126: Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, Climate Scientist
Guest Name(s): Dr. Katharine Hayhoe
Fighting climate change as an evangelical Christian Dr. Hayhoe is an Atmospheric Scientist whose research focuses on understanding the impacts of climate change on people and the planet. She doesn’t accept global warming on faith: she crunches the data, analyzes the models and helps Engineers, City Managers and Ecologists quantify the impacts. Katharine doesn’t let politics get in her way, but uses a scientific approach to address climate change rather than using a faith based approach that counts on God solving the climate crisis or even denying it in the first place.
Episode Audio Links:
ACC #126 – Dr. Katharine Hayhoe – A Climate Change with Matt Matern
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on the program. Dr. Hayhoe’s background is quite fascinating. Her parents were Christian missionaries. She grew up in Colombia, part of her youth, her father was a science educator in Toronto, and her father inspired her that religion and science do not have to conflict with each other. She met her husband, Andrew Faraway, who also was a professor and now is leading a different organization, The Grace Message, as well as an author and they, they both are Religious Christian Evangelicals and Dr. Hayhoe has authored 120 peer reviewed publications, wow.
She’s also been on the National Academy of Science and done reports there. Was on the Third National Climate Assessment in 2014. She also served as an expert reviewer on the IPCC reports, which is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN panel, Time Magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential people in 2014. Foreign Policy Magazine listed her as one of the 100 leading global thinkers.
Dr. Hayhoe has also been very critical of climate change deniers, and she and her husband have engaged in outreach to Christian communities on this issue. She’s an author of a book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope…, she delivers lectures based on scriptures that focus on the benefits of collective action to mitigate the efforts on climate change. And one of the quotes that I really liked was “our faith demands that we act on this issue.” So welcome, Dr. Hayhoe, to the program. Thanks for being on our show.
Thank you for having me.
So I’d love to have you tell everyone your story. I know, I left a lot of blanks in the story as to what led you to be an atmospheric scientist.
Sure. So first of all, what is an atmospheric scientist? Well, that’s someone who studies the part of the climate system, that’s the atmosphere, other climate systems might other climate scientists, I should say, might be studying the ocean, they might be studying what we call the cryosphere, which is the ice sheets and Arctic sea ice, they might be studying the biosphere, which is all the living things on the planet, but I’m the one who studies the atmosphere.
And what led me to do this was because I learned that climate change is no longer just a future issue. It’s a present issue affecting us today. And even though it affects all of us, it doesn’t affect us all equally, it affects those who’ve done the least to contribute to the problem, especially the poorest and most marginalized people on the planet the most. So I was finishing my undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy.
And I was planning to be an astrophysicist when I took this extra class on climate change, because it looked interesting, and it fit in my schedule. And that’s where I learned these things. And that’s what completely changed my perspective, I realized that we had to fix this. As soon as possible. I had some of the skills that you need to do this work. Specifically, climate modeling is the area that I focus on modeling of the atmosphere. And I know that every bit of warming matters. So everything that each one of us can do, no matter who we are, no matter what our area of expertise, everything that each one of us can do to make a difference really does count.
Well, that that is an important point. I think we all have something to do. I’ve certainly heard people argue that it really is the major organizations and the government that have to really take the lead on this as individual action, you know, isn’t going to dig us out of the hole that we’re in, we need to have really concerted action by the government. Do you think that’s true?
Well, often people ask me, do we need individual action? Or do we need systemic change? And my answer to that question is, yes. Because what is the system made up of other than people? And how does the system change other than when individuals within that system call for and advocate for and catalyze that change?
So our individual choices and even more importantly, our individual voices are key to catalyzing this change, but the change must happen at the system level because even If you and I and everybody listening who want to do the right things, even if we changed all our light bulbs made sure that we were powered 100% by renewable energy use public transportation or bike term plug in car, eight plants didn’t fly anymore, did everything that we could reduce our personal carbon footprint, that wouldn’t even take care of more than a fraction of the problem.
We need to change the system so that for everybody, the easiest choice, and the most affordable choice is also the best choice, not just for them, and their family and their health and their pocketbook, but also for all of us and for our future. And so that’s why we need the system to change. But the way it changes is when individuals lean in advocate call for that change sometimes by example, and sometimes by using their voices.
