EDIT: Thank you so much for these amazing questions!

We didn't talk much about the National Climate Assessment, but if you'd like to know more about how climate change is already affecting the places where we live, please see nca2018.globalchange.gov and check out the short episodes we created that explain climate impacts for each US region (and Canada) with PBS Digital Series, Global Weirding -> http://www.globalweirdingseries.com/

I also tackle many other frequently asked questions on my Quora feed -> https://www.quora.com/profile/Katharine-Hayhoe/answers

Bye for now!

Hi Reddit! I'm Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist studying climate change—one of the most pressing issues we face today. I was a lead author for the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment. It was released this past November on Black Friday, a day notorious for lack of media coverage — but it got a lot of notice anyways because we’re already starting to see the impacts of a changing climate today, in the places where we live.

I'm here with Melville House, who recently published the book as a paperback in hopes of sparking visibility, conversation, and action.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KHayhoe

Watch my TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/katharine_hayhoe_the_most_important_thing_you_can_do_to_fight_climate_change_talk_about_it

Check out the book: https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/the-climate-report/

Find an environmental reading group:http://climatereport.org

Proof: https://twitter.com/KHayhoe/status/1098626225201922049

Comments: 91 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

KelvinsBeltFantasy20 karma

Have we crossed the point of no return?

MelvilleHouse26 karma

The answer is yes - and no! Some impacts are already inevitable. But the idea that it’s all over, so we may as well just give up, is not just a myth: it’s a dangerous one.

That’s because there is a huge difference – what may possibly be the difference between civilization as we know it versus a world we wouldn’t recognize – between a future where we continue to depend on fossil fuels as our primary energy source versus a world where we rapidly reduce and eventually eliminate our emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

And what’s the main factor responsible for this difference? Our choices.

It’s true that since the beginning of the industrial revolution the average temperature of the earth has already warmed by a degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. And even if there were a magic switch we could flip today that would turn off all our coal, oil and gas immediately, we’d still see some warming from what we’ve put up in the atmosphere.

But just like when a doctor tells us our arteries aren’t looking great and we need to make some lifestyle changes right away, it’s not too late to change. In the same way, human activities have already altered the climate, and some – like Louisiana’s tribes who are becoming climate refugees after persistent flooding is forcing them to relocate, and the people of Kivalina, Alaska, who are seeing the permafrost their homes are built on thaw and crumble into the ocean – are already experiencing dangerous impacts.

But the quicker we replace our old, dirty ways of getting energy with new, clean sources, the less temperature change we’ll see, and the lower the risk of serious and even very dangerous consequences for all of us: dangerously hot summers, reduced crop yields, stronger droughts, more intense hurricanes, greater areas burned by wildfire, and all the ways these impact our lives, our health, and the economy right here in the places where we live, and around the world.

That’s why, when it comes to climate change, it’s not too late to act.

But the window of opportunity is closing fast. And that’s why it’s so important to tell our leaders - at our organization, school, business, university, church; our city, state, province, or region; and of course our national leaders too - that we couldn’t care less whether they “believe” in climate change or not. What we need to know how they plan to fix it, now, before it really is too late.

For more, see our short Global Weirding episode that asks, “it’s too late to do anything about climate change, right?” -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv7zFAdZ6LI

- Katharine

National_Swordfish14 karma

Do you have a go-to elevator speech for climate change deniers?

MelvilleHouse15 karma

I literally do! Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGmk-4bpIVs
But to learn more about why and what I would say, as well as what works versus what doesn't, please give our short Global Weirding episode a watch, "if I just explain the facts, they'll get it .. right?" (the answer is NO!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkMIjbDtdo0
- Katharine

Gearboks10 karma

Exactly how disheartening is it to be a climate scientist during this administration and what measures can we, as a population, take to make progress on climate policy change in spite of it?

