Monday, 21 May 2012

PoliticsUK interviews Talking Climate 23/2/12

‎23 February at 19:00
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  • You, Jack BarkerHex Austen and Allan Raymond Davie like this.

    • Politics UK PoliticsUK would like to welcome Talking Climate.
      Good Evening,
      Who are ‘TalkingClimate’?

      23 February at 18:59 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate Good evening, and thanks for the invitation to take part in this Q&A...Talking Climate is a partnership between the Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) and the School of Sociology and Social Policy, Nottingham University.
      23 February at 19:00 ·  ·  2

    • Talking Climate Most of the content was written by me (Adam Corner), the design of the website was Rich Hawkins (the Director of PIRC). Brigitte Nerlich at Nottingham University provided some financial support, and the aim of the website is to act as a ‘gateway to research on climate change communication’…so that means we don’t get into the specifics of the science, we focus on translating and making available academic research on how to effectively communicate about climate change.
      23 February at 19:01 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK What is your best shortest answer to people who say "Climate change is natural"?

    • Talking Climate A good question! The climate has always changed - long before humans started burning fossil fuels, the earth had gone in and out of many ice-ages, over very long periods of time (10s of thousands of years). But the reason that current climate change is a cause for concern is that it is happening very quickly (200 years instead of 10,000) and that the temperature is increasing – which is not what we would expect to be happening at the moment. And nothing can explain this current rate of change except the huge amount of extra carbon dioxide that has been released into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution...a quite short answer!
      23 February at 19:02 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK Is it too late to stop climate change?

    • Talking Climate The folks at Sceptical Science have a good analogy - they say just because busfires can start without humans causing them, doesnt mean humans can't cause bushfires
      23 February at 19:03 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate Is it too late to stop climate change...Frustratingly, some (avoidable) dangerous effects of climate change are now almost certainly unavoidable – we are very unlikely to stay within the ‘2 degrees’ target that is widely recognised as indicating the point at which the effects of climate change become unacceptably dangerous…and global carbon emissions are still rising…so I’d be lying if I said ‘no, of course we can completely solve this problem if we just try hard enough’
      BUT while we can’t avoid some dangerous impacts of climate change, it is NEVER too late to try and minimise how bad they are. Things start getting problematic at 2 degrees – but they would be unimaginably worse at 6 degrees. I think we have a moral obligation to minimise harm to people – especially given that those most at risk have done least to cause the problem. So there is a constantly moving target which it is never too late to stop trying to reach.

      23 February at 19:05 ·  ·  3

    • Politics UK Are we better dealing with the consequences of climate change rather than trying to stop it?

    • Talking Climate I don’t think its an either/or kind of issue – the less carbon we put into the atmosphere, the less consequences we will have to deal with (but we clearly will have to deal with some!)
      It’s a bit like when people say ‘we don’t need t reduce energy use at home if we can just provide all our power from low-carbon technologies like wind or solar’. But completely over-hauling our energy systems is a mind-bogglingly difficult task – the less energy we consume, the less we need to produce, and even with free, everlasting energy from the wind and the sun, that still makes sense.

    • Politics UK What more can we do to persuade people of the imminent threat we face?

    • Talking Climate A question we spend a lot of time thinking about – and that no-one has a quick answer to. This would be one of the key motivations behind Talking Climate – we have sections on why (some) people are still sceptical about climate change, and lots of information about why – psychologically – climate change is difficult for people to get to grips with. So I'll post a couple of brief reasons here:
      23 February at 19:09 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate For people in industrialised countries, the threat of climate change is seen as far away in time and space. We are better at getting worried about more immediate threats – even if they are less important
      23 February at 19:09 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate Using ‘scare-tactics’ to try and get the message across can often backfire and make people switch off
      23 February at 19:10 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate Its hard to break ingrained, habitual behaviour (like driving everywhere, or leaving the heating on in un-used spaces), and so even good intentions often don’t lead to much action
      23 February at 19:10 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate And last but not least, there been a long running, well funded, and mostly secretive campaign to discredit climate science and climate scientists (see the recently leaked documents from the Heartland institute, who have spent a lot of time and money attempting to undermine climate change science (despite the overwhelming evidence that it is real, cause by humans etc – ‘deniergate’). Organisations like this try to discredit the science because they don’t like what they see as the policy implications – regulation of industry to prevent it harming people and planet.
      23 February at 19:11 ·  ·  2

    • Talking Climate But our hope with Talking Climate is that we are making the best available research available on how to overcome these issues...
      23 February at 19:12 ·  ·  1

    • Politics UK There's a perception that trust in the information that's been presented to the public is waning and that people are becoming more cynical about human influences on the climate.

      Do you think this is an accurate observation?

