Global Warming

View from COP22 in Marrakech: The Trump Opener

Kristin Burnham, Student, Pathobiology and Molecular and Cell Biology

The Trump Opener: A cultural phenomenon observed at COP22 in which, once the nationality of a U.S. citizen is established, the opening remark of the conversation is about President-Elect Donald Trump.

“You know I’ve never met a Trump supporter,” Mostafa, a well-spoken, twenty something journalist from Cairo tells us as we wait for the bus from the Green Zone back to the hotel.

We comment that people who voted for Trump don’t come to climate change conferences, or to developing countries for that matter. The statement is laced with condescension, the implicit message clear: they don’t know better because they haven’t seen the things we have, they don’t know the things we know.  It’s how we explain their seemingly inexplicable choice.

Rich Miller, from the UConn cohort comments that it’s interesting how close the rest of the world followed the U.S. election. Mostafa replies, “We’re all stakeholders – your elections affect us as much as they affect you, maybe even more.” And, to some degree, he is right. For better or worse, the U.S. is a global superpower. Our foreign policy brings not only humanitarian aid and other resources to developing nations, but also, all too often, our soldiers, our missiles, and our carbon emissions, which travel far beyond our borders.

Mostafa explains that he sympathizes, comparing many Egyptians’ dislike for their President of the past two and-a-half years, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to many Americans’ dislike of Trump. “I was a part of the Arab Spring,” he tells us. With pride and eloquence he says that our generation is more connected than ever before: How incredible it is that we can know the story and thoughts of a 16 year old girl in Palestine, a 41 year old man in Iraq… or a 20 year old girl from Connecticut.

kristin-mitigation-2There is a lull in the conversation. Ben Breslau, a fellow student from the UConn group, asks “So what do we do?” Mostafa emphatically replies, “You wait. Please wait.  You do nothing. You have patience,” almost pleading for the new US administration to stand behind the Paris Agreement, reached just last year at the historic COP21.  He cares what we do. He cares because it affects him too.

It’s not just what the president does that has a global impact. It’s what we all do. It’s the votes we cast, the revolutions we start, the passion of our convictions, and the causes we choose to champion.

A few minutes later we meet a delegate from Turkey, “You’re from America? I was here [at the conference] as the election results were coming in.” He says people cried and scheduled talks were abandoned to discuss instead the potential devastation Trump’s environmental policies could have on the world.

I hope that no matter what Trump does, no matter how drastic or inflammatory, we, as a country, can be more than his actions.

Let’s use the overwhelming feelings of frustration and helplessness to create a better United States. Let’s treat each other with more kindness. Let’s use the outrage and fear that surround Trump’s election to be a catalyst for change. Let’s join together to reduce our contribution to greenhouse gasses.

If we can’t take pride in our President, let us instead create a culture, country and carbon footprint we can be proud of.

View from COP22 in Marrakech: Hoping for a Better Donald

What the 2016 Election Means for Climate Change Policy

Klara Reisch, Student, Molecular and Cell Biology

klara-human-rightsI shuffled in and out of shops trying to find a souvenir in Marrakech when one merchant turned to me, chuckled and asked “you voted for Trump?” I was confused and slightly embarrassed that this election was following me deep into the Souks of the Medina, but I was not surprised. In fact, before that encounter, most panel discussions I attended at COP22 mentioned the election results back home, which named Donald Trump as our president-elect. Throughout the campaign, Trump argued that climate change is merely a hoax spurred by the Chinese and criticized the United States for spending money on environmental initiatives to minimize its effects. He had threatened to dismantle last year’s landmark Paris Agreement, and Trump and revoke the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which calls for a decrease in carbon emissions from power plants.

klara-human-rights-2Either way, this election left many delegates and panelists concerned and unsure about the future of our world. I spoke with a panelist from GIZ, Klaus Wenzel, about the U.S.’s resistance of climate change policy. He talked about how workers are concerned about how they will be affected by this transition to things like clean energy. “People are afraid,” he said. “People are afraid of what this means for their jobs.” One of Trump’s main issues with renewable energy is that it is too expensive. Wenzel argued that although the return on investment takes time, renewable energy decreases the amount of air pollution and green house gas emissions, both of which have major effects on the environment and human health. “What is the worth of a premature death?”

Of course, no one knows for sure what this election means for the United States and the rest of the world, but I heard opinions expressed by both sides in various panel discussions at COP22. Some said that the United States would not back out because of the geopolitical and trade implications, while others believe that the U.S. may step out of the game and perhaps force other countries to step up.

Hopefully, enough people will speak out against Trump’s environmental policies. If our president will not fight on our behalf, we will have to.

