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Climate Change

Great Clip Explains Climate Risk In A Nutshell

This may surprise many readers, but I was a “denier” until 2013. Having been raised in a conservative Republican household, I went with that for the first decade of my adult life. I even managed to hold that position all the way through college (probably because I wasn’t a student of the sciences). It didn’t really personally affect me (or so I thought at the time), and I was excited about electric vehicles because I wanted to see less reliance on foreign oil and hated the awful gas prices of 2008-9. I even experimented with electric scooters a bit, but never got as far as commuting with one, because it was too slow.

What finally changed my mind on the issue was a book I was required to read for an emergency management class in graduate school (something I just recently signed up to finally finish in 2023 — better late than never, right?). The assignment was to read Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas. That book drove the point home by talking about how the problem in terms of consequences that can be changed by varying amounts of prevention and mitigation effort we put toward it. Degree by degree, it shows the consequences, from fairly mild (one degree) to disaster movie territory (four to five degrees), to the unimaginable (six).

What this approach did was frame it as something other than an all-or-nothing proposition like the more clueless Democrats often do. Instead of seeing climate change as a “give us everything on our wish list, or your children will suffer” (which looks a lot like a scam), I was able to see it as a complex problem with complex solutions that left room for choice and compromise in how to best solve them. This made it possible for younger me to process and not reject immediately through suspicion.

Plus, it didn’t hurt that I had learned important concepts in dealing with disasters before coming across that, which helped me frame it better than I did in undergrad.

So, when I see things that I think would have been useful for younger me to understand the issue better, I like to share them and explain how it could help others who are still skeptical or in denial to understand and process. And, that’s exactly what I found below:

One thing that’s great about this clip is that he starts with “global average temperature.” Yes, I know that’s a very basic part of the topic, but it confuses many people who think anthropogenic climate change is a scam. “Temperatures going up a few degrees? Why worry about that?,” or “It doesn’t seem that much hotter to me!”

The next thing he does great is explain that the models have been good at predicting things. They’re fairly well proven, and not just a guess. Are they perfect? No. But, good things don’t have to be perfect to still be good. Then, he shows where we are today compared to where we’ve been for the last 2,000 years. That’s not something we are in control of, and it’s not something we can change. It’s done. That may be a little fatalist for someone who isn’t ready to accept it, but it shows that there are facts involved.

Finally, what’s really good is that he shows that there’s a range of possible outcomes. There’s no “everything’s fine my way, and we’re going Day After Tomorrow if we do things your way, even a little” nonsense. He just explains that if we go to 6 degrees, things aren’t really survivable.

But, avoiding that outcome isn’t a prescription as much as a puzzle. Infrastructure is designed for the last 2,000 or so years of history, and not designed for what we’re already headed into. But, civilization can probably survive the two degrees. It can’t survive five or six of average temperature rise, though.

I also like that he mentions clean energy, carbon-free transport, and changes to agriculture. He doesn’t say “you must do everything on my list,” but does give some very open-ended ideas on how to achieve the two degrees. “Carbon free transport,” for example, can mean a mix of electric cars and transit, and not putting everybody on the bus against their will.

The Key Thing Is Giving People Choices

The worst thing you can do to get people to join the climate change effort is to say things like:

“Hey, they do this in Europe. You should do it too. And, you know what else? We need to own nothing, have no privacy, and be happy. And eat bugs instead of meat. And get rid of your car. If you can’t do all of this, you’re obviously not worth talking to.”

I’ll call the above the “eat bugs” solution.

What we really should be doing is telling people something like this:

“Climate change is a real problem, and to address it, we need to cut carbon emissions. But, there are a number of ways to participate in doing that. You should pick the ways that work best for you and your family, and try to have some fun in the process if at all possible.”

I’ll call that approach the “Impossible Whopper” solution.

I know many readers here are perfectly willing to eat the bugs if that’s what it takes to save the environment, but even the most die hard environmentalist has to admit that they’d much rather eat an Impossible Whopper than a pile of juicy grubs. So, if you want to get people to participate in the climate change effort, you’ve got to offer burgers that my cat can’t even tell aren’t meat instead of offering the proverbial Cucaracha Casserole.

I know that even then there are people who won’t be won over and won’t participate, but no approach is going to reach the most disagreeable people (who are, in fact, a small minority). But, reaching everyone else who would eat a Whopper is important. We need to not forget that.

Featured image: A screenshot from Prof. Steffen’s presentation, showing that there’s a range of choices that can be influenced.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things:


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