      23 February at 19:12 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate Sooo...over the last ten years (i.e. since climate change started to become part of the public/policy landscape) public perceptions have undergone some quite notieable change. Public concern about climate change rose rapidly to an unusually high level (for this kind of issue) before Copenhagen and after the release of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. It dropped following the perceived failure of Copenhagen, the onset of the global economic crisis and the media furore over the University of East Anglia emails (although its difficult to say which of these - or other - factors had the most impact on public views). But it has recently slowly risen again, and seems to be levelling out at a point where a large majority of people accept the basic facts about climate change – that temperatures are rising, that human activity is the primary cause of this, and that ‘something’ needs to be done about it.

    • Talking Climate Nick Pidgeon, Professor of Environmental Psychology at Cardiff University describes the glass as ‘three quarters full’ in terms of public attitudes – and his recent report on public attitudes in countries around the world (including the UK) is a great resource if you want to know more:
      23 February at 19:15 ·  · 

    • Politics UK Could the reverse be true, that AGW has become so accepted in people's minds that the case for it isn't made as frequently or powerfully any more leaving more space on the soap box for the deniers?

    • Talking Climate That’s a great question – there is definitely a sense that there is only so many time/so long that you can keep excitedly telling people about this thing called climate change that they should know about…and in some ways, it has now just become another part of the policy background (UK has major carbon reduction targets that need to be met, whether or not George Osborne likes it!)
      23 February at 19:16 ·  ·  3

    • Talking Climate I think there is a subtle balance to be struck between making sustainability something so mundane and everyday that it becomes second nature to people, but without losing sight of the fact that there is so much to do, so many challenges to overcome before we can say we are making progress on climate change, that a level of energy (campaigning energy) about it needs to be maintained over a long period of time.
      23 February at 19:17 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate But although people/organisations who deny the reality or seriousness of climate change are currently making things difficult, the problem is not going to go away, and as the years go by, their arguments will look more and more absurd in the face of reality. We just have to hope that not too much damage has been done by the time the last major denialist groups finally give up.
      23 February at 19:17 ·  ·  2

    • Talking Climate I should say this applies to the UK – in the US the situation is really very different, and the right of the Republican party seems to be in a race to the bottom to out-do each other on denying the science of climate change. It’s a massive concern – but that battle isn’t going to be won by shouting the science case louder and louder. It will be won by removing the overwhelming influence that corporate lobbyists have over the US political system and by developing (among receptive Republicans) a new way of engaging with the issue that doesn’t sound (to Republican voters) like Al Gore’s policies.
      23 February at 19:18 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK What are the current uncertainties in climate change (after all if there is still research being done on it they must be researching something).

    • Talking Climate That's a good way of putting it - what are all these people studying if the science is so firm on climate change? The answer is that while on the basic questions of whether temperatures are rising, whether human activity is causing this, and whether this will cause some quite major problems if left unchecked, there is very little uncertainty, on lots of other issues there is loads still to understand, for example:

    • Talking Climate Regional impacts of climate change – there’s a lot of interest in trying to better predict what impact climate change will have on particular regions (especially vulnerable ones like Sub-Saharan Africa)...and not only are they vulnerable, they don't have a good historic temperature record, and their climate is more naturally variable than trying to put some specifics on regional predictions in that area is really tricky, but paradoxically really urgent
      23 February at 19:22 ·  ·  3

    • Talking Climate Understanding the relationship between extreme weather events and climate change better is another key area of research. So, rising temperatures will make extreme weather events more likely and more severe – but no scientist will ever say ‘this heat wave was caused by climate change’ because every event like that has many complex factors, climate change being one of them...figuring out that relationship is a big challenge
      23 February at 19:23 ·  ·  2

    • Talking Climate And I guess, unfortunately, adaptation and even (gulp) geoengineering are becoming areas of interest for researchers. The basic questions are understood well, but how extreme things will get, and how to manage that, is filled with uncertainties
      23 February at 19:25 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK Renewable Energy – How important is it that we move away from fossil fuels and onto renewable energy?

    • Talking Climate 
      I should probably say that Talking Climate doesn't advocate particular policy positions, but there are some very broad issues - encouraging sustainable behaviour wherever possible, and moving to a low-carbon energy system - that seem to be part of any plausible policy for tackling climate change...It is critical we move away from fossil fuels – if we don’t, then carbon emissions will continue to rise, and we will stand no chance whatsoever of tackling climate change. There are also concerns about the supply of readily easily accessible fossil fuels – and when we try to reach more unconventional sources (e.g. deepwater drilling for oil), the risks of something going wrong increase...renewables are the only truly ‘sustainable’ source of energy (i.e., they will never run out, and harnessing them will not damage the environment)...

    • Politics UK Are wind farms the answer?

