Talking Climate: Bridging the Divides
October 30, 2019 | Katharine Hayhoe, a leading climate scientist and an awardee of the UN "Champions of the Earth" honor discusses what climate change means to us in the places where we live.
This presentation is brought to you by Arizona State University's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and a generous investment by Julie Ann Wrigley. Wrigley Lecture Series-- world-renowned thinkers and problem solvers engage the community in dialogues to address sustainability challenges.
In our culture and our tradition, normally, you would stand for a prayer. Please feel free to do so if you can.
From the east, from the north, from the south, and from the west, when we come together, we bring the spirit of our elder brother with us, and it is good. From the east, from the north, from the south, and from the west, when we come together, we bring the spirit of our creator with us, and it is good. When all the people come together, we bring the spirit of our ancestors with us, and it is good.
And when we all, all, all, all come together, it is great. [NON-ENGLISH] As we come here together, [NON-ENGLISH], to the creator of this land, as we come together today, as we talk about the things that have happened upon this land that was stolen from our people, this land that we stand upon, this very place our feet sit on is probably one of our fields. But because things are the way they were-- and you know the truth; so do I.
Because things happened the way they did, this land is no longer in the hands of the [NON-ENGLISH], the people who are gone. It is in the hands of others. And in those hands, things have happened. We are here to talk about the future instead of dwelling upon the past. In the [NON-ENGLISH] creation, we are taught many things. One of those is the spirit of our ancestors that this is their land.
We are just here to take care of it. We are also taught the principle of seven generations, we live in the fourth. We make decisions that honor the past three generations, and we make decisions that will ensure the safety, the happiness, the joy, and the peace for the next three generations that will come after us.
We are the fourth. Four is a sacred number-- four directions, four pathways, four lines of the man of the maze, the maze that is our traditional [NON-ENGLISH] symbol of life. We are here. We had knowledge you. We appreciate you. Thank you for this opportunity for us to come together to unite because, as the song says, when we all, all, all, all come together, it is great. [NON-ENGLISH], amen.
Thank you so much here for this special opening of tonight's event. And welcome, again, everybody. It's great to see such a large crowd for our Wrigley lecture tonight. I'm Peter Schlosser. I am the Vice President and Vice Provost of Global Futures at ASU. I am also the director of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
On behalf of ASU and the Global Institute of Sustainability, I would like to welcome all of you to this special event with our speaker tonight, Katharine Hayhoe who just was named a UN Champion of the Earth, which makes this event even more special.
Let me just talk a little bit about the Wrigt lectures. They are supported generously by Julie Ann Wrigley who also enabled us to create the Global Institute of Sustainability. And within the Global Institute of Sustainability, the School of Sustainability, it is offering us a platform to bring in speakers from outside to help us inform ourselves about the most forward-thinking new ideas about where Earth is heading and, thereby, informing our course moving forward with our own activities within the Institute. So it is opening a window to the outside and bringing new intellect and new thoughts into our own community.
The speakers are chosen by a committee that does include the entire community of the Wrigley Institute, including faculty, staff, and students, and, of course, the sustainability scientists.
So I would like to thank our community partners who made this day possible. They include Arizona Interfaith Power and Light, Citizens' Climate Lobby, Arizona Faith Network, Franciscan Renewal Center, Sierra Club, Elders for Climate Action, and Chispa Arizona. I would like to welcome now to the stage, Doug Bland, who will introduce our Wrigley speaker and then also lead the post-talk discussion.
Doug Bland is the former pastor of the Tempe Community Church and serves as adjunct faculty at South Mountain Community College where he teaches courses like the art of storytelling or storytelling and advocacy among others. He's also the executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Power and Light, an organization leading a spiritual response to climate change. Please help me welcoming Doug Bland.
As was mentioned, this event is taking place tonight because a group of very diverse organizations came together and started planning this and taking advantage of the opportunity of Dr. Hayhoe's presence in the valley to come to speak to us. Bridging the Divides was the title we came up with. And as diverse as this group was, we didn't have any trouble coming up with a title that we wanted for the evening.
Whether you were from Elders for Climate Action or a Sierra Club, whether you came at this issue from the environmental perspective or the spiritual perspective or the economic perspective, we were all struggling in our personal lives and in our professional lives with, how do we talk to each other across these divides that separate us in our own families-- I don't talk to my brother much any more-- and in our nation?
So we were looking for a voice that can help us identify and speak to common values. We need a prophet who can reconnect us with the earth and with each other. The Psalmist says that, if we pay attention, all creation is clapping their hands for joy. The mountains clap their hands for joy. The oceans, the waves rise up and clap their hands for joy.
So this is a call and response creation-centered way to introduce Katharine Hayhoe. And the call is clap your hands for joy, all people. And I would invite your response to be to clap three times. But you can't just sit there and do this, so would you please stand?
Let's try it. Clap your hands for joy, all people.
For the world renowned scientist who has authored more than 125 peer-reviewed papers and several national climate assessments, clap your hands for joy, all people.
For an activist who has just been named, as was mentioned, the United Nations Champion for the Earth, clap your hands for joy, all people.
For a person of faith who combines spirit and intellect, clap your hands for joy, or people.
For a movie star who's appeared in documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, and the ever-popular, The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers. Clap your hands for joy, all people.
[CLAPPING] For a public intellectual who's been named one of Time's 100 most influential people, Foreign Policy's 100 leading global thinkers, and most importantly, for Katharine herself, one of Working Mothers 50 most influential moms. Clap your hands for joy, all people.
We could go on, but the point is, clap your hands for joy, all people. [CLAPPING]
Clap your hands for joy, all people.
Clap your hands for joy, all people.
And welcome Dr. Katharine Hayhoe.
All right. It's official, Doug is coming with me everywhere I go from now on. Thank you Doug, that was a fantastic introduction. I am delighted to be with you here tonight to talk about talking climate. And it seems that whenever we look in the news, we can't help but think about it can we? If you could go ahead and put the slides on the screen now, there we go.
Everywhere we look, the headlines are telling us records are being broken. They're being smashed. We're seeing things happen in places that we never expected. We're seeing things happen in the places where we live. Here in Phoenix, we know that the heat is making headlines day after day. We know actually that Phoenix is the second fastest warming major city in the country, and Arizona is the fourth fastest warming state.
We look at what's happening around us, and we know that, in California, they broke the record for the largest area burned by a wildfire in December 2017. The record was broken again in August, and it was smashed again the following fall. So we look at all of these changes. And as the prime minister of Dominica, one of the islands that was devastated by the 2017 hurricane season said, he said, "To ignore climate change is to ignore the evidence of our eyes. We have seen it with our eyes."
So when we see people who say, hey, this isn't changing, what are you talking about? Or there isn't a problem, it's just the way it's always been. We say, no, we know that it's changing. We can see it. In fact, the headlines this year, in January, were that, in 10 years of polling, they saw the biggest jumps they they'd ever seen in public levels of concern about a changing climate. And when they asked me why that was, I said it's because it's coming home.
10 years ago you had to go up to the Arctic to see evidence with your own eyes that you could actually see of thawing land and melting glaciers. But today, in the places where we live, we can see the changes. And when we can see the changes, when we're attuned to those changes, when we're looking for those changes, and we see them happen, and then we turn to our neighbor-- we turn to somebody we know.
We turn to a family member. We say, oh, my goodness, I can't believe how hot it's getting in Phoenix, thanks to a changing climate. And they're, like, what are you talking about? We think, well, surely, if somebody cannot see the evidence with their own eyes, they must be an idiot.