Edit: wording

MelvilleHouse9 karma

It is frustrating, that's for sure. As a lead author on the National Climate Assessment, I dedicated hundreds of unpaid hours to a very important report that was met with dismissal and outright falsehoods from the administration when it was released, including the idea that somehow we were "doing this for the money." If you'd like to see a list of these myths, and my responses, check out this Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/khayhoe/status/1067450865303330818?lang=en

However, the interesting thing is that because the administration can't stop talking about climate change - the latest being this attempt to "decide" whether climate change poses a threat to national security, despite the fact that everyone from four-star generals to the CIA has already weighed in on this and concluded that yes, it does - we are hearing about it a LOT more in the news. Coverage of climate change is way up the last two years and although a big part of that is the fact that we are now seeing and experiencing its impacts in the places where we live, part of that is also the fact that those who want to dismiss climate science, impacts, and solutions just can't stop themselves from talking about it. Which means in turn that WE talk about it a lot more!

The latest poll results from the Yale Program on Climate Communication shows that a record high number (6 out of 10) Americans are now either concerned or flat-out alarmed about climate change. Is it enough to make people start voting about climate change? I'm not sure it is, yet. But it's definitely moving in the right direction. And part of that is because we can no longer just shrug and say oh, if it gets to be a big enough problem I'm sure the government will take care of it. Today, we know they will not. And that means that we can't abnegate our responsibility any more: it's up to each one of us to make it clear that it's time to act.

- Katharine

silence78 karma

What's the best way to open a conversation with our peers about climate?

MelvilleHouse11 karma

Aha - this is my favourite question!

The best way to start a conversation is not with something depressing or scarey about the science, and definitely not with something that is politically controversial -- unless your friend(s) would agree with you on it. The best place to start a conversation is with something that we both agree about, we're interested in, and we care about. Then, connect the dots to why, given what you both agree on, you're concerned about a changing climate. And finally, make sure to have an example (or a few) of a positive, helpful solution that they can get on board with and feel hopeful about.

For example: I live in West Texas, where people care a LOT about water. We never have enough of it, unless we have too much. So when I talk to farmers, and producers, and water managers, I start with talking about our droughts and floods and how bad they've been, and what their experience has been like. Then, I share my concerns on how our rainfall cycle is becoming even more extreme: stronger, longer droughts interspersed with even heavier rain events. Finally, I talk solutions: planning, conservation, and the fact that wind and solar energy doesn't need any water, whereas fracking and power generation from fossil fuels does. Here's an example of me talking about climate change to people in Texas -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJhczZdnl_4

if I'm talking to a church group, or students at a Christian college, I begin with what we believe: that God created this amazing universe we live in, gave us responsibility to care for every living thing on the planet, and called us to care for the less fortunate among us, the very people who are most affected by and vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate. Then I talk about solutions that can help people, alleviating poverty, hunger, disease - and fixing climate change at the same time. Here's an example of that type of talk -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPyXgfuwMUQ

If I'm talking to someone who shares my interests in skiing... well, direct connection there! Warmer winters -> less snow. Someone who lives along the coast -> rising sea level and falling property prices. Not to mention stronger hurricanes. The economy? The fact that there's more jobs in the solar energy industry than the coal industry, and for five years in a row now the fastest-growing job in the US according to the Bureau of Labor has been either wind energy or solar technician.

I did a TED talk recently on exactly this topic - if you'd like more examples, including what happened when the Rotary Club invited me to speak, please check it out! -> https://www.ted.com/talks/katharine_hayhoe_the_most_important_thing_you_can_do_to_fight_climate_change_talk_about_it?language=en

- Katharine

VelociraptorRedditor4 karma

I work in the air pollution regulatory field, so it's kind of disheartening to go to work knowing what we should be regulating but not doing anything about it.

Given that we may have already passed certain milestones, and that CO2 can stay in the atmosphere for a long time if there's no uptake, and that certain consequences relative to our current 410ppm situation will not be seen for years, it seems our only hope is mass carbon capture directly from the atmosphere. There are some companies that are working on this with one having some backing from Bill Gates. Why isn't there massive funding going to develop this? Direct from source and direct from atmosphere CC need to be viable quickly.