View from COP22 in Marrakech: US Election Results

20161109_132624By Scott Stephenson, Assistant Professor, Geography

A surreal mix of stoicism and denial pervaded the COP plenary meetings this morning. Delegates were introduced; formal addresses were read. Before long, discussion turned to the wonky language of the UNFCCC: carbon pricing, transparency frameworks, climate financing, and so on. In short, it was business-as-usual at COP22. Addressing the elephant in the room – the outcome of the US election – was not on the agenda.

Not to suggest that those participating in this morning’s session were unaware or even impartial with respect to said elephant. Donald Trump has claimed that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and promised to scrap the landmark Clean Power Plan, repeal federal spending on clean energy, and pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. No amount of dutiful attendance to the agenda at hand would change the fact that the world has entered a very uncertain time for global climate governance. While reneging on the Paris Agreement would take four years to materialize, the US’ exit from the most significant environmental treaty in history would send shock waves throughout international negotiating mechanisms and likely hamper efforts to achieve good-faith agreements by the incoming US administration. Of course the delegates at COP22 know this, though you wouldn’t have known it from their workmanlike approach to the task at hand.

I, for one, found greater solace at a gathering of young activists outside the plenary hall, who had planned to present a “Presidential To-Do List” this morning in anticipation of a Clinton victory. The electoral reality prompted a change in plans: what would have been a call to Presidential action instead became a sort of support group for those in attendance – a welcome opportunity to let emotions rule, if briefly, an otherwise staid and dispassionate policy meeting.

20161109_130400Several activists made impassioned speeches, vocalizing the grief, frustration, and fear that must surely have been on the minds of many in attendance. Their words projected courage and compassion: “Rather than judge Trump’s supporters,” they said, “try to understand why they voted for him.” For those like myself who were seeking a space to mourn the electoral loss, the gathering was a powerful reminder of the stakes underpinning these negotiations, and the fragile global order on which they depend. 

Myanna Lahsen Seminar, 21 September

photo-9Where is the Beef?  

Climate Change knowledge and communication in Brazil

 

Myanna Lahsen

Center for Earth System Science

The Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE)

Wednesday 21 September 2016

2:30 – 3:30 pm

AUST 163

Abstract: Skepticism about climate science is often identified as a key obstacle to effective decision making in the U.S. and other countries. Brazil has come to be celebrated as an enlightened counter-example because climate science is largely uncontested, as reflected in analyses of climate coverage in national newspapers and in a series of international surveys performed by the Pew Center and others. However, drawing on extensive analysis of Brazilian climate politics and newspaper coverage of climate change, I reveal a deep disconnect between Brazil’s emissions profile and how climate change and related solutions are defined, a disconnect that obstructs awareness of Brazil’s single most important source of emissions: cattle-raising. During the talk, I will also discuss broader environmental risks generated by agricultural expansion in Brazil’s biodiversity hotspot, the “Cerrado” savanna biome, highlighting how Brazil’s research agendas and mass communications structures bear on the challenge of responding to the threats of resource depletion and global environmental change.

Bio:  Myanna Lahsen is Senior Researcher II in the Earth System Science Center at the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE). A Cultural Anthropologist and STS scholar by training, she studies knowledge politics and other socio-cultural dynamics related to global environmental change, environmental sustainability and development. She is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and fellowship in the United States, including the Jacob K. Javits and EPA ”STAR” fellowships, and two postdoctoral Fellowships, in the Advanced Study Program at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research and in the J.F. Kennedy school of Government, respectively. Before assuming her current position in Brazil, she held positions as Science Officer with the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, as Research Scientist in CIRES at the University of Colorado and as Lecturer on Environmental Science and Public Policy at Harvard University. She has served on review panels at the U.S. National Science Foundation and been called to participate in Expert Groups advising the United Nations on the dynamics of the science-policy interface and the formation of a global sustainability report. She currently serves as advisor to Nature Climate Change and as Executive Editor of WIREs Climate Change, responsible for the subdomain on The Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge.

This event is hosted by the University of Connecticut Atmospheric Sciences Group (ASG) and the Department of Geography.

Teal Lecture this week: Anthony Leiserowtiz

UConn’s Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series on Nature & the Environment

presents

Climate Change in the American Mind

Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz,
Director, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication,
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Thursday, February 13, 4 pm
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Konover Auditorium
University of Connecticut, Storrs

Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz is Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and a Research Scientist at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. He will report on recent trends in Americans’ climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy support, and behavior and discuss strategies for more effective public engagement.