Or they could just be a bad person, or perhaps both. But this is unfortunately the world that we live in. We live in a world that's becoming increasingly fragmented and tribalized to the point where if anybody doesn't agree with us about anything, they are automatically an idiot or a bad person. I know this because I get this myself all the time.
Here are a few choice selections from just the past few days on social media. Clearly, I'm an idiot who has never considered the fact that there would be things such as natural cycles. Or perhaps I'm just a bad person. I'm doing this out of greed. I'm making up some issue to line my pockets or to further an agenda. This is what we do when somebody doesn't agree with us with us today. We label them as bad or an idiot. And then what does that enable us to do? It enables us to dismiss them.
But in doing so, we're treating people as if they aren't fellow humans. We're treating people as if they have no value. We're not respecting them. And so the reality is, we think, well, surely, if they just knew the facts. If they just do the facts, they'd change their mind. But the social science has showed us that the idea that people are blank slates, that if people don't know what they're talking about, they just don't have the facts, we tell them the facts.
Well, it turns out that doesn't work so well. So Dan Kahan is a social scientist. And he studies how people absorb information. And he said, we understand that, when it comes to climate change, we often think people don't have enough information. If they don't have enough information, what should we do? Clearly, we should write another report.
The IPCC reports were quite old when they first began, so we should write-- I'm going to see if this works. Yes, we should write more reports. And then they got updated in a few years, so we need to write a few more reports. And then maybe we need a few more reports after that. And these are all IPCC reports. So maybe what we actually need are National Climate Assessments. And if those don't do the trick, maybe a few National Academy studies would do it, [INAUDIBLE] one or another or another. You get the picture, right?
If I lined up all of the reports that have been written to tell people that climate is changing and humans are responsible, they would probably reach the ceiling of this church. But here is what the social science finds. People with the highest degree of science literacy are not most concerned. They are what? Most polarized. And Dan went on to develop a metric which he called a metric of ordinary science intelligence. It's a way to test people's ability to do quantitative reasoning.
And he found a very weak correlation between what he calls ordinary science intelligence and the ability to correctly respond to this question. Are humans responsible for the observed changes that we see? But then he took the same data set, and he divided into two groups based on only one thing. He did not divide it based on age. He didn't divide it based on gender. He didn't divide it based on religion or race or anything like that he divided it into based on one thing only, and he found a very strong correlation.
What does this show us? It shows us something that we all need to take to heart. The smarter we are-- and there's a lot of very smart people in this room. The smarter we are, the better we are at picking the pieces of information that validate our pre-existing opinions in order to win the argument.
Now, don't deny that you haven't done this. Whether it's an argument over the best way to load the dishwasher or how to pack the back of the car or whether climate is changing due to human activities, the smarter we are, the better we are googling just the pieces of information that fit what we want to argue. And bringing that to the table is proof that we are right.
So it is not a case of us having blank slates that are just waiting to be written on by somebody who knows the facts. And it's not the case that we aren't smart. In fact, the smarter we are, the more resistant we are to these facts if we feel it challenges our identity. Isn't that interesting? Well, OK, so maybe we're very smart, but we're bad people.
Well, let's look at some of the arguments that people use to reject the idea that we need climate solutions. The man who wrote a book called The Greatest Hoax, an Oklahoma senator said very frankly, perhaps accidentally in an interview with Rachel Maddow, he said, do you realize I was actually on your side of this issue when I first heard about it? I was on your side till when? I was on your side till I found out how much it would cost to fix it.
When we hear about other arguments as to why we're not adopting climate solutions, we hear words like taxation and government legislation. And it wasn't until I was reading a book to my son when he was in kindergarten on the American Revolution-- I'm Canadian, so that was not part of my education, other than maybe two days of world history. When I was reading a book to my son when he was in kindergarten on the American Revolution, it hit me right between the eyes. What was the war about? Taxation and government control from afar, representation.
And what do people hear when we talk about climate change? Government regulation and taxation. So people actually can feel like they're being patriotic by rejecting these solutions. And then a new one making the rounds that I have heard several places is that the only solution you really have to climate change is abortion, and forced abortion, preferably among developing countries, because they're the ones having the babies. I mean this is the most horrifying thing I've heard. But this is making the rounds.
And so you understand, like, if somebody you trust told you these leftist socialists are imposing an agenda to kill babies in the name of a changing climate, what would you do as a good person? You would stand up to them, right? So it isn't that we're not smart. We can be very smart. And it isn't that we aren't good people.
We can be very good people who want to do the right thing. So what's the problem? The problem is that we have bought into or fallen for the smokescreens that we've been offered, the smokescreens that allow us to plausibly reject the science or to plausibly reject the moral responsibility in the name of smart thinking and, frankly, in the name of God, like what?
What are these smokescreens? This is the face that we often have when we confront these things. What are these smokescreens that we've bought into? Well, the first set of smoke screens are sciencey sounding smoke screens. And believe me, they are smoke screens.
Now, when we as scientists-- and there are many of us scientists probably here in the room. When we hear it's just a natural cycle, or we haven't studied it long enough to be sure, you scientists are making the whole thing up anyways, sea levels are falling, it's just a tiny amount of CO2. And my personal favorite, it's cold outside, or it's the sun.
When we hear these, we say, let me answer these for you because we have good answers for them. And we absolutely-- of course, we have good answers for these. And it's good to know the good answers for these because these are good questions, and they deserve good answers. That's part of the respect. So between the month of November and April, one of the most common questions we get is, it's cold outside. Where is global warming now?
But that shows that we don't understand the difference between weather versus climate. Weather is what happens in a certain place at a certain time, like a single tree. But climate is the long-term average of weather over at least 20 to 30 years.
So if you're going to say it's cold outside; where is global warming now, in one day, at one time, in one place, it's kind of similar to saying the Titanic can't be sinking because my end just went 200 feet up in the air. And then people say, oh, yeah, but I look at that global temperature record, and it isn't going up. It's been flat for the last eight years. Hang on a second. What's climate? It's the average of weather over at least 20 to 30 years.
So if we fill in the rest of the data set, and this is the exact same data set, we add 2018 there at the top, here it comes. We know that it can go up and down from year to year, but decade by decade by decade, it is getting warmer. It's not even about scientific observations. Often, the most compelling thing to talk about is not what scientific instruments are saying, but rather what we see with our own eyes.
I have a colleague, John Zak, some of you know him. He's an ecologist. He has a peach tree in his backyard. When he moved to Lubbock 30 years ago, he started writing down the date the peach tree flowered every year. When he had to cut it down 3 years ago, it was flowering, on average, two to three weeks earlier in the year than when he planted it. Personal examples, what we see with our eyes in the place where we live, can be so much more powerful than citing hundreds of thermometers around the world, satellite observations, ocean buoys. Bring it home. Make it personal.
And there's a lot to choose from. Because when we look around the world, there are over 26,500 independent lines of evidence of a changing climate. You don't have to live in Alaska anymore to see what's happening in your own backyard and to be able to share those personal stories with people that make immediate connections with people who've lived here for a long time. We understand what's happening. We can see it with our eyes. And it's part of our own personal experience. It's not just what those scientists are telling us.
So then, there we go. So the science says, yes, climate is changing. But then the next question though is, why, right? Why is climate changing? Because we know that climate has changed in the past due to the sun and natural cycles. So it's helpful to actually know that, when somebody says, oh, isn't it just the sun? You can say, well, here's the temperature of the Earth. It's been going up and down from year to year, but decade by decade, it's been going up.