MelvilleHouse4 karma

I could not agree more! Efforts to grow algae biofuel and the work of organizations like Climeworks is fascinating (turning CO2 into stone, or even into carbon-neutral fuel) and a price on carbon would help this type of effort advance more quickly through incentivising the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

- Katharine

Rizzairl3 karma

How realistic is it that humanity will take the steps to save itself given we live in a profit driven world?

MelvilleHouse13 karma

With 9 out of the 10 richest corporations in the world owing their wealth either partly or entirely to the extraction, processing, sale, and/or use of fossil fuels, there's no getting around the fact that weaning ourselves off fossil fuels implies a shift in the balance of power and wealth in the world of a magnitude that has not occurred since the end of slavery. When, to be blunt, fossil fuels replaced slavery as the source that powered the economy. For more on that challenging thought, read: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/feb/03/fossil-fuels-slavery

But - slavery ended. And so too will the fossil fuel era. Already, there's more jobs in solar than coal in the US. World-wide, renewables are far and away the fastest growing source of new energy. Here in Texas, the prices of wind and solar are often on par with, and sometimes even below, natural gas. Battery and storage technology is advancing quickly as well, and prices there are dropping too. China leads the world in wind and solar energy, and it's clear that clean energy will be what powers the future. The question is only: will this happen fast enough to avoid the most serious and even dangerous impacts of climate change.

I don't know the answer to that question. But I do know that we have to do everything we can to try: because if we don't, the answer is inevitable and we will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

- Katharine

Argmaxwell3 karma

Hi, I'm a 18 year old high school student who is very afraid of climate change and would like to go into filmmaking. How exactly can my major help with fighting the problem?

Also, how do you feel about things like the impossible burger? Do you see a future in vegan food that tastes like meat to help people make the change?

MelvilleHouse3 karma

I love this! You are doing exactly the right thing: study what you love, and then use the skills you have to help change the world.

We desperately need a vision of a better future, and who better to give us that vision than film and the arts?

I'm not a filmmaker, but I loved being involved in the Years of Living Dangerously, because they used their skills to put a human face on the impacts and the solutions to climate change. Check out their series; I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me!

- Katharine

PS> There are a lot of other good movies and documentaries as well. In fact, in my graduate class I make my students each choose one and watch it and critique it. Before the Flood, the Island President, Decoding the Weather Machine, and many, many more.

JaCoBaLlEn3 karma

Favorite soup?

MelvilleHouse2 karma

Almost any. I own the Soup Bible.

sharma-hajji3 karma

Thank you for the discussion, my question is if we continue on this trend when will earth become uninhabitable to the human species?

MelvilleHouse9 karma

If the world warmed by 12C, approximately 1/3 of the land area on the planet would be uninhabitable because it would be too hot for the human body and coastal areas that currently house many hundred million people and more than two-thirds of the world's largest cities would be permanently inundated.

However, long before we get to that amount of change, the other impacts of climate change and their repercussions on our society, the economy, migration and more will more than likely have led to the end of civilization as we know it and likely decimated the human population as well, to the extent that our carbon emissions are no longer significant.

So, in brief, will the earth still be habitable for humans even if climate change continues unchecked? Yes, it will. But it won't be pleasant. And that's why it's so important to fix this thing, now. The planet will survive. The question is, will civilization?

- Katharine

blueberry_moose2 karma

as a PhD student in climate science, I've been discouraged by (some) senior faculty members from being involved in any climate change activism. they say it will make people question your objectivity as a scientist and will look bad when applying for academic jobs later on. How would you respond to these people and what are some impactful things PhD students can do that won't comprise their academic career?

MelvilleHouse6 karma

Unfortunately, that is an attitude I'm all too familiar with. But you know what? It's changing fast.

