Dr. Andrew Weaver – Global Warming: The Scale of the Problem, the Path to the Solution
Dr. Andrew Weaver // Photo Credit: Kris Krüg, www.staticphotography, via ECO Fashion Week
Dr. Weaver is Professor and Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, UVic. He was a Lead Author in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2nd, 3rd and 4th scientific assessments and is a Lead Author in the 5th Assessment. He was the Chief Editor of the Journal of Climate from 2005-2009. Weaver is a Fellow of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He is a past recipient of NSERC Steacie, Killam and Guggenheim Fellowships as well as the CMOS President’s Prize. In 2008 he was appointed to the Order of British Columbia.
Information gives the power to the people and that’s why we need to give tangible, communicable, understandable information to the people.
In an Angus Reid poll ¾ of people in Canada believe climate change is occurring
80% in BC
83% in Quebec, tops in Canada
69% believe climate change is real science in Canada though in Alberta 21% believe it’s junk science.
Problems for scientists:
Scientists are communicators spending a great deal of time communicating what they do in terms for those reporting what scientists are doing to the general population. Largely because science depends on assumptions that are not necessarily interesting to general public.
Sensationalism is used to sell and often jeopardize accuracy in so doing. For example, 150 meters sea rise would go to base of Statue of Liberty though magazines show covering of almost ¾ of statue (News of the World).
Journalists have difficulties determining who is and who is not an expert.
Journalistic ethical norm – journalist doesn’t want to be perceived as biased. IE) journalist asked to write an article about free trade agreement with China and must seek quotes and opinions from “experts” or “stakeholders” that then create a bias to the story. In order to balance this many journalists will use a “balance statement” that disproportionately affects the balance of the article. For example…. “some scientists believe that climate warming is just a normal cycle…” which effectively negates any evidence previously presented for the contrary, even if that evidence was much stronger in backing and numbers who support it.
We know that the world has warmed by .7% over the last decade. We know that the world is warming. We know that 2010 is now the warmest year on record. We know a lot, scientifically speaking.
One theory against global warming is that it’s caused by Sun Spots, as featured in the movie, “The Climate Swindle” (name may be wrong).
With this theory they drew a conclusion seeing two patterns without actually proving correlation.
The challenge to these sceptics is that when you actually present all the relevant data, in a correlated fashion, the evidence of man-caused climate change becomes overwhelming.
The canary in the coalmine: ice cap in the arctic.
In 2007 the previous record of meltback was beaten by an area the size of Ontario. It also beat the AVERAGE meltback by a size of Ontario and Quebec combined.
The reaction to this can be twofold:
A) let’s change our ways
B) let’s take advantage of this new access to oil and start drilling up in the arctic!
Since the 1870’s scientists have been predicting climate change
At this time, climate warming was thought to be a good thing (easier to farm year round…)
650,000 year record of C02, CH4, ice volume and inferred Antarctic temperature by studying ice cores in the Antarctic. You can literally infer past temperatures and past co2 levels from these ice cores.
We know this to be true for 800,000 years now
Currently at 389 parts per million, far beyond anything humans have ever seen while on earth. On track to go from 389 to 1000ppm by 2100.
So what’s going to happen?
First, make assumptions as did the IPCC on population, use of greenhouse gases…
IF we believe we don’t need to think about intergenerational equity then we’re fine. But if we do believe we have responsibilities to future generations then we have a lot to worry about.
3 scenarios were looked at:
Best – increase of 1.8 degrees celcius by 2099
Worst – increase of 4 degrees celcius by 2099
The challenge with climate change is that governments are basing their strategies on the present (what’s going to get them reelected) so they have little impetus to work on long term problems, such as climate change.
Impacts of climate change are disproportionately skewed to affect countries of the tropics, which also happens to be where we have less economically developed nations/peoples.
Our big challenge:
Since 2005 (31%) people generally are growing more sceptical about if “global warming is taking place?” (48%) in 2010 in USA.
In the UK the public has become even more sceptical.
So why has this drop in belief taking place:
People are trying to knock down what the IPCC created, as is human nature to knock down what has become powerful.
Fear of government regulations. Libertarians that don’t want the government telling us what to do.
Fear of growth of uber government in Geneva. In other words, a central body dictating what’s happening in regional areas
Policy options: 2050 emission reduction targets
Copenhagen Accord: we don’t want to raise world temperatures by more than 2 degrees celcius even though that would mean that we’d have to reduce our global CO2 to neutral, or carbon neutrality.
Challenge with Coppenhagen Accord and similar such global accords is that language is always written to protect public policy, not necessarily truth. In the case of Coppenhagen, the language has been framed to allow for an ‘out’ such as Kyoto protocol stands for – from Canadian commitment of reduction of 6% in 1997 to allowing a growth of 2.5% in 2010 – an 8.5% shift by using public policy framing.
This hypocrisy is why we need to change the focus of climate change from federal to municipal.
An exciting age of innovation
Science, engineering and technology will play a central role in the transformation of our energy system.
IE) The Chevy Volt – technology that existed but was suppressed because of vested interests
Cultures where new technology can step in without having to replace another technology is the easiest place for this to foster – hence why cell phones took off so quickly in the third world where landline infrastructure wasn’t established.
“What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?” – this is why our next generation will affect the greatest amount of change.
1) State of climate activism?
People feel beaten up cause no one is listening. That said, Copenhagen was great because it featured the youth outside with the politicians inside, signifying just how out of touch the two sides are. To do more A) vote B) take steps in your own community and in your own life.
2) Sapporo Berman statement that we’re within 3 years of a point of no return?
There is NO evidence that this is running away and can’t be caught. We have had much higher greenhouse gases previously on earth. The real question should be: “will we, as humans, be a part of the new world once these green house gases take their effect?” So you have to be careful with doom and gloom statements because it breeds a sense of hopelessness.
What she did for good was changing the activism mindset from fighting against something to fighting for something.
3) 1% of land for solar energy could take care of ALL our energy needs, is it really just vested interests stopping it?
The market is broken. The atmosphere is unregulated and people/business can put anything into it without recourse. This needs to change and then new innovations will take hold.
For example, tar sands in Canada act as a vested interest that prohibits government from focusing on new technologies.
4) From fashion perspective, what this industry can do specifically to positively affect change?
Ask what were the tools/processes used to create those textiles? Ask the question “How can I reduce our carbon footprint” by using these materials? In other words, you just have to ask the questions every step of the way. Ask, ask, and ask.
Mary is the founder, editor and lead contributor at Social Alterations. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, where she researches responsible fashion and transnational labour rights activism in the wake of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.