But if you compare it with energy from the sun, the energy from the sun's actually been going down. Did you know that? And so people who've been told, oh, it's just the sun, it actually does help to say, hey, I know that it isn't the sun. It can't be the sun. We should be cooling according to the sun now. So if it isn't the sun, what about natural cycles? Well, natural cycles inside the climate system are like a teeter-totter or a seesaw. And just out of curiosity, how many people call it a teeter-totter? OK, so seesaw? OK it's 50-50.
But this side is a bit of a bias toward seesaw I would say, and this side has a bit of a bias towards teeter-totter. I'm sort of curious. And I don't always ask that. But every once in a while I do. And I have to say, there's only one place in all of the US that I've found the majority go with teeter totter-- Utah. That's it. There was almost no seesaws there, and I think they were imports. Anyways, now you're going to remember this, right? So natural cycles are like a teeter-totter, a seesaw. They just move heat around the Earth's system.
So if the atmosphere is getting warmer, the heat has to be coming from somewhere, pretty much the ocean. When we look at natural cycles, like the medieval warm period when all the Vikings took cruises to Greenland. That's something many people think really happened. In reality, the naming of Greenland was one of the most successful PR campaigns of the time. Because when they got there, it was too late.
But during the medieval warm period, there was a warm period that was part of a natural cycle. What does a natural cycle look like? A natural cycle looks like moving heat from one part of the climate system to the other. So the medieval warm period, which is so embedded into our history, is only there because much of our history comes from Western Europe. If we came from Siberia, it would have been the medieval cold period.
And what does today look like compared to that? Today looks very different. So when we look at the heat content of the Earth's system, it isn't just going into the atmosphere from the ocean. In fact, 20 times more heat is going into the ocean compared to the atmosphere. 93% of the extra heat being trapped inside the climate system is going into the ocean. Why are we not talking about that? I only have one answer for that. We're not dolphins.
If we were dolphins, we wouldn't be talking about the green part here. We'd just be talking about the blue part. So when we measure global temperature, it's just the tip of the iceberg. Our entire planet is warming, from the ocean to the land to the atmosphere. And then people say, well, but aren't we just warming after the last ice age.
Because I know we have ice age cycles. How do I know? I watch the movies. And we know they ended because a squirrel was chasing a nut and broke off a piece of ice and that just kind of-- it all cascaded from there.
Do you have the squirrel in your models? No, we don't. Well, then, they're no good. I've actually never had that conversation before. That was just in my head. But when we look at the last 6,000 years-- now, as a scientist, why would I show 6,000 years of data? This is not from an ice core record that 6,000 years old. I'm showing it for a very specific reason.
Because to agree that humans are changing climate, to agree that something happened 300 years ago at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, to understand that we were gradually, slowly cooling, that warming after the last ice age peaked about 6,000 to 8,000 years ago-- we've been gradually cooling since then until something crazy happened. We don't have to agree the world is any more than 300 years old. And as far as I know, everybody agrees on that.
So the next thing on our calendar was another ice age, was, that is, until we got a hold of the climate. And now we are heading-- here we go. No. Yes. No. There we go. Now we are heading rapidly in the other direction. So we can tell people that, hey, there's a reason that we know this is real. We really have checked.
The Industrial Revolution kicked this whole thing off. Digging up and burning coal and gas and oil is wrapping an extra blanket around the planet that it does not need. And just like you would, if somebody snuck in at night and put an extra blanket around you, just like you would, the planet is heating up because it does not need that extra blanket that we are wrapping around it.
But some people may say, well, blanket, schmanket. It's such a tiny amount. Carbon dioxide is 0.04% 4% atmosphere. I'm like well, it's just a tiny amount of white powder I put in your drink. Or more appropriately, it's such a tiny pill, how is it going to fix you? I mean everybody knows when you take medicine, for it to be effective, it has to be the size of your body, right? No. We know that little things matter. It's the potency that matters. It's not the amount.
So we really have checked. And it helps to understand that there are sciencey sounding myth that we are being told all the time. I get these on social media every single day. It's the sun. No it's not. It's a natural cycle. Nope. It's just getting warmer after the last ice age.
No, we really have checked. We know that today climate is changing because humans are digging up and burning fossil fuels. We are altering the landscape. We are burning down the trees. And we have spread agriculture across the planet. That is the reason why climate is changing today.
And in fact, we should be cooling, gradually, and slowly. So in terms of sciencey sounding arguments, skeptical science really tackles them all. But the reason why skeptical science exists is because John Cook had a dad. You might have a dad too.
And I don't just mean a father, I mean this type of dad. He had a dad where every time he went home for dinner, his dad said, well, you know John, there are more polar bears now in the Arctic than there ever were. And John said, I'm going to find the answer to that, and I'm going to tell you the answer.
So he'd find the answer. And the next time, he'd be, like, well, John, I heard it's cosmic rays that are actually causing this problem. So did developing the most comprehensive database of responses to sciencey sounding arguments change John's dad's mind? But then there was a program offering rebates on solar panels. And he did the numbers, and he realized he would save quite a bit of money. And if our identity is that of a smart, shrewd business person, or a fiscal conservative, saving money is who we are. It's part of our identity.
So he crunched the numbers. He got the panels. He saved a ton of money. He went around telling everybody how much money he saved. It made him an even better fiscal conservative than he already was. And then about a year later, he said, well, John, you know what?
I think this global warming thing, it might be real. But I'm doing my part. I've got my panels. So these sciencey sounding arguments are smokescreens that we've been given deliberately to confuse the real issue and to allow us to feel like there's nothing we can do about it anyways, because the science isn't certain.
But that's not the only set of smoke screens we've been given. We don't truly have a problem with the basic science, though. Just think about this for a second. If we really had a problem, a true problem with basic radiative transfer physics and nonlinear fluid dynamics, then we would also have to say that our fridges don't work, our stoves don't work, and airplanes don't fly.
But you may say, OK, so I know what the other smoke screen is. In Texas, we're very concise. Climate change is not science. It's a religion. The arrogance of people-- does this man look familiar? The arrogance of people to think that we human beings could change what he is doing to the climate is, to me, outrageous.
We know who is responsible for this. Lindsey Graham tells us Al Gore did it. And if you google Al Gore's Church of Climatology, you can find the proof on the internet because the internet has proof for everything.
If your eyes are sharp, you'll see somebody Photoshopped my head onto the choir. So there's this idea that, somehow people's fundamental beliefs-- and the majority of people in the US-- over 75% would call themselves Christian. There's an idea that our fundamental beliefs are somehow in conflict with the idea that humans are affecting this planet. So we hear what I call religiousy sounding objections. Like what?
Like, god is in control, not humans. That's the most common one that we hear. We have dominion over the earth. There will always be seasons. Well, seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth's orbit-- or sorry, the tilt of the Earth's axis of rotation relative to the plane of the orbit. And that isn't being changed much by climate change-- a little bit actually by the melting of the ice sheets, but just a little bit. We'll still have seasons.
Those scientists are all godless, liberal atheists. Bring on the end times. And god said he would never flood the earth again. Well, even if every piece of ice on the planet melted, that would not be enough to flood all the land surface. So let's actually look at the green one first because this is a really interesting one. And this is one where we actually have bought into. And all of us have bought into some funny myths.
So we often think that the intersection between people who adhere to a specific set of beliefs, or believers as I would call them, and scientists, they hardly intersect at all. In fact, we think that people at that intersection are pretty much unicorns. But I have a colleague who's a sociologist who studies people. Her name is Elaine Ecklund. And she was in her church once, a Presbyterian Church in Wheaton near Chicago. And during the time when you stand up and you shake people's hands, she was talking to the woman in front of her.