I talk to grad students and postdocs all over the country and there are hundreds who share your concerns and your interests. I also talk to faculty and I know of many who would see your activism as a positive, not a negative -- as long as your academic credentials are on par with your peers. Our scientific societies and organizations even support this - the AGU Climate Communication Prize, the Climate One Steve Schneider award, and more.

So my best advice to you is to do exactly what I did myself: make sure that your publications, presentations and (later on) proposals are irreproachable and follow your heart - then let the dice fall where they may.

And if you're interested in working with your fellow graduate students right now, I'd love to put you in touch with another student at Stanford who's exploring ways to do this. Send me a message here -> http://katharinehayhoe.com/wp2016/contact/

- Katharine

Amathyst75642 karma

My dad doesn’t believe climate change because his google search has shown that isotopes taken out of the ground has proved that over the long haul earth has been getting warmer since forever. What do I tell him?

Veriyasi on YouTube said that we were actually due for a cold decline by now if it wasn’t for global warming but didn’t talk anything else about that. I feel it’s connected.

MelvilleHouse5 karma

Please see this Global Weirding episode on natural factors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5_zpjerQFo

And this one on how to talk about this with people who disagree: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkMIjbDtdo0

And then check out this amazing list of resources that answers just about every "but what about...?" question you've ever heard: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

- Katharine

Butler-of-Penises2 karma

What do you think of the Gov trying to use carbon taxes? Do you think that will actually be effective? Seems like to me it might be them just taking advantage of a crisis to get more money out of the people, especially when things like war and agriculture are FAR more damaging to the environment right now. What steps would you suggest the US Gov should take to combat climate change?

MelvilleHouse5 karma

As a scientist, I'm for any policy that (a) reduces and eventually eliminates carbon emissions, and (b) has broad bipartisan support (because otherwise it won't last beyond the next election).

A price on carbon appears to have both, but I agree with silence below: the funds collected must be used to offset the costs to individuals, particularly those who already spend most of their income on food and transportation, as well as to help with efficiency programs and other relevant and important efforts to cut carbon and cut costs. If the money just disappears into the government coffers, no one is going to be happy about that and it will not last.

- Katharine

awesomattia2 karma

Dear Dr. Hayhoe,

Thank you for doing an AMA!

As a physicist, I often feel compelled to do my best to engage in discussions with people who deny or minimise the effect of CO2 as a drive for the current climate change. Most arguments that are brought up by these "sceptics" are rather easy to refute, but there are two that I tend to struggle with. I am hoping you can provide me with some additional ammunition.

1) There are physicists and mathematicians who argue against trusting climate models, because the models are highly non-linear. Obviously, looking at averaged quantities like a global mean surface temperatures averages out fluctuations, such that you could argue that these quantities are more robust, but still your models are ultimately unstable. I personally do not find this argument convincing, since it is kind of an asymptotic claim. In other words, models will become unstable at some point in time, but this does not imply that you cannot make predictions on transient time scales. I believe that for quantities such as global mean surface temperature you generally estimate stability by using various models, and running them with many slightly different initial conditions. Scientifically literate sceptics usually counter this argument by saying that it implicitly assumes that your fluctuations are not too "wild", which is not completely evident for non-linear models. All of the above would essentially be applicable to any non-linear dynamical system, so my question is whether there are some climatological arguments to estimate the time scales over which climate models should be stable (or stable enough to make useful predictions)?

2) Some people also argue that the warming we see now could just be a natural fluctuation (a bit like a rogue wave at the see). The counter argument is that, when you look at the historic record, the presently observed warming trend (and in particular the time scale over which it takes place) is unprecedented in the last ~100000 years (?). My question is two-fold: Do we really have enough temporal resolution in historical data to see a sharp rise and fall in temperatures that only lasts ~100 years? If so, how far in time can we go back and still have enough resolution to see such an event?

I am sorry for the long questions, in particular since the answers are probably available in the scientific literature. Still, I hope you could help me understand these aspects a bit better (even if it were by just directing me to some references). Thank you!