So tell me, you’re plugged into the Christian community, do you see that the percentage of Christians accepting the climate change is real is increasing or decreasing?
Well, first of all, I want to say that the phenomena of Christians rejecting what science is telling us about the fact that the planet is warming, humans are responsible, the impacts are serious, and we need to act now. It is primarily a US phenomenon. In fact, outside the US, I have a colleague who tracks this and has studied it, when we find climate denial and Christian circles outside the US almost every single time those ideas can be tracked back to a US source.
So what what makes American Christians different than any other Christian? I mean, if you’re Catholic, you have the same Pope. You know, if you’re any type of Christian, you have the same Bible, right? What makes American Christians different?
One word, politics. It turns out that when you control for politics, the religious differences primarily disappear. In the United States, there’s a long history of conservative politics, being associated with conservative theology, I’m talking small “c” conservative, not big. And so for many people today, their statement of faith, unfortunately, in the United States is written, first of all, by their political ideology, and only a very distant second by the Bible, or the Pope, or what any religious leader says. And if the two come into conflict, they will go with their political ideology over the Bible.
And in fact, a recent study showed that 40% of people in the United States who call themselves evangelicals, so if you said, Are you an evangelical Christian, they would say yes, 40% of them don’t even go to church. So where are they getting their information from? Not church, not the Bible, not religious leaders. They’re getting it from politics. Is there anything in the Bible that suggests that? Sorry, I think, oh, sorry, math, how you froze there. Let me restart that against this recording. Is there anything in the Bible that suggests that we shouldn’t care for others and care for the planet?
No. In Genesis, the first book in the Bible, it says, God gave humans responsibility over every living thing. And then at the very end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, it says, God will destroy those who destroy the earth. And then all through the Bible, it talks about loving and caring for the most seemingly insignificant components of nature and hearing for our sisters and our brothers, again, the poorest and most vulnerable, who are most impacted by climate change.
So I’m really convinced, and I see this happening, that when people understand how who they are is already the perfect person to care, we see people immediately heading to the front of the line to demand climate action. And this is what we see even in the church in the United States. We see that when people realize that what they believe is consistent with climate action. And this is especially happening among the younger generation who are not as politically tied to one side or the other of the aisle as as, as older people are. They are actually advocating for climate action because they’re Christians not despite it.
Well, that’s good news that you certainly see younger people following the science versus following the politics and making decisions about climate change. What do you have to say to a candidate like Vivek Ramaswamy, who denied the climate change is real and on the debate stage said it was a hoax recently.
Well, why is he doing that? Does he really reject physics that we’ve used for over 200 years? The same physics that explains how a stove heats food or refrigerator cools food or how airplanes fly? It’s the same physics? Does he rejects stoves, fridges, and airplanes. No. So why is he saying climate change is a hoax. It’s because he doesn’t want to fix it and he thinks the people who are going to vote for him don’t want to fix it. So I wouldn’t waste a single breath telling him that it wasn’t a hoax. I think he knows Is that very well, instead, I would talk to people about the benefits that solutions can bring to them today, as well as to all of us tomorrow.
Right, I clearly believe that he doesn’t believe a word of what he’s saying, and that he’s only doing it for political gain. And, you know, it’s unfortunate that a guy who’s a billionaire, who obviously isn’t stupid, on one level could be so manipulative and egotistical that he would for his political benefit. Trash, climate change science, just to garner some votes. But unfortunately, that’s the world we live in.
And also, I would say it’s short sighted. So a lot of people are not looking at what’s going to happen in five or 10 years, they’re only looking at what’s going to happen in the year. And if you’re only going to live a year, and if everybody you care about is only going to live here, fine, that might be reasonable.
But for most of us, we have people in places and things we care about that we hope will be around in 510 50, even 100 years. And for that reason alone, it makes all the sense in the world to understand that we have to live differently, we have to change.
Well, absolutely. We do only have one planet, and we can’t afford to destroy it. So you’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on the program. We’ll be right back and just a few in just a minute to talk to Dr. Hayhoe a bit more about the science and why climate change is real, and why we need to do something about it right now.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on the program. And doctor, I wanted to ask you, what are the ways that you explain to conservative Christians that climate change is real, and they should take this seriously?