And in the course the conversation, the woman said to Elaine, well, you know those scientists, they're all godless, liberal atheists. And Elaine is a sociologist. And she thought, I wonder if that's true. So she set out to test this. And what she did, being a very complete person, she interviewed 1,700 scientists at research universities across the United States.
And she found, interestingly, that 50% of us actually identify with a specific religious label. 70% of us consider ourselves to be spiritual people. And perhaps most interestingly, of the 30% who are atheist or agnostic, 20% of them consider themselves to be spiritual atheists.
So in fact, the intersection between people who adhere to a specific faith and research scientists is 50%. And if you include people who consider themselves to be spiritual, it would be 70%. So the idea that all scientists cannot be trusted, because they do not share people's belief systems is actually false. But then what about the other myths that we looked at?
For those, the science doesn't help us. We actually have to go to the Bible. And in the Bible, in book 1, chapter 1-- so book 1, chapter 1, if you're going to read a book, you normally start at the beginning. And this is right there. At the beginning, it says "God made human beings in our image so that"-- there's a so that. And I don't know about you, but growing up in the church in Sunday school, I never heard why. I was told this again and again, but I never heard the so that.
Well, it's not a mystery. It goes right on to tell you, "--so that they can be responsible for every living thing that moves on the face of the earth." Hmm. Now, the word responsible is the word that is translated in some of the original translations as dominion. But it's a Hebrew word, radah. And when you actually look at what it means, it means dominion, not domination. It means authority, rule, or it means exercise skilled mastery with respect to. And then, in chapter 2, it talks about being guardians or protectors, being stewards or gardeners, taking care of this world.
So even if you think of the word dominion, imagine if somebody who you love more than anyone else in the world, gave you their absolute favorite piece of land, a farm that they had invested in, they had cared for, they had loved, they had tilled, they had made sure it was prosperous. They gave it to you, and they said, take care of it.
Have responsibility over it. Guard it. Protect it for me. And you extracted every single-- not you. None of you would do that. None of us would do that. But let's just say one. One extracted every penny of value from that estate, left it a smoking crumbling ruin, what would that say about how you truly felt about the person who gave it to you?
Whereas, on the other hand, if you were given that land, and you invested in it, you made sure that it was thriving. You made sure that there was habitat for wildlife, that it supported jobs for people, that it grew food. You're practicing regenerative agriculture, making sure the carbon went back in the soil.
You were doing lots of good things to make it healthy and prosperous. How would that express how you felt about the person who gave it to you? So that's where the concept of Creation Care comes from-- the idea of caretaking or taking care of.
But I would suggest that that's actually not a complete picture because it leaves humans out of it often As if caring for this is over here, but we're over here. But we're living things too, right? All living things-- we're living things. And so that's a big part of it too. We've somehow been told that it's about caring for this over us. It's about worshipping Mother Earth over Father God. There's little church signs that say that.
But how could it be, if we believe that we've been given a responsibility, and, furthermore, if we know from the science that a changing climate is increasing the risks that we face every day? It's making our droughts stronger. It's making our hurricanes bigger and slower and more intense. It's making our heatwaves more frequent. We are being affected by a changing climate, and we are people too. It's loading the weather dice against us. We always have a chance of rolling a bad double six.
That's just natural. A bad drought, a wildfire, or a heatwave-- but as a warming planet continues, decade by decade, it's sneaking in and replacing another one of those numbers with a six. So we're rolling more and more double sixes and then a double seven.
We say, how could Houston have three, four, in some places even five, five hundred-year flood events in 10 years. It's because the dice are getting weighted against us. And we're affected by a changing climate. We care about it because it exacerbates the risks that we already face today, we humans, we people in the places where we live as well as every other living thing on this planet.
But it isn't just about us. Because when you look at where people currently live in poverty-- and the darker the color here, the greater the percentage of the population living in poverty in those areas-- and then you compare this with where people are most vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate, you can see this isn't just about us. It's about everybody, and it's especially about those who have the least to begin with, both right here at home, as well as on the other side of the world.
When it floods here, we have devastation. We have damage. We have loss. When it floods in Southeast Asia, the casualties are orders of magnitude higher. When we have droughts in Texas versus in Syria-- in Texas, we have billions of dollars of losses, and some people have to abandon their farms and their ranches, and that is a tragedy. But it isn't the final straw on the camel's back that tips an already overloaded situation into a refugee crisis.
So you might see me in these pictures. This is me. When I was nine years old, we moved down to Colombia in South America. And growing up down there made me realize just how close we do live to harm. So down there, if you're living in a home made of mud or tied cardboard boxes that you got from the dump, and the only place you find to build a house is on the side of a hill, and the rains come, and when the rains come, there can be devastation. 20,000 people washed away.
When these things happen, we realize that the closer we are to living on the edge, the most vulnerable we are to the impacts of a changing climate. Because while rain and floods and landslides are natural, in a warmer world, the air holds more water vapor. And so when storms come along today, there's a lot more water vapor for them to sweep up and dump on us today than there was just 50 or 100 years ago. So we are increasingly at risk. And we can see this right here where we live, but we can also see it on the other side of the world.
Let me give you a very concrete example. Does anybody remember Hurricane Matthew? Anybody? OK, thank you, thank you, at least a few people. So here in this room, only a few of us remember Hurricane Matthew. It hit the Carolinas. There were deaths. There was devastation. But if I had asked the same question in Haiti, I think every single hand in the room would have gone up. Because before Matthew hit the Carolinas, it hit Haiti.
And when it hit Haiti, it damaged 22% of the entire country's GDP. In some areas, up to 90% of the crops and livestock were lost. And they already had cholera there. And how is cholera transmitted? Primarily through the water. And so the flooding led to a renewed outbreak of cholera that killed who knows how many tens of thousands of extra people who would not have died otherwise. We also know that climate change is increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.
The United Nations said earlier today that they were afraid that, as climate continues to change, it will eradicate 50 years of progress working on hunger and poverty. Why do we care about a changing climate? Because it's the hole in the bucket. If we care about people, if we care about poverty, if we care about hunger, if we care about lack of access to clean water, if we care about education, if we care about justice, climate change is the hole in the bucket. It's getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And we will not be able to fix these problems if we leave it out of the picture.
It's taking issues like hunger, issues like lack of access to clean water, issues like diseases nobody should be dying from in 2019, and it's making them worse. So why do we care about a changing climate? Not just because it exacerbates the risks we face, but because it affects all of us today, real people no matter where we live. And it affects the poorest and most vulnerable most.
And how does that connect directly up to what more than 75% of the population believes? Well, in Texas, they publish the Bible on road signs. And as this road sign says, that love thy neighbor thing, I meant it, signed God. So I hope you can see how these are smoke screens. Smoke screens, the idea that somehow the science isn't there, or somehow my faith gives me a free pass to not care, they are smoke screens. And what we really have to do is cut to the chase.
What is it? It's the idea that there aren't any solutions that I can be on board with as a smart person and a good person. Well, the good news is there are. And that's why, when we talk about climate change, that's the most important thing for us to talk about, solutions that help us, that make us more resilient in the face of a changing climate, and solutions that help wean ourselves off the fossil fuels that are causing this problem in the first place.
So what's the most important thing that we can do about a changing climate? Well, it might be a bit counterintuitive, but I truly believe it's talking about it. So this is what I talked about in my TED Talk. Now, when they asked me do my TED Talk, I said well, I want to talk about what we can do about climate change. Because we've already had like the climate modeling talk. You've already had to talk about clouds. You've already had a lot of talks by a lot of other scientists. So I want to talk about what we can do about it.