MelvilleHouse4 karma

My own background is in physics so I completely understand this compulsion :) The science is so clear and so basic, how could people truly not understand it if we explain it to them?

Sadly, however, social science has shown that the smarter we are, and the better we are at quantitative reasoning, the better we are at cherry-picking data points and explanations that support rather than challenge what we consider to be an essential part of our identity (i.e. rejecting climate change). Even worse, arguing facts and data can backfire, causing people to dig in even deeper. This super-short Global Weirding episode breaks it down; please give it a watch!

To your questions, however, there absolutely are answers. First, regarding climate models, evaluating the models, kicking their tires, and finding out where they fail is a big part of my own research. And as I talk about here, those of us who work with models on a regular basis are very cognizant of where they fail. However, what people who use the "all models are wrong" argument fail to recognize is that they are focusing on the internal noise rather than the external signal. Specifically:

  • While the system is full of non-linearities that affect weather and even climate over time scales from seconds to decades, these fluctuations remain within a given bound, constrained by external forcing which determines the net inflow and outflow of heat to the earth's climate system. And it's this external forcing that's changing.
  • The basic thermodynamics that explains how increasing the amount of heat trapped inside the climate system will warm the planet has been well understood since the 1890s. Arrhenius calculated the first climate model by hand: and he was right. We don't need computers; it's just basic physics. More here.
  • There are non-linearities or feedbacks within the system; and it is clear from comparing observations with model simulations that: (a) these are acting to amplify the effect of external forcing, and (b) climate models under-estimate these feedbacks over the long term. Which is one of the things I personally consider to be most frightening about the unprecedented experiment we're conducting with the planet.
  • Finally, and most tellingly, anyone who argues that a natural fluctuation or variability is causing warming is completely ignoring the basic principle of conservation of energy. Natural cycles don't and can't create heat. They alter temperature simply by moving heat around the earth system: from east to west, north to south, ocean to atmosphere, and back again. A classic example is the so-called Medieval Warm Period which, if you lived in Siberia, would have been called the Medieval Ice Age because while one part of the world was unusually warm, another was unusually cold. Today, however, the heat content of the entire planet (ocean, atmosphere, land surface and cryosphere) is increasing in the amount of approximately 4 Hiroshima bombs' worth of energy per second, and that heat has to be coming from somewhere. It can't just be a natural cycle because that would mean heat was being spontaneously created from nothing. (I suppose you could imagine a scenario where a natural cycle was triggering some type of systematic change in cloud properties which were in turn altering the radiative balance of the climate system .. but such a change would be eminently observable and obvious, and no one has observed it!).

I hope this helps! You may enjoy Real Climate, a blog written by many climate scientists and physicists that discusses recent research as well as more detailed issues like this. You would probably also enjoy this study we did, where we re-analyzed 38 publications from scratch and found an error in each that, when corrected, brought their conclusions or findings into line with the consensus in the scientific literature.

- Katharine

hungaryforchile2 karma

Hey Katharine! As a fellow Christian, environmentalist, and Texan, let me say how excited I was to find you and your work!

My question is, how do you engage with conservative Christians in a way that helps them see past the politics, and acknowledge that stewarding the Earth toward flourishing, not just survival, is actually an important part of being a Christian?

MelvilleHouse3 karma

Awesome!

Please see my answer above about how to talk about climate change, and check out my TED talk.

Then, for more detail, see our Global Weirding episodes on what does the Bible say about climate change, if I just tell them the facts surely they'll change their minds, and the episode about Texas as well.

And finally, for a model, here is a sermon I gave recently.

The bottom line is this: if we are a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, then we shouldn't just be on board with climate action - we should be at the front of the line, demanding it.

- Katharine

b8korb2 karma

How do you remain indefatigable where unrestrained self-interest seems able to make so many of the crucial decisions?

Personally, I'm defatigable (fatigued), just also aware there's no choice. We really do have about a decade.