Well, we have to start with what we just talked about before the break, which is understanding why they think it isn’t. And despite the fact that we often hear religiously sounding objections, like you know, God is in control. So why does this matter? Or the world’s going to end anyway? So why do we care?
When you just scratch the surface, you can see that those aren’t religiously at all. In fact, they directly contradict what the Bible says about how humans have responsibility over every living thing on this earth, or how we don’t know what the future holds. So today, we’re called to love and care for other people. That’s literally things that the Bible says. But these are just excuses. religiously and sciency sounding excuses for what to prevent action. Because for political reasons, people have been told that it’s too expensive, or it’s going to destroy the economy, it’s going to take away my personal liberties, to take action on climate change.
But the reality is, if we don’t fix climate, it will fix us. It is in all of our best interests. Christians are not to transition to a clean energy economy, where we don’t have millions of people dying every year from the air pollution from burning fossil fuels, to transition to an economy where we don’t waste and throw out half the food we produce while people go hungry. To a world where people have a safe place to live that is not threatened by flood or storm or hurricane or disaster. For a better future with clean air and clean water and abundant food and safe places to live. We all want that. But we can’t get there without climate action.
So we have to understand where people are coming from. That’s number one. And then number two, and this is actually what I cover in my TED talk, if people are interested, I have a TED talk about how do we have these conversations about climate change. Number two is we have to start with where they’re at, we have to start with something they care about. So for example, I love to ski. But if somebody else doesn’t care about skiing, I’m not going to be talking their ear off about how there’s no snow at Christmas and how the ski seasons are getting shorter and how winter athletes are concerned about climate change, because they don’t care about that.
We need to start with what they care about. And with fellow Christians, that’s it’s always easier to have a conversation. Somebody shares something with you. With Christians, I often talk about, Hey, did you know that the Bible says this? Did you know that these Christian organizations are doing that? Did you know that because I’m a Christian.
That’s why I’m a climate scientist. And that’s why I care so much. Start with where people are at connect the values they already have to why this problem matters. But then don’t stop there always bringing positive constructive solutions, and examples of things people are doing and so people always ask me what like what, so last year I started a newsletter.
It’s a free weekly newsletter. It’s called Talking Climate. And you can Google it and find out how to subscribe from my website or, you know, just Google “Talking Climate and Katharine Hayhoe.” And every week, I have a piece of good news, a piece of not so good news, because we need to understand what’s happening and why it affects us. And then something that you can do to make a difference to start the conversations.
Well, that sounds great. I do encourage my listeners every week to go out there and do something to engage, volunteer, take action change eating habits, change our consumption habits, so that we’re using less stuff. And that all benefits the climate ultimately. So tell us a little bit about these extreme weather events and whether they are moving the needle in terms of convincing more people that climate change is real serious, and we need to do something immediately.
So how is climate change affecting extreme weather events? It’s not often creating them. I mean, climate change doesn’t typically light the wildfire or create the hurricane. But what it’s doing is it’s taking these extreme events and it’s supersizing them. It’s making them bigger, stronger and more dangerous.
So in a warmer world, when a hurricane spins up, as it always does, during hurricane season, there’s a lot more energy in the ocean to power that hurricane into a category three, four, or even five, then there was 50, or 100 years ago, when that fire sparks, it’s like dropping a match into dry dead wood, because of climate change, drying out the vegetation in the soil. And so that that one fire becomes a conflagration that can take over an entire town.
Climate change is loading the weather dice against us. And so today, there’s hardly a person on the planet who could say, I haven’t seen a way that climate change is affecting me, or the people or the places I love with my own eyes. So what that’s doing is it’s dismantling one of the key barriers to climate action, which is psychological distance.
For a long time, many people said, Sure, climate change is real. But it only matters to people living in the future, or people who live over there are polar bears up in the Arctic, not me. Today, we understand it’s me, the heat waves, the floods, the storms, the wildfires, it’s affecting me, the people, the places I love.
But that’s not enough to catalyze change at the scale we need. Because it’s only half the coin, half of the coin is understanding the risk, what’s the other half of the coin? Knowing what we can do about it? And unless we help people see what they can do to make a difference, unless we give examples of here’s what other schools have done, why doesn’t our school do this? Here’s what other towns have done.
