Climate Change Reaching a Tipping Point


TED: CAROLYN WARNER, DEAD AT 88. A RECENTLY RELEASED CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT SAYS THAT GOVERNMENTS AND INDIVIDUALS MUST MAKE QUICK ACTION TO AVOID DISASTEROUS CHANGES DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING. REPORTS SUGGEST THAT THOSE TROUBLING CHANGES COULD BE A REALITY EARLIER THAN PREVIOUSLY FORCAST. JOINING US NOW IS DANIEL BODANSKY FORM ASU'S O'CONNOR COLLEGE OF LAW. HE IS A LEADING AUTHORITY ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE LAW. GLAD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

DANIEL: THANK YOU.

TED: WHAT DO WE MAKE OF THIS? THIS IS A U.N. REPORT ON CLIMATE CHANGE, SOMEWHAT ALARMING HERE.

DANIEL: YEAH. IT IS THE LATEST REPORT FROM THE INNER GOVERNMENTAL PANNEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE WHICH HAS BEEN DOING THESE REPORTS NOW FOR OVER 20 YEARS AND IT IS THE LATEST WAKE-UP CALL. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF WAKE-UP CALLS ALREADY BUT THIS IS THE LATEST ONE SAYING THAT BASICALLY EVEN IF WE HOLD TEMPERATURE INCREASE TO 1.5 DEGREES, WHICH IS THE MOST AGGRESSIVE NUMBER THAT PEOPLE ARE CONSIDERING, EVEN THAT WOULD HAVE PRETTY SIGNIFICANT ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES. IT WOULD BE A LOT BETTER THAN 2 DEGREES, WHICH WAS THE PREVIOUS GOAL, BUT IT WOULD STILL BE SERIOUS.

TED: IT SAYS THAT WE HAVE UNTIL 2030 TO AVOID DISASTEROUS WARMING LEVELS. IN OTHER WORDS, THAT 1.5 DEGREES, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT CELCIUS HERE. WHAT IS THAT? 2.7 FAHRENHEIT SOMETHING LIKE THAT. SO 2.7 FAHRENHEIT IF WE GET THERE IN 2030 THE REPORT SAYS REALLY BAD THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN.

DANIEL: YEAH, SO WHAT THE REPORT SAYS IS IT TRIES TO LAY OUT A PATHWAY, IF WE WANT TO KEEP TEMPERATURE INCREASE TO 1.5 DEGREES, WHICH IS REALLY ABOUT THE BEST WE CAN DO AT THIS POINT. WHAT WOULD WE NEED TO DO TO GET THERE AND WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS CUT EMISSIONS BY ABOUT FIFTY PERCENT BY 2030 AND CUT EMISSIONS TO ZERO BY 2050. SO WE’D HAVE TO GO FROM WHERE WE ARE NOW TO ZERO EMISSIONS BETWEEN NOW AND 2050.

TED: IS THAT EVEN REMOTELY REALISTIC?

DANIEL: SO ONE OF THE THINGS THE REPORT WAS SUPPOSED TO LOOK AT, IT WAS SUPPOSED TO LOOK AT TWO THINGS. FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS THE RELATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF 1.5 DEGREES VERSES 2 DEGREES? AND THEN IT WAS ALSO SUPPOSED TO LOOK AT CAN WE ACTUALLY GET TO 1.5 DEGREES? IS THAT A REALISTIC GOAL? AND THEY SAID, YES WE CAN GET TO 1.5 DEGREES, IT WOULD REQUIRE DRAMATIC CHANGES. SO I THINK IT WOULD REQUIRE TURNING ON A DIME ESSENTIALLY FROM WHERE WE ARE GOING RIGHT NOW TO WHERE WE WOULD NEED TO GO.

TED: AND YOU ARE MENTIONING 1.5 DEGREE CELSIUS. WE'VE ALREADY WARMED TO 1 DEGREE—SINCE WE STARTED THE INDUSTRIAL AGE WE SHOULD MENTION IT. WE ARE ALREADY AT 1 DEGREE HIGHER.

DANIEL: THAT'S RIGHT. SO WE ARE ONLY TALKING ABOUT A HALF DEGREE MORE. SO WHAT THEY’RE SAYING IS 1.5 DEGREES ABOVE PRE-INDUSTRIAL LEVELS. WE’VE INCREASED BY 1 AS YOU SAY, SO WE HAVE HALF DEGREE MORE TO GO. THAT’S WHY BASICALLY IF WE KEEP ON EMITTING THE WAY WE ARE EMITTING RIGHT NOW, BY 2030, WE'LL HAVE USED UP THE ENTIRE CARBON BUDGET TO GET THERE SO WE’LL HAVE BAKED IN 1.5 DEGREES OR MORE FOR SURE.

