Dr. Michael Oppenheimer.
Photo: Princeton University
CE: Many of us encounter critics of climate change science. What would you say are three or four quick statements that would be helpful when dialoguing with these critics?
- Carbon dioxide, the main human-made greenhouse gas survives for centuries to millennia once emitted so today's actions commit the climate to harmful changes for many, many generations.
- Earth is already warming, and most of the warming is very likely due to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
- The projected warming, if emissions continue to grow, would make earth warmer, and warm faster, than any time in the history of civilization.
- Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy show just how ineffective we are currently at dealing with today’s climate risk. The risk is increasing be the year, and we will inevitably be falling further behind—that means losses of life and losses of property. We need to redouble efforts at adaptation and managing the risk but there’s no way to keep up with the changes without decreasing the emissions causing the problem.
CE: In some circles, there seems to be a growing focus on climate adaptation rather than mitigating the sources of climate change. Given what we know about the rates of greenhouse gas emissions, is mitigation a viable option in the next decade or so? Or is it more realistic to say that adequate emissions reduction will take a century or two to achieve?