    • Talking Climate Beware of anyone/anything that claims to be 'the answer'! No single technology is likely to be able to decarbonise us on its own – but offshore wind farms (especially in the UK where we have so much capacity) would seem to be a key part of decarbonising the energy supply.
      23 February at 19:32 ·  ·  4

    • Talking Climate This report (widely acknowledged as authoritative) by PIRC estimates that the UK could meet the vast majority of its electricity needs using offshore wind
      “I welcome this report which, as the first of its kind, highlights the huge pote...See more
      23 February at 19:33 ·  ·  3 · 

    • Politics UK Is Fracking safe?

    • Talking Climate 
      Talking Climate doesn’t have a position on this – I don’t think that enough is yet known about it to say whether it is ‘safe’ in terms of local impacts. But what is known for certain is fracking for more gas will release more carbon into the atmosphere. Less than coal maybe, but a lot more than renewables. So its not ‘safe’ in terms of preventing climate change, although people are arguing that it could be a 'transition' fuel. But it could also be a 'distraction' fuel

      23 February at 19:36 ·  ·  1

    • Politics UK Can you explain biomass gasification and what is your reaction that gasification has produced negative carbon energy?

    • Talking Climate I'm afraid I don't think I've got a huge amount to contribute on this one...but certainly the claim is that capturing the carbon from burning biomass could be a carbon negative technology. There are a whole set of related ideas for carbon removal from the atmosphere that are starting to receive attention - it would be interesting to know what people make of these technologies as they emerge
      23 February at 19:39 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK What is your opinion of the current coalition government’s green policies and has it lived up to its claim to be the 'Greenest government ever'?
      23 February at 19:39 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate 
      I don't think it has lived up to that claim - I don't think many people thought it would. The Green Deal is in principle a good idea, but there are major issues with how its going to be implemented. The general idea is that people can get low cost loans for making eneregy efficiency improvements to their homes, and pay the money back on their energy bills. But people could already access free home insulation etc and take up has been really low - which tells us that its about more than just removing financial barriers (although this is critical) its also about understanding motivations and behaviour, so the social science of that policy is not what it could be...

      23 February at 19:42 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK Should sustainable living be promoted by government?
      23 February at 19:42 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate 
      I guess you could interpret that in a couple of ways - at the general level, yes, government definitely has a role to play in promoting sustainable behaviour. Making it easy to use public transport, using the levers it has - regulatory, or taxation - to send the right signals to people and businesses. The other way of interpreting it - should the Gov be telling us how to act around the home...that is more contentious, and a more difficult question to answer. My feeling is that there if vague ideas like the Big Society were to mean anything, it should be government support (financial and practical) for community groups etc to speak to people like them and promote sustainable behaviour, not for central government to do that directly to people

      23 February at 19:46 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK Does capitalism clash with climate change solutions?
      23 February at 19:46 ·  ·  2

    • Talking Climate 
      Hmm...I think it is fairly widely accepted that the CURRENT model of capitalism we have is not sustainable. Its interesting because of course 'sustainable' means something beyond environmentalism, but its become used almost exclusively for that. But the financial crisis has shown that the version of capitalism we've had for the past 30 years is unsustainable in the basic sense of the word. I think that ultimately, it is not going to be possible to completely decouple economic growth (GDP) from resource that is the elephant constantly in the room!

      23 February at 19:52 ·  ·  3

    • Politics UK What opportunities/solutions towards climate change does capitalism provide?

    • Talking Climate 
      I think whether or not you agree that capitalism is (or could be) a sustainable economic model, there are things that could and should be happening now, within even the most market-oriented economies, that are not yet happening. So, pricing carbon properly into products and service, using taxation to indicate to people which activities are high carbon and which are not...even if you dont think that growth-based capitalism can ever be sustainable, these things should be happening. Market signals are by no means sufficient, but they do seem necessary...

      23 February at 19:55 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK What opportunities does social media provide in the fight against climate change?

    • Talking Climate 
      This is a really generic answer - but like any other issue where campaigning and mobilisation of people is important, social media is a major tool for public engagement on climate change. Now being one small example I suppose! But I think that beyond social media, there is massive potential for 'smart' technologies - energy meters etc - to equip people and organisations with so much more information and awareness than they currently have of energy use. Information is not everything, but it is part of changing behaviour.

      23 February at 19:59 ·  ·  2

    • Politics UK What is the correct way for media outlets to objectively report on climate change?

    • Talking Climate 
      This is a good question – the model of ‘balanced’ reporting works for issues where there is a genuine difference of opinion, or more than one right answer. But for scientific issues like climate change, the ‘balance’ model often fails – there are not too equally legitimate viewpoints, the message from scientists comes down overwhelmingly in favour of human influence on the climate. So the trick is reflecting this weight of the evidence in their reporting.
      An organisation called Carbon Brief does a good job of keeping track of how climate change and related energy issues are reported in the media – their analyses are often worth reading:

      23 February at 20:00 ·  ·  2 · 

    • Politics UK Finally, is there any point in British reducing our carbon emissions if countries such as China continue as they are?