MelvilleHouse2 karma

Hope is what inspires me, and hope is not going to find me if I sit passively waiting for it to show up. We have to go out and actively look for hope: in clean tech news, in unexpected actors, in small changes like the student in a class at a Christian college I skyped into last night who, after my talk, shared that she'd never been concerned about climate change before, but now she realised that it really did matter and she wanted to talk about it!

I absolutely do get tired, and frustrated, and exhausted. And taking the time we need to recharge our batteries is essential. But acting is what gives me hope, most of all -- so my very best recommendation would be to look for people or an organization that shares your interests, and join it! When you're down, someone else will be up; and by sharing our voices, we can make ourselves heard.

- Katharine

whsettle1 karma

It seems the polar vortex/wobbly jet stream seems to funnel arctic air down through the mid-western states and eastward. I live just north of Seattle and wonder if we are somehow protected from these polar blasts due to geographic constraints of the Cascade and Rocky Mountains, and/or proximity to the Pacific coast? Or should we expect to also see the polar vortex at some time in the future? Thanks and keep up your great work (and don’t let the deniers get you down)

MelvilleHouse1 karma

Yes, you are! The Rockies have a tendency to funnel that cold air all the way down the central plains to Texas. If anyone's interested in learning more about the connection between winter weather and climate change, this is a great explainer, with more details provided here (Don is my former PhD advisor). And thank you for your kind words :)

- Katharine

DankensteinsMonster1 karma

What's your opinion on The Green New Deal? If not the Green New Deal, what sort of legislative avenues should politicians be pursuing?

MelvilleHouse3 karma

It is currently the only proposal in the US that is ambitious enough to achieve the carbon reductions needed to avoid dangerous impacts. If politicians don't like it, the onus is on them to recommend an alternative that accomplishes the same goal in a different way. As a scientist, I am agnostic regarding the methods used, as long as the goal of reducing and eventually eliminating emissions is accomplished and people who are economically disadvantaged are not disproportionately harmed.

- Katharine

krishna_t1 karma

Technologically speaking, how far are we from controlling the weather in any meaningful way (Cloud seeding, etc)?? Is it a active area of research seeing the current climate trend.

MelvilleHouse1 karma

Cloud seeding has been done for a long time already! But geoengineering the entire planet is a very different proposal. We know how to do it; the concern is the side-effects. Right now, geoengineering the planet through solar radiation management would be like giving every human on the planet the same experimental drug before it passed the FDA tests (eek). We have a short Global Weirding episode about it, if you'd like to learn more.

- Katharine

kyliztu1 karma

Thank you for doing an AMA Dr. Hayhoe! I’m an Environmental Geoscience major at Texas A&M. Climate science and policy are some of the things that have interested me the most in my academic career. However I’m still not sure what exact career path I wanna take. It seems like all my peers want to end up working for the oil and gas industry, but that’s simply not what I’m interested in at all. I know every college graduate has the mentality of changing the world as soon as they leave school, but this truly is what I have always aspired and what made me choose Environmental Science as a major. What steps can I take next to begin my career in climate science policy that could lead me to be a part of something ‘big’ to help improve our planet?

MelvilleHouse1 karma

I would recommend looking for some people and organizations who are doing things that you're potentially interested in. Write a very nice, short email asking if they would be willing to grant you a 30-min informational interview over the phone. Craft your questions carefully: ask them about their background, what they do now, and what advice they'd give you. Do a few of these and I can guarantee it will help you narrow down (or expand) your options!

- Katharine

_sparrowprince1 karma

How do you feel about civil disobedience to get governments to act on climate change?

MelvilleHouse2 karma

There is a broad spectrum of engagement on this issue. I feel strongly that where we each decide to focus on that spectrum is a personal choice, and I respect those who have decided that is their best option to make their voice heard.

- Katharine

athleteathletos1 karma

could you enlighten on the current weather situation that hits the United States (snow in Vegas and Seattle, >40 inch of snow in Midwest etc.)?

MelvilleHouse3 karma

"It's cold outside, where's global warming now?" is one of the most frequent questions I hear from November to April, so we've got a Global Weirding episode on that! Please give it a watch.