And they're, like, we already have TED Talks about light bulbs and recycling. I was, like, no, I don't want to talk about that. And they're, like, electric cars? No, I talked about that either. I want to talk about the fact that, when you survey people across the country, and you ask them, do you think global warming is real, do you think it affects plants and animals, do you think it affects future generations, most people say yes.
And then you say, do you think it affects people in developing countries, people who live in the US? Most people say yeah, pretty much yes. And you even ask people, do you think humans are causing it? And actually, the majority of people still say yes.
And then you ask people, do you think it will affect you. And all of a sudden, the answer is no. And then you say, do you ever talk about it? And the answer is just-- nobody ever talks about it. And if you don't talk about it, why would you care? And if you don't care, why would you ever act? So what can we talk about?
How can we have conversations about a changing climate that are relevant to people's lives, that are current, because there's so much looking for our attention today, that are constructive, that actually take us to a better place, and most of all, that are hopeful instead of leaving us paralyzed with fear. How can we have those conversations? Well, let me just put an asterisk on that for just a second.
This is the "Six Americas of Global Warming." It's a really useful tool that shows where people fall on the spectrum of how concerned they are about the impacts of a changing climate and how much they support climate action. We often feel as if it's either yes or no. And we feel as if the yeses and the nos are the same size, or maybe the nos are even bigger.
That's not the case. People who are truly dismissive-- and my definition of dismissive is, if an angel from God with brand new tablets of stone appeared before them, and they said global warming is real in foot-high letters of flame, they would still dismiss it. So who am I to think I could change their minds?
People who are truly dismissive are only 9% of the population, yet, they represent 90% of the online dialogue about climate change. So do not be deceived. There is no point talking to or reasoning with the 9%.
Because to them, changing their mind about a changing climate is asking them to change a port of their identity that is so profoundly part of them, it's almost like asking them to amputate a body part. I am not exaggerating. So with a dismissive person, a person whose ears and eyes are closed to anything they see, or anything you say, there is no constructive conversation.
But the good news is 91% of us aren't. And there, we absolutely can have positive, constructive conversations, not conversations where Suzy the scientist shows up with her million scientific reports. And Calvin, because he feels his identity is being threatened, Calvin responds something like this. How arrogant of you to say that I don't know. Let me school you. This was actually a real message I got from a student at Texas Tech. Don't worry, it's nobody you know.
These types of conversations dig a trench. They don't build a bridge. And they tend to end something like this.
So if we're not having a conversation with somebody who's dismissive, and we're not showing up with our pile of scientific reports to-- up to the roof, then we can have a constructive conversation. And that constructive conversation begins, not with what we disagree about, but what we agree about.
We have to begin the conversation with something we agree about. And if you don't know what you agree with somebody about, talk to them, and ask them questions, and get to know them. And if you don't find something that you can agree on, then you're not the right person to have that Conversation with them.
If you cannot begin a conversation with something that you truly genuinely agree with that person on, then it's not going to be a constructive conversation. But you can. And I'm going to give you some examples. And then we can connect the dots. We can say, well, because we both care about this, then that, surely, we would both care about climate change because it's affecting this thing that we both care about.
But then we can't end without talking about solutions. Because the main reason why 99.9% of people adopt the sciencey smoke screens and the religiousy smoke screens is not because they truly have a problem with basic science or what the Bible says. It's because they're afraid of the solutions. So we have to talk about the solutions in order to change people's minds.
So what do I mean by bonding over shared values? Well, do you both like hiking or birding or hunting or fishing? Do you enjoy the place where you live, and you live in the same place? Do you attend the same church? Are you both members of the Rotary Club? I'm not a Rotarian, but the first time I went to speak to a Rotary Club, I walk in, and they did me the courtesy of printing their values on a 4-foot banner at the door. I said, oh, you have these four rules. And let me look at these rules.
Is it truth? Yes, climate change is absolutely the truth. Is it fair? Absolutely not, it is not fair. It disproportionately affects the people who've done the least to contribute to the problem. Would it be beneficial to fix it? Yes, it would. So I rearrange my presentation into the four-way test. And I gave the four-way test on climate change to this group of West Texas business people.
And when I started, I can see that most of the body language was something like this. And the woman who invited me was getting a lot of side-eye. Like, we know you did this. And we won't forget. But then, as I started going through the four-way test, the arms kind of unfolded. And the bodies leaned forward a little bit. And then at the end, I will never forget. A local bank owner came up to me with the most bemused look on his face.
And he said, I never thought too much of this whole global warming thing, which is the very polite Texas way of saying, I thought it was a load of crap. I never thought too much of this, but it passed the four-way test. What can I do? It passed my value system. You connected the dots. I understand I'm a Rotarian. I go by the four-way test. It passed the test. All right.
It is so powerful to connect directly to people's values. Because he understood that caring about a changing climate made him an even more genuine Rotarian than he already was. Pretty cool. Then we can explain. We can talk about why it matters, why it matters to us no matter where we live. If we live on the coast, we're worried about stronger storms and rising seas.
If we live in the West, we're worried about wildfire and beetles eating millions of acres of trees. If we live up in the North where we're worried about falling permafrost and retreating sea ice. Wherever we live, we can connect the dots to how a changing climate is impacting whatever it is we care about-- our health, our kids, our city, our economy, our job opportunities, our national security. We can connect the dots on every single one of these.
And then, lastly, we cannot neglect this step. In fact, if you're going to skip any of these steps, skip the middle one, and go straight to the end. I recommend the three points, but if you don't have a lot of time. How can we work together to fix this in ways that are positive and compatible with our values? And here we can talk. We can talk about things we do ourselves. I love supporting the local farmer's market. Yeah, I did actually replaced my light bulbs.
At Texas Tech, we don't have citywide recycling. We did have it where you had to separate it all out a million different bins. And then one of our students actually followed the city trucks to see where they were taking all this carefully separated recycling. Turns out, they took it straight to the dump. But at the University, we have a recycling program run by students that supports 35 student scholarships off the proceeds of our trash. That's pretty cool.
Before Christmas, I got a weird call that somebody had pulled my credit records. And I was like, ooh, that doesn't sound good. So I said to my husband, I think I might have had a stolen identity or something. What should I do about it. And he's, like, nothing. What do you mean nothing? He's, like, I know about it. Well, what do you know about it? Oh, don't worry. I'm taking-- what are you doing? Why did you pull my credit records? Who has my social security number?
So I took a little while to actually work this out. But he finally caved in the night before Christmas. And it turned out that he had got us solar panels for Christmas. And not only that, but he got them. And see how fun this is to talk about? He got them from a company called Mission Solar in San Antonio that last time oil prices tanked, they took in out-of-work oil patch workers from the Permian Basin and retrained them to do permanent jobs as solar panel manufacturers. How cool is that?
What else can we talk about? Well, if you want ideas, you can go to a carbon footprint calculator, and you can find out where your carbon footprint comes from. And a good one will give you lots of ideas of what you can do in your life. But we can do more. We're going to talk about today. We can talk about what kids are doing. Aren't the kids amazing? They are incredible.
Yes. And they're not just leading the global voice. They are inventing things like algae biofuel under their beds. I'm dead serious. Our Global Weirding episode talks all about that stuff on kids. We can talk about what kids are doing, and they're amazing. We can talk about what churches are doing. Do you know how hard it is to get a permit to put solar panels on an 1,100-year-old cathedral? But they did it. And you can track their solar production online. They're very proud of it. It's Gloucester cathedral. The other one is St. Matthew's in Minnesota.
We can talk about what cities are doing-- green roof programs in Chicago, cities like Juneau, Alaska going carbon free. Those are the northern lights in the background. And they're running a carbon offset program for all the cruise ships that come in. That's pretty cool.