    • Talking Climate 
      China's coal-fired power stations provide the energy that makes...our consumer products. The growth in Chinese emissions is linked not only to the number of people there (their per capita level of emissions is still well below ours) but to the growth in their export markets, as we 'outsource’ our emissions:
      So, yes, there is definitely still a reason to reduce ours, as ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ are inextricably linked!
      Emissions caused in the process of manufacturing or growing an item are assigne...See more
      23 February at 20:02 ·  ·  2 · 

    • Politics UK PoliticsUK would like to thank TalkingClimate.

      For more info on TalkingClimate of follow them on twitter @talkingclimates or at their Facebook Page

      TalkingClimate will now take questions for PoliticsUK users.
      The evidence for climate change is so overwhelming that you might expect the fac...See more
      23 February at 20:03 ·  ·  1 · 

    • Talking Climate thanks, I'll do my best to answer
      23 February at 20:04 ·  ·  1

    • Politics UK Via User: Which three countries do you feel show the most complacency about climate change and global warming?

    • Talking Climate Well - the obvious place to look for the country that has done the most to delay co-ordinated international action on climate change is the US....but if Canada develops all of its Tar Sands, they are going to rapidly become the climate villains in the eyes of the world's climate change campiagners!

    • Politics UK Via User: What do you say to people who say that vanishing Arctic Ice will help the economy? ie the Northwest Passage becomes seasonally open, cutting thousands of miles off the route now followed through the Panama Canal.

    • Talking Climate Its funny how people like to think of 'the economy' and 'the environment' as distinct things...and of course in the short term they can be! But in the medium term, that doesnt make any sense. So, while there will be 'opportunities' in amongst the risk of climate change, it requires a slightly skewed view of the problem to focus on them over the dangers!
      23 February at 20:11 ·  ·  1

    • Jean Eveleigh ‎1) in terms of our energy targets and the fact that we will lose a third of our electricity generation capacity by 2020, do you believe it is possible that we can replace that energy completely with renewable sources?

      2) should we be more...See more

    • Jean Eveleigh from - Allan Raymond Davie Could - I ask about the studies of Fluoride on the climate as i understand the Molecules from fluoride are harmful to the Ozone layer.
      If countries unnecessarily fluorinated the water with no concern of effect, then they would also be ignorant to what its doing to the climate of the planet.

    • Politics UK Via User: What renewable energies do you believe are best for replacing oil?

      And then yours Jean Eveleigh :)

    • Jean Eveleigh That's ok I'm having to copy/paste it all into a word doc for my facebook phobic other half anyway lol

    • Talking Climate 
      In the UK, as I posted earlier (the PIRC report) there is a huge capcity for offshore wind. It can't do everything on its own, but most energy scenarios for the future assume a major contribution from wind for the UK. But elsewhere solar is...See more

    • Robert Bristow Hi how do you feel about Combined heat and power plants Similar to the one on the Byker estate in Newcastle ? which used to burn combustible waste but is now Gas Fired ? Taking into account that burying refuse can also affect the environment and that we are running out of space would it be feasible to start burning waste that cant be recycled to run such plants ?
      23 February at 20:18 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate 
      Hi again Jean - just to say a little bit about your other question too...there is no msitaking that we are entering a genuine phase of uncertainty about 'energy security' - as you say, large parts of our energy infrastructure will be disapp...See more

    • Jean Eveleigh do you think we could meet our emisions targets without needing any new nuclear - is wind, wave and solar up to the job on it's own if there was serious govenment backed investment in it (i.e. removing the funding from nuclear to pump into renewables)?
      23 February at 20:23 ·  ·  1

    • Talking Climate Hi Robert - I'm sorry but I don't know very much about combined heat and power plants, sorry!

    • Talking Climate Hi Jean - on the question of whether we should be cautious about a nuclear renaissance - yes I think we should! But whether or not that means we won't have to tolerate some proportion of nuclear in the energy mix in order to meet short term carbon budgets...well, we may be backed into a corner on that one...
      23 February at 20:27 ·  ·  1

      We would like to thank Adam for his time tonight and we hope that members have enjoyed the Q&A. For those who asked questions but unfortunately didn't get answers, we will endeavour to get them for you and reproduce the whole session on our website.
      Many thanks all for your input.

    • Politics UK ‎***************************************

    • Talking Climate thanks for all your questions and hope the answers were useful!
      23 February at 20:31 ·  ·  1

    • Politics UK

      The gateway to research on climate change communication.
      Page: 91 like this.
      23 February at 20:33 ·  ·  1 · 

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