Why don’t we do this too, in our town, here’s what other families or households or, you know, Girl Scout troops have done? Why don’t we do that too, unless we take action, knowing what to do, we won’t see change at the scale we need. So today, more than ever, it’s essential to talk not only about how climate change is affecting us, and why it matters, the first side of the coin, but at the same time and in the same breath, what we could do working together to make a difference. Because if we’re convinced there’s nothing that we can do, then we will be doomed.
So what are the things that you talk about that kind of get people who are new to this movement, engaged at step one, as to what can they do? What would you tell somebody who’s new in the game?
That is a great question. And it’s a question I get so frequently that it is actually my pinned tweet on Twitter, or I guess we have to call it x these days. So often people say, alright, I changed my light bulbs, I eat more plants. I have a plug in car, I have solar panels where I get my electricity from renewable sources. What more can I do? Today, the most important thing that we can do, and Bill McKibben says this, so Well, I’m just going to quote him, Bill says, The most important thing an individual can do is not be such an individual.
What does he mean by that? He means that when we focus not just on our personal carbon footprint, but on our climate shadow, the way that we interact with people around us, that is how we can be most powerful at effecting change. So according to social scientists, I was on a project with 30 social scientists two years ago, helping to put together a list of the six most effective things you can do to make a difference to support the movie don’t look up.
That’s that climate metaphor movie where there’s the asteroid coming to earth and then people weren’t doing anything about it, because they didn’t know what to do. So the fear was there. The first half of the coin was there, but the personal efficacy the What can I do to make a difference was completely missing. And not to spoil the ending, but it’s a two year old movie. So at this point, you probably know the asteroid hit the Earth because nobody knew what to do. That’s why it’s so important to talk about what we can do.
So here are the most important things we can do most effective things we can do according to social science. Number one, is to just have that conversation. I’m not talking about having the conversation with Uncle Jim who says climate change isn’t real. I’m talking about having the conversation about what we can do with the people you live with the people you work with the people you study with the people you worship with, the people that you play ultimate frisbee with the people you walk your dogs with, have that conversation about what we could do together.
Number two, join a Climate Action Group. I think this is so important that on my website, which is just my name, Katharine hayhoe.com, I’ve put together a list of organizations. So if you’re a parent, you can join these organizations. If you’re a person of faith, if you’re an athlete, if you’re a young person, if you’re an older person, I have all these different lists of organizations that people can join based on their interests to help elevate their voice.
That’s number two. Number three, make your money count. What bank do you use? What credit cards to use? Where’s your retirement funds invested? And if you don’t have control over that, what are you doing to try to divest from fossil fuels. In my book saving us I have a story about a guy who worked at a hospital. And his hospital ironically, wasn’t investing their pension fund in fossil fuels, even though the air pollution from burning fossil fuels kills millions of people a year.
So he was circulating a petition among all the people who contributed to that pension plan to change where the funds when, number four, spark ideas at work and school, how does a business or a school change unless somebody there says, Hey, have we ever thought about doing this, hold politicians accountable, you can see a common theme here, it all involves using your voice. And then lastly, reduce your personal carbon footprint, but do not stop there, talk about it and share what you’re doing to amplify it.
I really love the fact that I didn’t have to go to the gas station during COVID. Because I had a plug in car. I’m not guilting, my neighbor for not having one I’m sharing the joy and the appreciation that I had for change that I made personally, these are the most effective things that we can do. And they’re so simple, you can start today.
Well, I will start today, we we joined this 1% for the planet a while back or earlier this year. And so everybody on the on the company is kind of part of that. And we’re going to work with various nonprofits and and we’re we’re working to have our law firm be a zero, kind of carbon neutral organization. So so that’s something that kind of is engaging us and something I want to share with other people so that they can start thinking about it. And even though I had the show, A Climate Change for two years, I hadn’t hadn’t made that decision.
So it’s kind of like ramping it up to the next level. So I think those are the things that I’m working on. And I encourage other people to kind of jump in there and do the same or you know, talk about other things that that can even move the needle further.
So I agree with what you’re saying, and Katharine, and I guess when we come back from the break, I’ve got some other questions for you. I wanted to to tell everybody that we’re going to be asking Katharine about who she would put on Mount Rushmore, is her heroes in the climate change movement or just generally?