- Katharine

Lv161 karma

Do you think our current politicians who talk about climate change are doing a good job of explaining the situation to the masses? If so, who has the right approach? If not, how would you like to see them go forward in order to generate more support?

MelvilleHouse5 karma

I would like to see the politicians across the entire political spectrum accept that climate is changing and the impacts are serious, then argue constructively about what is the best way to fix this problem in ways that benefit individual people more than they benefit the fossil fuel industry.

- Katharine

sachinjoseph_1 karma

Someone just recently said to me that the sea level rise problem that's affecting countries like Kiribati is just erosion and that there's no climate change element. Can you give us a scientific explanation as to why it's not just erosion? Thanks!

MelvilleHouse2 karma

Ha! It's a very common argument, but the answer is simply, because sea level is rising and we can measure it, all over the world. Here is more info: https://www.skepticalscience.com/sea-level-not-rising.htm

- Katharine

sachinjoseph_1 karma

How effective are personal choices like cutting down on red meat or using public transportation with respect to the scale at which emissions must be curbed?

MelvilleHouse3 karma

Individual choices control about 30% of emissions (the exact number depends on our own lifestyle and the country we live in) - so they are important, but they are not sufficient. That's why my TED talk is called, "The most important thing you can do to fight climate change is .. talk about it!" Because survey data shows the real problem is no one thinks it matters; and if we don't think it matters, why would we advocate for, support, and vote for action? The sad answer is, we wouldn't. So while I certainly do what I can to reduce my carbon footprint, I also spend as much time as I can telling people why that matters: even if that involves flying (tho I do what I can to keep that low!). To fix this thing we need systematic change!

- Katharine

nojah_bloke1 karma

I’ve sort of ruled out the idea of having kids cause I’m not sure the earth will survive long enough before something horrible and apocalyptic goes down. Am I just being paranoid/crazy?

MelvilleHouse7 karma

No, you aren't; there are a lot of other people who are with you! But on the other hand - how are we going to fix this thing if we don't inspire the next generation with hope?

So whether we have kids or not, I highly recommend actively looking for opportunities to support our kids' efforts (and by "our," I mean all of ours, not just those related to us by blood!). Last night I was at our regional science fair, and some of the kids' projects -- water filtration powered by solar energy, algae biofuels, drought-resistant plants and more -- were just amazing. Then there's the kids like Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villasenor and thousands more around the world, from Belgium to India to the US, who are striking for climate.

When I'm asked to speak to a class, I ALWAYS say yes because it is so important that they understand not only what is going on, but what they can do to help.

I can't make any more specific recommendations without knowing more about your interests and abilities, but I do know that there are dozens of ways to plug in and help, through volunteer programs and more, that invest in kids' lives AND encourage and support them to make a difference in the world.

If you'd like to learn more about how amazing and inspirational kids can be, check out my personal favourite of all our Global Weirding episodes, "I'm only a kid so I can't do anything about climate change .. right?" -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PslL9WC-2cQ

- Katharine

dacola1 karma

Atmospheric science PhD student here. At a talk the other day it was said that the hugely complex climate models used by IPCC take too long to be run enough times to probe the very high impact / very low probability tail of possible outcomes - thus they could be underestimating worst case scenarios. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this?!

MelvilleHouse1 karma

Sadly, paleoclimate data suggests this is indeed the case. For more, please see the last chapter of the National Climate Assessment, called "Potential Surprises," that I co-wrote with Bob Kopp. It concludes, among other things, that "While climate models incorporate important climate processes that can be well quantified, they do not include all of the processes that can contribute to feedbacks, compound extreme events, and abrupt and/or irreversible changes. For this reason, future changes outside the range projected by climate models cannot be ruled out (very high confidence). Moreover, the systematic tendency of climate models to underestimate temperature change during warm paleoclimates suggests that climate models are more likely to underestimate than to overestimate the amount of long-term future change."

- Katharine