There's amazing stories that we can look for, and we can share. The fact that the richest company in the world, which is Walmart, is going 50% clean energy by 2025, and Apple, which I think is number 11 or 12, there already 100% clean energy. Did you know that?
It's a good conversation to have with somebody who cares about business. I like talking about what's happening in other places around the world, the fact that Ball State University, of all places, Ball State University is entirely powered by geothermal wells on campus. Who knew?
Did you know that Scotland is going to be home to the world's first tidal energy testing facility, that they've developed new, small, modular nuclear reactors that react so fast they don't produce waste, and they're small, and there are a lot more affordable? Who knew that? They're just testing them out now.
And did you know there's a company, Climeworks, which is a Swiss company that, in British Columbia, they built a factory that actually sucks carbon out of the air and turns it into liquid fuel. I think that's pretty cool. We can talk about what the world is doing, the fact that the biggest solar farm in the entire world is not in Arizona. It's in Morocco. Shouldn't it be in Arizona? Yes. That's a good talking point right there.
The biggest offshore wind farm in the world, it is in the UK. It should be in Texas. People in Texas with a yes. China has more wind and solar energy than any other country in the world. Is that OK with you, Uncle Joe, if you are so concerned about American leadership? No. These are the things that we can talk about.
And if you're looking for more suggestions, I love talking about what's happening in very unexpected places in the world, the fact that 70% of new electricity in the world last year, over 70% was clean energy in places where people don't have transmission lines or big power plants, but they can use a solar panel.
I don't know if you're familiar with Project Drawdown, Product Drawdown? OK, not enough people. Because Project Drawdown has ranked 100 solutions to climate change. And there are some very surprising ones on that list. Biochar-- the idea that by burning agricultural residue at high temperature, you can separate out the carbon, plow it back into the soil where it's like miracle grow on steroids. How did they figured this out? They've been doing it in the Amazon for centuries.
Clean cookstove programs save millions of lives a year and also reduce carbon emissions because we're not cutting down and burning trees and brush. Number six on their list is the education of women and girls. How could we not get behind that? It reduces the infant mortality rate, and it enables women to support their families.
And the number three on their list is kind of crazy. If it were its own country, food waste would be number three after China and the US for most heat-trapping gases per year. We throw away a third of the food that we eat. Reducing food waste is a huge way that we can all contribute and help with hunger at the same time.
So how do we talk about climate change? We start with what we agree on not with what we disagree on. And if we're disagreeing, that's not the time to have the constructive conversation. We connect the dots to why we care, but we don't stop until we've found ways that we can work together to act. Because the biggest question I get these days is, what gives you-- I'm sorry. There we go. The biggest question I get these days is, what gives you hope?
And what the social science is starting to tell us is hope is directly tied to our sense of efficacy. What does that mean? It means hope is tied to the idea that we can make a difference that we can act, that we have the ability to do so. So by acting ourselves and by seeing others who are acting and by sharing stories of people who are acting, that is what gives us hope. Because the numbers are one thing that we are missing now is a vision of a future that's better, not worse than the one we have today.
So that is what our conversations can do. It can give us that vision of a better future. It can instill us with hope and with a sense of efficacy because the reality is that, together, we truly can fix this thing. Thank you.
Katie and I have questions for you, but you have a different approach. And so let's go ahead and have you introduce that and get people involved in asking questions.
Yes, so we are doing questions two ways tonight. First of all, they collected questions ahead of time, which are really good questions. But not everybody got a chance to submit a question. So you're going to get your chance now. What you have to do is, you have to take out your phone, and you have to go to pollev.com. And when they ask you to enter it, you have to enter texastech. They asked for a name too, but don't worry about the name.
And then I'm going to go to the next page in a second-- pollev.com/texastech. Then, let's see, here we go. You can enter your question, or here's where it gets fun, you can upvote questions. Yes. So you can enter your own question, or you can look at everybody else's question, and you can upvote the ones we want to answer. Because we're not going to have time to answer all the questions we get, because they have a lot of good questions already.
So we're going to start with a few of their questions, and then we're going to pick the top few questions that you all have upvoted since then. Isn't that fun? So you can actually see it. When you've gone to pollev.com, and you've entered texastech, and you type in your question, you will see it appearing here, and then you'll start to see the ones that you can upvote too. You can also see him right on your phone. OK, let's go ahead and start.
Let me see. What's that?
All right. We're going to do a fun one first, if I can scroll down a little bit. All right. So my name is Reverend Katy Sexton. I'm with the Arizona Faith Network. Thank you for being here tonight. And I want to know-- this was submitted to us. Who are your heroes and sheroes in the fight for climate action?
I love that question. So when I was little, my parents were both teachers, and they read a book that says that television destroys children's brains. So we had no television growing up. But every Friday, my mother would go to the library-- bless the public library system. And she would rent movies. And when I say movies, I actually mean, like, the movies. It was like a movie projector. Those were the days because we didn't have a TV, so you couldn't play VHS, right?
And she would bring movies home. And some of the movies that I loved the best that she'd always bring home were of Jane Goodall. So Jane Goodall, when she was-- this is back in her early days when she was in the jungle with the chimpanzees. And that was amazing because I just took for granted that a young woman could be a scientist and could do whatever they wanted.
And I didn't even realize how much that influenced me until much later. And I actually got the chance to meet her a couple of years ago. Thankfully, she's still with us today. And it was just a really amazing experience to actually see the face that I had grown up watching on those old movies in the basement every Friday night.
But often we expect the names to be kind of big like that, but really, I am, these days, I'm inspired by all of the little stories that I hear. Some of the most inspiring stories have been just from people who you don't know and I didn't know either until I heard their story. But for example, I gave a talk in a church a year or two ago. And a dad was coming, and he had to bring his 9-year-old son because they didn't have a babysitter. And his son didn't really want to go.
And his dad's like, oh, you couldn't bring a book and just read it. So he brought his son. And the son was so interested he ended up listening to my whole talk. Then he went home, and he said, dad, what can I do? His dad's, like, I don't know. He's, like, I'm going to start a club at my school.
We're going to cut our energy use at my school. So he started an environmental club with his friends. They go through, and they turn off all the lights, and they tell people don't waste food, and they check all the recycling bins to make sure they got the right stuff in them.
And his dad said it changed his son's life. He comes home from school every day now so enthusiastic, full of stories, of-- you wouldn't believe Miss Hansen put the wrong thing in the recycling bin. And he knows, he and his friends know, that they are making a true difference. Doesn't that just melt your heart when you hear that?
Is this working? Oh, OK, this is a question that came from somebody in the audience. It might be possible to reduce our carbon emissions at the expense of other environmental crises that we face. For example, it might be possible to turn Arizona into one big solar array, but destroy human animal and plant communities in the process. What downsides to you to focusing so much on carbon reduction that we ignore the wider, deeper, environmental justice issues that we face?
OK. Well, so I have actually calculated this. And I can say that that's not needed. With current technology, to supply the entire United States, not just one state, but the whole state's, lower 48, with electricity would require a 100-by-100-square-mile area in West Texas. You're off the hook. Now, you wouldn't want to just do 100 by 100 square miles because there are transmission issues, and also that's a pretty large area. But we don't have to cover the whole state with solar panels.
In fact, one of the best places to put them are on top of existing buildings. It's not like we're using the space anyways. How many flat buildings are there around? Lots. So the reality is that, of course, we're worried because things are changing and things are moving fast and things are being left behind.
But again, the only reason we care about climate change is because it is a threat multiplier. It is exacerbating every issue we already care about today. It is exacerbating biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, issues of justice. It is disproportionately affecting people lower down the socioeconomic chain than people up above.