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on the program. Dr. Hayhoe, before the break I was talking to you about who you would put up on Mount Rushmore, regarding the climate change movement in particular?
That’s a great question. First of all, I would say, I would pick a location that was accessible to everyone, not just in the United States, because this is a global issue. And we have global heroes. So some of the most inspiring people that I know are people that you wouldn’t even know their names because they’ve just affected change where they are.
So for example, one of my former students, she was working with me, and she told her grandmother, that she was working for climate scientists, and this is in West Texas, where people are very politically conservative. And her grandmother said, Why are you working for somebody who’s, you know, promoting that United Nations hoax? And she said, No, grandma, she’s a Christian, and she believes the same things we do, you should check out some of her videos.
And so her grandma checked out my Global Weirding videos because that’s the power of engaging with people who love us and and loving people in return is because sometimes we can, we’re willing to consider other people’s views. So it might not ordinarily if they were somebody else. Her grandma completely changed your mind on climate and is now buttonholing, all of the people at her little Baptist church in her little town in Texas, telling them that climate change really is real. And here’s how it’s affecting Texas. And here’s what we can do about it as Christians.
So I would love to see millions of people’s faces out there with little stories underneath of all the things they’re doing. And in my newsletter, once a month, I highlight somebody who’s an inspiration, who you’ve never heard of before. And this past month. It’s a soccer player from northern Pakistan, who is not only an advocate for women in sports, but she’s also an advocate for climate action because of how it’s affecting her people in northern Pakistan. Before that, my climate inspiration was a young 10 year old boy who has a podcast to talk about climate change and what kids can do about it. So I personally would love to see millions of faces on Mount Rushmore.
But if I had to pick just one or two that people might have heard of, I would probably lead with a woman called Christiana Figueres. Now, she might be a familiar name to some of you and she might not to others, but she led the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process that eventually came to the Paris Agreement in 2015.
The Paris Agreement is the first global treaty with every country in the world signing on, to reduce their carbon emissions to limit warming to at least two degrees Celsius, which is three and a half degrees Fahrenheit, and preferably one and a half degrees Celsius, which is about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, if we can, and Christiana shepherded all the countries in the world to that historic agreement.
And I just think the patience, the optimism, the indefatigable pneus that it takes to reach something like that is phenomenal. And she is still a source of encouragement, and inspiration today. So she’s one climate hero. But there’s so many other climate heroes who are making a difference at every scale, who are creating organizations that empower people like Citizens Climate Lobby, or the sunrise movement, all of the children and young people who are standing up and using their voice so courageously and so boldly to advocate for a better future for all of us.
And then the leaders in business and finance and education and health. In all the different sectors across the economy, there are leaders who are standing up saying, hey, people, we need a transition plan, we’ve been living as if there’s no tomorrow, we’ve been living as if we’re on a infinitely flat planet, we can always go somewhere else to get more than what we need. We’re on a round planet. And we need a transition plan to a netzero future and a circular economy. And we’re gonna lead the way. So as you can see, I think maybe we should convert like all the mountain ranges into Mount Rushmore to get all the faces up there that we need. Because when we start looking for positive inspirational stories, they truly are all around us.
Why I appreciate your answer. It’s a great one. And I just had somebody on the program last week, and Justin J. Pearson is a state representative in Tennessee and, and he was talking about how he liked to keep his heroes kind of touchable. And I think that that’s a great a great way to talk about them. And I appreciate some of the people that you mentioned, are, are very relatable kind of average, everyday folks, that we all can kind of aspire to do that kind of work ourselves rather than somebody who might seem like “Oh, geez, well, to be a hero, it takes so much I can’t possibly get there.” But, but we don’t have to leave the UN treaty for you know, to be a hero, we can do something more modest, like talk to our neighbors and friends and convince them about the need to act.
Well, that’s exactly it. And I came to this revelation that you just expressed so beautifully in a really interesting way. One of my colleagues, George Marshall, he founded the organization climate outreach, which is a phenomenal organization with all kinds of great resources on how to effectively talk about and engage people on climate change.
