ice-free conditioions in the arctic at the end of the summer. this is something that the climate models predict shouldn't happen for anotother 60 years, till thehe end of the 21st century. and indeed nature seems to be on a course that's faster, that's rere dramatitic than what the climatate modelsls predict.e are already y observing g and measuring a decrease in the amount of iice in the greenland ice sheet and the west antarctic ice sheet. now, the climate models have predicted that we shouldn't see that for many decades to come. and a key distinction here is if it's a land ice sheet, a land-based ice sheet, then when it melts it actually contributes to global sea level rise. that's not the case for sea ice, but it is the case for the continental ice sheets. and
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so the fact that we're already measuring losses of ice from these major continental ice sheets means that they're contributing to sea level rise faster, once again, than climate scientists projected them to.. >> can we say how soon it's gonnana start causing problems r people whho live near the seashore? >> there''s a credible body of work now that suggests that if we continue with business as usual fossil fuel emissions, then byby the end o of is centu, wewe could see as much as t two meters, 6 feet of g global sea level rise. now, that would be catastrophic for many coastal regioions. for ththe u.s. east t and gulf coast, island nations around the world, some of which would literally be submerged by that amount of sea level rise. the ipcc makes a far more conservative statement. they state an upper bound of about a memeter, about 3 feet. and d it'ss once agagain an exae of where the ipcc arguably has been overly conservative. some,
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as myself, have argued that partly that's just due to the culture of science. scientists tend to be reticent. we don't like to make strong conclusions that we have to withdraw at some lateter time. d there's also a component, i believe, due to thehe pressure, the outside pressure, the crcritics, the very well f fundd and well organized effort to literally discredit the sciencee of climate change, sometimes by attempting to discredit the scientists themselves. i myself have been a victim of that. and in the face of all that pressure and those attacks, i think to someme extent the ipc hahas actually withdrarawn a bid they've been more guarded,d, moe conservative, more reticent in what they're willing to conclude than they realally should be g n the evidence. a arguably, you know, if it is indeed the ipcc's role to advise governments on the potential for dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate, which is what
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the ipcc was originally charged with as their missioion, arguab, you should not s sort of downply the higher end scscenarios if they're credible, even if they're low probobability outcomes. mitigatiting cmatete change, d g something about our r carbon emimissions i is a planetetary insusurance polilicy. and inin g the teterms of thahat insurance policy, we neneed to be focusing on some of those potential, more extreme e catastrophphic outcom. the ipcc c systematically downplays those outcomes, then it dodoesn't serve that larger process of societal risk assessment as it should. >> if the changes are becoming so visible, whyhy isn't the p pc more readily accepting climate change as reaeality? unfortunately,y, one of the lessons of sort of thehe battles over envivironmenl
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protection in the u.s. this century is that unfortunately a proroblem often has to reach crisis proportions before policymakers are w willing to a, often because there are vested intereststs who are lobbying heavily for actions not to be tataken. and this was thhe case, for example, with acid rain where, you know, we committed to far worse environmental impacts of acid rain than we should have bebecause the coal industryry, e emissions were causing acid rain, fought back fiercely against any policy action to deal with it. ozone depletion. once again, it took us s decades to act. we knew that the problem existed b back, you know, in the early 1970s. i it took until the, you know, the montreal protocol in 1984 for us to actually take policy actions to prohibit the production of these
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substances, chlorofluorocarbons, that were destroying the ozone layer. and perhaps the best example was that, you know, environmental pollution ofof our lakes and rivers. the cuyahoga river in ohio, it took that river catching on fire. it took a river catching on fire for the u.s. public to say wait a second, we have a problem hehe we need to do something g about. so s some of us, you know, think that we may unfortunately need to have that cuyahoga river moment in the climate change debate before we will act. somethihing so undeniablele that even ththe most w well funded, well organized disinformation campaign cannot convince the public not to believe what they're seeing with their own two eyes. >> when you talk to other scientists and urge them to get into the fight, do they explain
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their reluctance? >> what i perceive is that this problem is starting to solve itself naturalllly through sortf generational change. many of the younger scientists that i talk to, you know, graduate students today, young post docs, they grew up in a different environment. they witnessed the attacks on science. to many of them, it upset them. it upset them that scientists were being attacked for simply speaking truth to power. and i it sort of energizd them. andnd they come in wanting to do sometethg about thihis. i have theense that there's a much greater enthusiasm for public outreacach and communication among the younger scientists that are coming into this field and it may have been an inadvertent byproduct of the attacks against the science. i think itit's a actually led to
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sort of a new breed of sscientists who cocomes in wantg to do science, 'cause, you know, that's what we really all love doing is science, but recognizing that there'e's also a a role for speaking out,t, for communicating the science. >> if we can continue our upward trajectory in fossil fuel burnining, what w will the plplt look like at the end of ththe century? > qualitatively speaking, if you look at impacts onon human health, water availability, the human water resources, food resources, land, the global economy, pretty much every sector of our lives, of human civilization, what you see is a business as usual fossil fuel burning scenario by the end of the century gives us higghly negative impacts across the boards in all those categegories. i forgot to m menn biodiversity. a potentially large scale extinction of
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species.. some of these we can quantify economically, or we can try to. some of them we can't even qualify how important they are. what is the value of the earth? well, it's infinite because if we destroy the earth's environment, there is no plan "b." there is no planet "b" that we can go to. how do you put a cost, you know, on the health of the environment? arguably you can't even do so. and in fact, it's that principle, that it's an infinite cost, when we start talking about those sorts of scenarios that leads some people to conclude that the precautionary principle applies here, that the potential impact o of what we're doing is so potentially harmful toto us, to other living things, to the planet that it's almost obvious that we need
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to mitigate this problem, that we need to take actions now t to avert those e catastrophic fufuures, potetential futures. > many people believe that truthth will prevail over time. but do we have enough time left? >> so there's an urgency to this problem now unlike any time in the past. and there is still time to avevert catastrophe. that't's the goodod news. the bd news is there isn't a whole lot of time. and what it means is we dodon't have anotheher 5 or 10 s toto debate in ouour u.s. congrs whetherer or not climate change exists. we have t to be debating right now whahat we're e gonna o about i it. >> michael mann, thank you very much.. qéa?ó?]
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