Globally, the difference between poor and rich countries, some of them have increased by 25% already because of a changing climate. So if we care about justice, we are the perfect person to care about a changing climate. Because if we allow it to continue to change, we will never solve the issues that we're working on today. But at the same time-- oh thank you. At the same time, though, we should be smart about it. We shouldn't neglect the other issues.
So one organization that I love-- and again, this is one of those little pieces of hope that you find everywhere. It's an organization in Minnesota called Fresh Energy. And they do solar planning and solar installation. But what they also do is they specialize in planting solar farms with pollinator-friendly native flowers. So they develop pollinator habitat with the solar panels. And I just think that that's like a perfect balance.
So what do you see as the value and role of nonviolent civil disobedience in the fight for climate justice? Well, I think we've seen that role with the climate strike. And what has it done? It has raised this issue to the top headlines. Nowadays, if you go to Google, CNN, Fox News, whatever you want, there is something there because people are showing up. Now, how we engage is not a one-size-fits-all. There is an entire spectrum of engagement.
I'm a scientist. In our community, many of the people I know and probably some people you know too, their best contribution is doing the science and publishing it. And frankly, the occasional the time they do stick their head outside the ivory tower, just kind of, like-- get back in there.
Keep doing the science. And it's, for some people, engaging a local school, writing an Op-Ed, talking to a local news reporter, getting on social media, doing videos, going and talking to an elected representative that you're in their district, for others then attending the strike, something that many of us academics did on the day of the strike last Friday.
We donated our daily salary to an organization that works for climate solutions. So there's an entire spectrum of engagement, and there is no one size fits all. But it is a wide spectrum with room for all up to the nonviolent, I would say personally, with room for all. And because of that, we can all engage at some level because there's room for all of us to contribute with our unique abilities. And that really, I think, is important. Now, do you think we should take a look here and see--
we have about 18 minutes of question and answer left. So let's go to questions from the audience OK, so you'll have to put this back up so we can see it. Oh, my gosh, 58 votes. We already have one with 58 votes, and we have one with 36 and 34. All right, you pick. That's cool, thank you for doing this.
Let's go with the top one.
All right. You want to read it out then?
How should we respond to a government that doesn't believe in climate science and dismisses solutions to climate change?
Well, as I said, the most important thing we can do is talk about this, how it matters to us, what we can do to fix it. The second most important thing we can do is join an organization that helps to amplify our voice and where we can join with like minded people to inspire each other and give each other hope. And then the third most important thing we can do is vote.
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]
But I think it's really important to remind us all that decisions are made at different levels. Decisions are made in organizations. Decisions are made at the city level, at the county level, at the state level, and at the federal level. Now, federal decisions make the headlines. But a lot of change is happening at the state level or below. And you know more than I do, all of the bills in Arizona, everybody looking at solar, all the things that are happening. There are changes that are happening.
And so when we go to talk to our politicians-- now, often, people might say, OK, that's fine that you talked about how to talk about climate change, but how you talk to a politician about climate change? Well, politicians are a type of human. And so you can talk to them like that. With a politician, though, it's even more important to make sure that you start the conversation with something that you agree with them on and that you are acknowledging them for.
Thank you for blank. Or I think it's great that blank, that you care about your people, that you really put Arizona first, that you whatever, whatever. And if you can't find something, again, you're not the person to have the conversation with them. So find something that you can truly, genuinely appreciate about them. And then, through that thing that you appreciate, connect the dots. Right to-- for a politician-- right to a solution-- a politician does not want to waste time. So connect what you appreciate about them directly to a solution.
And say, hey, for us, in this place, here's how it would benefit us. Understand the co-benefits, understand how it would help us in terms of maybe our air quality, our economy, other things in addition to carbon emissions. And give them a way to be a good guy. Because really, most of us do want to be the good guy. So give them a way to be the good person, and that's how we can affect change.
15:18.30] I want to go back to the poll. I saw on there I liked. Yeah, that next one. So what is your favorite example of you getting someone to see that climate change is real, and how did you achieve it?
Well, so here's an interesting thing. I'm going to tell you a story where I didn't convince somebody that climate change was human caused. OK, but you might say, well, why is that a success? Let me tell you. So a couple of years ago, I was asked to give a lecture in the UK. And going over this was the first time I'd really given a public lecture. I'd spoken in the UK before, but I was more like in a science context.
So I just thought to myself, oh, it's the UK. There's nobody here who doesn't think climate change is real. So I won't even bother talking about that. I'll just go right to talk about why it matters and what the latest science is telling us. Mistake-- because I have since learned that wherever you go there is always somebody, usually multiple somebody's, anywhere.
So afterwards, we're having tea, afternoon tea. And at the tea break, sure enough, an engineering professor marches up to me and has it out with me over uncertainty, over the arrogance of the community that thinks that we know what's happening when everybody knows that you can-- it's too uncertain to actually tell for sure. And that conversation did not end well.
So fast forward a year. And I was in Toronto. And my dad was presenting a paper at a conference at a nearby university in Hamilton McMaster University. And so he said, why don't you just come with me? So I said, sure, I'd be glad to go to your session. It would be interesting.
So I go to the session with my dad. And we go for lunch at the cafeteria. And I walk out, for some reason, by myself. I think my dad was doing something else. I walk out. The door slams behind me, and I'm locked out, and I don't know where to go to get back to the conference, and my phone is dead.
So I'm standing there wondering where am I going to go. And then I hear the door open behind me. I'm like, oh my goodness, there's somebody else coming at the door. This is great. I turn around, and guess who it is? Yeah, it's him from the UK. And I recognized him, and he recognized me. And we both looked at each other, and we're thinking the same thing. We're just going to be civil. We're just going to be civil.
So I said, well, do you know where we're going. Oh, I don't know let's walk this way. So we're walking together. And he's visibly struggling to find a topic of conversation that could be civil. So he looks in my bag. And he sees that I have knitting needles sticking out of my bag. And so he says, oh, do you knit? I said yes, I'm knitting my mom a birthday present. It's her birthday next week. And he says, oh, I knit too. I'm, like, really?
And he's, like, yes. And I don't believe that we should buy presents because I think we should make presents for people we love because we have too much stuff these days. And it's just all this plastic and this consumerism. We should just be making people things if we really care about them. I said yes, I couldn't agree more. So then, when I was enthusiastic, he really warmed to the theme.
He said, well, we don't just recycle. We upcycle. I made all of our furniture out of packing crates. We live close to the center of the town. I don't own a car. I only take one international trip a year. And he just described this most low-carbon lifestyle that you've ever heard of. And so when we got to the door, by the time he'd finished describing it, I turned to him, and I said, I wish that everybody in the world thought the same as you do about climate change if everybody in the world lived like you do.
He said, really. And I said, yes, really. So that was a conversation that ended with us agreeing on solutions. Because does it matter why he's doing it, if he's doing it for the wrong reason or the right reason? No. All that matters is that we actually do it. So I think I learned more from that conversation than he learned.
Well, people want to know what are some of the key habits that they can focus on and think about and change in their daily life.
OK. My first answer to that is probably going to be a bit surprising to you. One of the key habits that we need to change is we need to stop passively absorbing bad news, and we have to actively go out and look for hope. Hope will not find you. Bad news will find you. Just cast your eye down any news website, and it's bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. So one of the most important habits that we need to change is to actually actively go out and look for good news and share that good news.
Because without hope, we are going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. So the biggest habit that I have used to change my life is that habit of looking for good news and making sure that I share that good news with others. And sometimes the good news can be something I do. Every year I try to do one more thing.