But I follow him on Instagram, and he shares photos of how he bikes around to little towns in England on the weekend. He’s an avid biker, and he just takes pictures of those little towns. And he had a photo on his Instagram account a couple of years ago, and it was a memorial stone for a Member of Parliament.
Now I’ve heard the name William Wilberforce and most people have as a as a primary motivating force in the anti slavery movement in the UK at that time, but on this member of Parliament’s tombstone and memorial stone, it said that he had been an ardent advocate for the anti slavery movement and for the abolishment of slavery in the United Kingdom for years and even decades. It explains how many times he had voted for the legislation, how he had advocated for legislation, how it hadn’t happened. If it hadn’t happened again, it didn’t happen again. And then it said, finally, just before he died, he voted for it again.
And enough people voted for it that it passed and the realization of his life’s work was accomplished. And that made me realize, society has changed before women got the vote, slavery has mostly been abolished. Civil rights have been enacted in the United States gay marriage has passed. How did that happen?
We might know a few of the names. You might know the name Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther Jones, Nelson Mandela. But how many 1000s 10s hundreds of 1000s of people advocated with them, fought with them, use their voices to change where they were, and we don’t remember their names today. But we stand in the shadow of their voices and their deeds. And every single one of us, I’m convinced can be one of those people for the next generation.
So tell us what gives you hope going forward? What’s what makes you feel positive and upbeat about the future?
Well, what gives you hope is the most common and frequent question I’m asked as a climate scientist. And it’s so common, in fact that I wrote my book saving us specifically to answer that question. Let me give you the short version, though, first of all, when I say hope, I’m not talking about positive thinking.
Because if we all just engaged in positive thinking, we’d be thinking positively until our civilization fell apart. It’s not about positive thinking, my definition of hope, begins with realizing it’s bad, and it’s gonna get worse. And there is no guarantee that a better future awaits us.
But I know that if we do everything we can to make a difference, and the science is very clear on this, we can alter the outcome. The science says every bit of warming matters. Every action matters, every choice matters. What we do matters. That is what gives me hope. So when I look around, where do I find hope, I find hope in the 1000s, hundreds of 1000s, even millions of people who are already making a difference.
So often we picture climate action, like this giant boulder sitting at the bottom of an impossibly steep cliff with only a few hands on it, you know, Al Gore, Greta Thun, Berg, maybe a couple other people are trying to push it, and it’s not budging an inch. And if I had my hand, it’s not going to make a difference.
So why bother. But if we look around at all of the people, young and old, rich and poor, here or there, who are already making a difference, we realize that giant boulder of climate action is already at the top of the hill, it is already rolling down the hill in the right direction, it already has millions of hands on it. And if I add mine, and if I use my voice to encourage someone else to add theirs, it will go faster. And that is what gives me hope.
I like the metaphor, I was thinking that you might go to the saying it’s not a big boulder that’s pushed that we need to push up. It’s a it’s a lot of millions of pebbles that all of us can pick up a pebble and walk it up the hill, it’s doable. So you know, we don’t have to we don’t have to push the entire boulder. Let’s just grab a pebble. Well, we all, I like that. That’s good.
You can take it, it’s all yours.
Well, tell us what are the things that are the most challenging that do we do need to work on? Maybe the hardest choices in terms of changing the internal combustion engine? I mean, is it? Is it going to make sense to shift everybody to electric cars? Or is there some alternative that we should be considering more mass transit, or other other methods of moving us?
Well, there’s no one silver bullet when it comes to climate solutions. But there’s a lot of silver buckshot. So the answer to your question, do we need a B or C is yes, we need all of it. And project drawdown is a fantastic resource that lists all of the different solutions we have for efficiency. We’re so wasteful with our energy and our food for clean energy. For nature based solutions for climate resilience for agricultural solutions.
We need the whole spectrum of solutions. We need it all. And the good news is is that means there’s a solution for every situation. But what’s holding us back one of the biggest things that’s holding us back is the enormous effect of subsidies on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are subsidized to the tune of $13 million US per minute, massively distorting our economy and our markets. And that is one of the biggest things holding back the tide. Because believe me the tide has turned already. But that is one of the biggest things holding back the speed at which we could and should be changing.