Dr. Leiserowitz is a widely recognized expert on American and international public opinion on global warming, including public perception of climate change risks, support and opposition for climate policies, and willingness to make individual behavioral change. His research investigates the psychological, cultural, political, and geographic factors that drive public environmental perception and behavior. He has conducted survey, experimental, and field research at scales ranging from the global to the local, including international studies, the United States, individual states (Alaska and Florida), municipalities (New York City), and with the Inupiaq Eskimo of Northwest Alaska. He also conducted the first empirical assessment of worldwide public values, attitudes, and behaviors regarding global sustainability, including environmental protection, economic growth, and human development. He has served as a consultant to the John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University), the United Nations Development Program, the Gallup World Poll, the Global Roundtable on Climate Change at the Earth Institute (Columbia University), and the World Economic Forum.

http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/events/teale/teale.htm – 860.486.4460

The Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series brings leading scholars and scientists to the University of Connecticut to present public lectures on nature and the environment.

 

The Conversation We Need to Have on Climate Change

[As seen on UConn Today: http://today.uconn.edu/blog/2014/01/global-warming-the-conversation-we-need-to-have/  -AS]

We all know the earth’s climate is changing. The effects are inescapable no matter where we live. Here in New England, some changes are subtle (more humidity, consistently warmer nights), dramatic (more intense rainfall events), confusing (bigger snowfall events), and dangerous (more powerful hurricanes). The science tells us these are expected in a warming world, and indeed, we see them.

Change in heat content in the upper 2000 m of the world’s oceans. (Source: NOAA)

Change in heat content in the upper 2000 m of the world’s oceans. (Source: NOAA) >>

We also know that we are in the driver’s seat for these changes. Our burning of oil, coal, and natural gas – fuels that have been extracted from fossil reserves buried in Earth’s crust – is changing the composition of the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases constitute a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, but their ability to trap heat has made the difference between Earth being a frozen ice-ball of a planet and the relatively balmy one we inhabit. Greenhouse gases do this by preventing heat from escaping to space, just as a blanket tucked around a child at night keeps her warm. We are adding to this greenhouse gas blanket, and earth is warming up.

^^ September Arctic sea ice extent data since 1980 from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. (Image by Dana Nuccitelli, Skeptical Science, http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=64)

The most comprehensive accounting of the evidence can be found in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessments. The IPCC has begun to release the 5th Assessment Report and the latest installment has increased the certainty to 95 percent probability that humans are driving the observed and projected changes. The consensus of climate scientists from around the world is that the link between human actions and climate change is as strong as the link between smoking and cancer.

Still we hear in the media reports that global warming has stopped for the last 15 years; that  increases in polar ice this year run contrary to the theory; and that an extreme cold snap puts a nail in its coffin.

Do these observations blow a hole into the theory of global warming? Not at all. Here’s why:

  • First, the scientific evidence that supports greenhouse warming is vast, and has been building for more than 170 years. The climate system is noisy, and earth’s temperature will vary around the long-term trend. During any given 10-15 year period, the warming of the atmosphere may accelerate or decelerate but, in the longer term, temperatures are increasing and will continue to do so. You would not choose 15 data points when you had 170 to characterize a trend. A subset of years without a significant trend do not change the basic physics – that excess heat is held in the climate system by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations.
  • Second, in the past decade or so, more of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gasses appears to be going into the deep oceans, which is why globally averaged warming has slowed. Note that over land, temperature increases have continued at a clip and global average temperatures remain at a record high, with the last 10 years qualifying as the warmest decade in the historical record.
  • Third, Arctic sea ice continues to be substantially below the long-term average in both areal extent and thickness. This past year, the Arctic sea ice was 6th lowest and more than a million square kilometers below the average area from the period 1981 to 2000. This past year’s ice area is certainly higher than 2012’s – but only because sea ice in 2012 was the lowest ever on record. In this case again, a comparison between two years does not tell the whole story. Climate is the story told over many decades.

Temperature differences from average for Jan. 7, 2014, where red is warmer, blue colder than average. (Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono)

<< Temperature differences from average for Jan. 7, 2014, where red is warmer, blue colder than average. (Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono)

The cold spell earlier this month, while breaking records, must be seen in the larger space and time context of the climate. In recent weeks, while the central and eastern U.S. became the playground of the polar vortex and its extreme cold, the rest of the northern hemisphere, including the polar region, experienced warmer than normal temperatures. Daily weather statistics continue to show that the number of record warm temperatures is far exceeding the number of record cold temperatures.

Let us not be distracted by those who misuse data in order to create doubt about global warming. Their purpose is to delay the important conversation. Let us instead turn the conversation to: What can be done to mitigate the worst-case scenarios and to prepare for the unavoidable ones? What is already being done? What do we collectively need to do?

On these pressing questions there are many constructive arguments to be made. At UConn, we are having lively conversations that have resulted in action plans to (1) reduce CO2 emissions and (2) adapt infrastructure and systems across campus. Let’s focus on actions, not distractions. Let’s get to the right conversation.