So sometimes it's big things; sometimes it's small. I've managed to transition about 80% of my talks to virtual talks. And in fact, I've given two previous talks at ASU that were both virtual talks. This is the first in-person one. I only travel want to have a critical mass. My critical mass today was two panels and one lunchtime lecture at the Geological Society of America and then two presentations tomorrow morning also before I head out.
Little things like switching to a recycled toilet paper. I decided to stop grocery shopping once every two weeks and grocery shop with only one bag or maybe two at the most every two days to reduce food waste. And our fridge is almost empty, and we don't hardly waste a thing. I think I did throw out a peach last week.
But that's about it. And they used to be a lot more than that. So we can do things, and we can talk about those things. We can just change little habits, but not everything at the same time. One at a time-- but the most important thing we can do is to change our attitudes.
So we have a lot of questions about your journey. And so this one came from someone in the audience saying, I'm curious to hear about your personal journey from a climate scientists to a climate communicator, and how did you manage to do both within academia? So I never really intended to be on this pathway. I had no idea that any of this was even possible. But we were living up in South Bend, Indiana. My husband was at the University of Notre Dame. I was a researcher at the University of Chicago and also doing consulting.
And he was asked to move to Lubbock, Texas to pastor a church there. And he said, well, I can't really pastor a church. I'm a professor. And they're like, well, maybe you could be a professor in Lubbock.
So he said, OK, well, sure, there's a university there that actually happens to have a program in his specific field, which is applied linguistics. And they actually had a program in my field, atmospheric science. And he said, well, she doesn't have a job at Notre Dame. We'd rather live in the same place. So we'll just put in our CVs to Texas Tech and see what happens.
And I figured that was pretty safe. I mean, what are the chances, right, that you're going to get both get a job in the same place? Well, it turned out, they really wanted him. And they wanted him so badly they were willing to take the climate scientist to get him. And I'm not exaggerating. That was exactly the way it went. So here we are, moving down to Texas. And by that time, I had figured out that there was a lot of people who didn't think climate change is real, and most of them lived in Texas.
So I'm thinking, what's going to happen when I show up here as a climate scientist? And what happened was really interesting because, within three months of showing up, I got my first invitation to speak to a women's group. And I had never really given presentations outside the ivory tower. I had given one or two presentations from the community group that were more into it than I was. But this was the first time I'd got an invitation to speak to a group that had questions. And so I said, well, sure, I would love to speak to them. So I went, and I did my best.
And I got a ton of questions at the end. And so I took those questions back. And then, when I got another invitation a few weeks later from a woman who had been there asking me to come speak to another group, I changed my presentation so it answered the questions that I got, and then I gave that presentation. And then I listened very carefully to the questions they had. And I changed my presentation again so that when I spoke to the senior citizens home, I answered those questions.
And it just kind of snowballed from there. Because I realized-- and I have to give full credit to all of these people who invited me-- they had questions, and they were willing to get somebody in who they weren't totally sure about. But if they were from the University, they might be OK.
They were willing to get somebody in to answer those questions. And the fact that I could answer their questions, and I could see minds and hearts changing, and I could see people realizing that, hey, this thing does matter, how could I not do that?
Well, we probably have room for maybe two more questions in the time that we have. Let me focus on this one first. We talk about climate change, global warming, reducing emissions. The question is, do those terms just mask the root cause of the problem, that is, an extractive, exploitative economy based on infinite growth on a finite planet?
So I am a big believer in using whatever words we need to connect to people. So if you use that phrase, with some people, it will connect immediately. If you use it with other people, it will immediately shut the doors. If you say global warming to some people, that's the end of the conversation. If you say global warming to other people, they're, like, tell me more.
So a few years ago, I was asked to speak at an association of water managers in Texas. So in Texas, the water districts are now controlled by the water managers. And it's a very conservative but really knowledgeable group, mostly engineers. So I went. And on the docket, we had a state senator who rejects climate science, and then we had the head of a state agency who rejects climate science, and then they had me.
So I decided that I was going to try something that I hadn't done before. Every one of my presentations is a little bit of an experiment sometimes. I decided I was going to give a whole presentation where I never mentioned the words climate change in sequence. Talk about long-term trends.
Talk about climate variability. Talk about getting warmer, getting drier, El Nino, even showed future projections as well as historical data. So I gave the exact presentation I would normally give to group of water engineers. But I decided that I wasn't going to step on any of those mines.
So at the end, everybody applauded. There were no rotten tomatoes that were thrown. And the best part was that there was this woman who was waiting to come up. And so as I ended, she ran up to the front, she grabbed my hand, and she pumped my hand enthusiastically.
She said that was great. I agree with everything you've said. It just makes sense. Those people who talk about global warming. I don't agree with them at all, but this, this makes sense. So I am a big fan of calling it whatever we need to call it to get through to people to help them understand why and how it matters to them.
All right, our last question, so let's see what everyone voted. All right. We asked that one. So we're going to go down to 31. As a geoscientist, I'm often met with the argument that clean energy is not clean, that given the footprint it requires to create-- your thoughts.
Oh, there's a short answer to that. If you just look for lifecycle emissions, people have actually calculated what the carbon footprint of a wind turbine is, for example, and how long you have to operate the wind turbine to pay off the carbon it took to manufacture it. And it's on the order of months, not years. People also get into extractive industries. So you know, all the rare earth metals that you need to manufacture the batteries. And of course we need to do that better, for sure.
But let's just stop here for a second. We are talking about, if we continue to use fossil fuels over the rest of the century the way we have over the past century, we are looking at the possible extinction of 30% of the world's species. We are looking at 2/3 of the world's biggest cities being underwater from sea level rise. And we are looking at pretty much the end of civilization and possibly democracy as we know it.
So putting these things in perspective, yes, we need to move forward. Yes, we need to do much better in the way that we live sustainably within our planetary boundaries for sure. But if we don't fix climate change, we will not be worrying about any of those things. So we really, really have to move forward on this.
This is a follow up question. Do you think it's too late?
So I would say the number one question that I get these days is, how do you find hope? And the second question is, is it too late? And the answer to both those questions are kind of similar. So some amount of change is inevitable. It's as if we've been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for decades.
The impacts are here today. And we also know that a certain amount of impacts are already baked into the system because the climate system right now is responding to our past emissions.
But just like somebody who's been smoking a pack a day, we might have impaired lung function, but we don't have lung cancer, and we're certainly not dead. So when's the best time to stop? Now. If not now, as soon as possible. Is there a magic number or threshold? Is 1 and 1/2 degrees or 2 degrees or 12 years or 11 years, is that some magic threshold where, if we stay just below it, we'll be fine, but if we just go a little bit over it, we're going to hell in a handbasket? No.
Just like there's no magic number of cigarettes you can smoke, there's no magic amount of carbon we can produce. But we do know this, the more carbon we produce, the worse the impacts. It is not too late. In fact, I study the difference that our choices make.
And I can tell you, the difference between a future where we continue to depend on fossil fuels versus a future where we transition as soon as we can to clean sources of energy is the difference, again, between our civilization continuing or not. That's what we're fighting for today, and it is not too late to make that choice.
Well, we're so grateful to have you here. The groups that helped plan this event are very pleased, and we're so happy to work with the School of Sustainability, one of always our best partners here doing such good work. They have a tradition there are to give a gift to the Wrigley speakers. And so this is an Arcosanti bell that is made from the earth here in Arizona. And you don't need to worry about carrying it on the plane with you. We'll mail it to you.
We want to say thank you so much. So would you join with me?
This presentation is brought to you by Arizona State University's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability for educational and noncommercial use only.