Well, I had one of the authors or project drawdown on the show in the past and it was it was very informative and the amount of food we waste and the energy that we waste are, you know, enormous. So that is a place that all of us can stop start at is to stop wasting as much food and energy. That’s an incredible step in the right direction. You listen to A Climate Change. So this is Matt Matern, your host and I will be right back with Dr. Katharine Hayhoe.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on the program. Tell us a little bit about things that are upcoming such as CAP28. That’s going to occur, I believe, in Dubai this year. What are your thoughts on that? And it seems like a little bit of a contradiction in terms of got a climate action meeting in a place where fossil fuels are kind of the center stage. What’s uh, what’s the best met? What’s the best method to approach that meeting for climate activists?
Yes, I think you’ve put your finger on exactly the concern of many people. So first of all, what is cop cop is an acronym. It stands for Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It’s it’s quite a mouthful. And this is the 28th meeting. The 27th meeting last year was in Egypt and the 26th.
Meeting the year before that was in Glasgow, Scotland. So every time this meeting rolls around, people often think, Well, surely this is the one where they’re going to fix climate change entirely. And then when that one meeting doesn’t fix climate change entirely, everybody says it was a complete failure.
No one meeting is going to fix climate change entirely, especially when it’s only a meeting for one sector of all the actors who have to come together to fix this, who are all the actors, everybody. So we need companies and multinational corporations at the table. We need organizations and nonprofits and NGOs at the table. We need universities and schools and seminaries at the table.
We need organizations like the Rotary Club and professional organizations of psychologists and psychiatrists and medical professionals and engineers at the table, in addition to national governments. And so at the COP negotiating table, you only have national governments, you don’t have cities, you know, states or provinces, you don’t have all of the other non state actors. Is cop important. Yes, this is essential. Yes. Is it sufficient? No. It’s not sufficient. But nothing is, again, we need everything.
So what’s going to be happening every time they have a set of goals to agree on? Are the goals enough? They never are. But you have to get unilateral consensus, you have to get everybody to agree to something in order to pass it. Has cop accomplished anything so far? Yes, it actually has. We were talking earlier about the Paris Agreement, the Paris Agreement was signed at COP and 2015. Before the Paris agreement, we were heading to a world that by the end of the century would be four to five degrees Celsius, that is eight to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, for us are 89 degrees Fahrenheit, four to five degrees Celsius warmer than today.
Today, thanks to the Paris Agreement, and thanks to legislation that has already been implemented, not promised but implemented. We’re heading for a world that’s going to be about two and a half to three degrees warmer instead of four to five degrees warmer. So that’s big difference has already happened.
Is it enough? Not yet. But is it? Is it a big step in the right direction it is. So the cop process is important. It is absolutely essential to bring countries together to say what have you done in the last year since we were here. And there’s organizations that actually, you know, vote for a climate criminal every every day of cop to highlight who isn’t doing what they promised they would do.
It’s also an opportunity to highlight the fact that Petro states, countries that depend on oil and gas for their primary source of revenue, they have to figure out how to transition to a netzero world and they have to do it fast. So there’s gonna be a big focus on that in this conference. Don’t expect this conference to fix the problem all together, but do expect this conference to spark some very, very important discussions and hopefully A to come away, which in my opinion would be a success with some actionable and concrete agreements to phase out fossil fuels and to accelerate our trajectory towards that net zero future?
Well, I think that you’re right. And that actually having the COP28 at Dubai, I think puts the spotlight where it needs to be, which is on the petro states and on our oil producers as to what they’re going to do to ante up to change the trajectory of the planet, because trying to do this without their involvement without their cooperation.
Well, it’s, it’s a failed model, we have to have them on board, we have to get them to really forego their economic interests, which is pumping their resources, their oil, either ground, and forego that opportunity for the benefit of the planet. And that’s a very challenging conversation to have, when a lot of these countries that is their main or a maybe even only resource to say, hey, we’re we’re asking you to take a trillion dollar hit, or multi trillion dollar hit to help save other people. So how do you convince them to do that? What would you tell Dubai? What would you tell Saudi Arabia?
Well, I mostly agree with you. But I don’t entirely agree because it isn’t just to save other people. It’s to save themselves to the parts of the world that, for example, Middle Eastern states are located in could be virtually inhabitable for humans if climate change continues unchecked. So there is absolutely 100% self interest involved there too. And there’s nothing wrong with that we all act out of self interest. But it’s just over a different timescale. We’re not thinking about tomorrow, we’re thinking about 1020 30 years from now, when we might be around, but when our children will be reaching maturity.
So I think it’s important to frame it that way. And then I think it’s also important to figure out ways to provide jobs for people. I’m not talking about enriching people who are already billionaires or millionaires. But I am talking about a just transition.
So for example, people who live in coal mining areas in West Virginia or Kentucky, or Ohio, the only available job to put food on the table with their skill set is for example, saying the coal mines. But coal mining is shutting down, not because of climate action actually yet in the US. But because natural gas is a lot cheaper and easier, as well as being more efficient and producing less carbon.
So what are some ways that we can ensure that people are still able to put food on the table for their family, whether they live in Saudi Arabia, or they live in West Virginia, while still again accelerating that transition to a new clean energy economy? Those are the questions we have to ask and answer. And there’s often that there’s a lot of great answers out there. Have you interviewed anybody yet? Who works on the just transition?
Oh, yeah, we’ve talked to lots of different people about these issues. Anybody in particular that you think is a leading light on this area?
Well, there was definitely a lot of different organizations involved at the local scale. And being Canadian, one of my favorite organizations is from Canada. It’s called iron plus Earth. And what they do is they offer free retraining for people in the oil and gas industry, especially in Alberta out west, to learn how to install solar or wind.
Because it turns out that that part of Canada as well as that part of the United States, where oil and gas comes from, also has a lot of sun and a lot of wind. And so free retraining programs offer people the ability to upgrade their skills and look for a job in a different sector, which, you know, if if they had to go out and pay for that training and take time off work, they might not be able to do that?
Well, that’s very important. And I think that we obviously have transitions available for the economy at large. And it is certainly at the micro level is a bit more challenging, but it is happening that people are learning new trades. And and we’ve always had that in our economy. There’s been people who are buggy whip manufacturers, and they all were put out of business, essentially, when cars came into being so we’ve always had transitioning, so kind of holding on to jobs that are certain segments and saying, Oh, we have to keep those jobs.
Well, that just isn’t how a dynamic economy works over time. So what do you what are your thoughts as to in terms of solar and wind? We’ve heard in Texas that they’re putting impediments to further solar and wind farms, even though Texas has benefited greatly by having lots of solar wind is one of the leaders in that area.
Well, Texas, the state of Texas now has more solar and wind energy installed than any other state put together. And this summer with most days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s what kept the power grid up was the solar and wind. So there haven’t been restrictions put on yet. But there are attempts to do so. And we are also seeing attempts to move against climate action at the national scale in the US. We’re seeing that in places like the province of Alberta and Canada, we’re seeing it even in the EU, where there’s a backlash against clean energy. Why is that? It’s because climate denial has never been about rejecting the science.
People still use, like I said, stoves, refrigerators and airplanes. It’s the same physics that explains how we burn coal, gas and oil, we produce heat trapping gases, and they’re building up in the atmosphere wrapping an extra blanket around the planet, causing it to warm climate denial has always been about solution aversion. And the closer we get to substantial climate action. You know, here in the United States, the the inflation Reduction Act was the biggest piece of climate legislation the country has ever seen.
The closer we get to catalytic climate action, the stronger the more forceful, the more vociferous, the solution aversion becomes. So in a way, seeing the strong push back against action, which clearly benefits even the very people opposing it, seeing how clearly people are willing to cut off their nose to spite their face reveals that the real problem is not lack of information about the science.
The real problem is there’s just some people who want the status quo to remain the same forever. And like you just said, that is not what happens with human society. The clean energy revolution is already underway. The question is just can we get it going fast enough to avoid the worst, most serious of the climate impacts? That is the only question left today.
Dr. Hayhoe, it’s been a pleasure having you on the program. Everybody should check out Dr. Katharine Hayhoe’s book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case For Hope, katharinehayhoe.com, as well as her TED Talks, we’re so happy to have you on the show. And I look forward to working with you going forward because you definitely have your fingers on the pulse of what we should be doing and how we can help save the planet.
Go check out aclimatechange.com. You can see what we’re up to. Also follow us on all social media channels. Until next week. Have a great week everybody.
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
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