TED: AND 1 DEGREE RIGHT NOW CELSIUS AGAIN BEFORE THE INDUSTRIAL AGE, ARE WE SEEING THE CONSEQUENCES?

DANIEL: I THINK WE'RE ALREADY SEEING THE CONSEQUENCES. THERE WAS A HEAT WAVE A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO IN PARIS THAT I THINK MOST PEOPLE ARE ATTRIBUTING A PART TO CLIMATE CHANGE THAT KILLED 30,000 PEOPLE. WE HAVE SEEN MORE AND MORE FREQUENT HURRICANES AND MORE INTENSE HURRICANES, LIKE THE ONE WE JUST HAD IN FLORIDA SO I THINK WE'RE ALREADY SEEING THE CONSEQUENCES. SO IT’S ALREADY HAVING-- DOING BAD THINGS ALREADY BUT IT’S GOING TO BE A LOT MORE WORSE AT 1.5 DEGREES.

TED: SO AT 1.0 WE’RE SEEING THIS. AT 1.0-- IT SOUNDS LIKE IT'S EXPONENTIALLY BAD AS EACH DEGREE INCREASES. IS THAT FAIR?

DANIEL: I'M NOT SURE IT'S EXPONENTIAL, BUT I MEAN IT DEFINITELY GETS YOU KNOW WE'RE ON A VERY STEEP CURVE. SO AS IT GETS—GOES FROM 1.5 DEGREES TO 2 DEGREES, THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES ARE A LOT, LOT WORSE. THEY’RE MORE THAN TWO TIMES AS BAD.

TED: SO SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES: MORE HEAT WAVES, EXTREME DROUGHT. MORE WILDFIRES. MORE EXTREME RAIN. FLOODS. GREATER SEA LEVELS INCREASES. AND PART AND PARTIAL OF ALL OF THAT FOOD SHORTAGES. DOES ALL OF THAT MAKE SENSE TO YOU.

DANIEL: YEAH, WELL AS THE EARTH WARMS THE OCEAN EXPANDS AND THE SEA LEVEL RISE. THERE'S CHANGES IN THE CIRCULATION, SO THAT LEADS TO MORE DROUGHTS AND ALSO MORE EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS, SO THINGS LIKE HURRICANES. AND THEN ALSO IT IS GOING TO CHANGE THE PATTERN OF WHERE SPECIES ARE LOCATED. AND PROBABLY LEAD TO THE EXTINCTION OF SOME SPECIES. THE SPECIES THAT WILL BE MOST EFFECTED ARE INSECTS WHICH ARE KEY TO POLLINATION AND AGRICULTURE. SO THERE ARE A LOT OF NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF ALL SORTS.

TED: SO WHAT DO WE DO? THEY ARE CALLING FOR CHANGES IN ENERGY, IN INDUSTRY, IN BUILDINGS, IN TRANSPORTATION, WHAT SHOULD—BECAUSE AGAIN, THIS HORSE HAS KIND OF LEFT THE BARN, HASN'T IT? I MEAN WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING SOME OF THIS STUFF 1015 YEARS AGO.

DANIEL: YEAH, SO I MEAN THE EARLIER YOU TAKE ACTION THE EASIER IT IS TO GET TO THE GOAL. AND THE LONGER YOU WAIT THE HARDER IT IS TO CHANGE COURSE IN TIME TO AVERT EVEN DISASTEROUS CLIMATE CHANGE. SO THE LONGER YOU WAIT THE WORSE THE PROBLEM BECOMES. YEAH, WE SHOULD HAVE TAKEN ACTION TEN YEARS AGO, BETTER TO TAKE ACTION NOW THAN TEN YEARS FROM NOW. AND BY TEN YEARS FROM NOW, WE WON’T BE LOOKING AT 1.5 DEGREES ANYMORE WE’LL BE LOOKING AT TWO OR THREE. IF WE DON'T—I THINK THE PREDICTIONS ARE IF WE DON’T CHANGE COURSE, AT ALL, WE'RE LOOKING AT PROBABLY MORE THAN 3 DEGREES INCREASE.

TED: SO WHAT DO WE DO? WHAT DO WE DO WITH BUILDINGS? WHAT DO WE DO WITH TRANSPORTATION? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE IDEAS OUT THERE?

DANIEL: THERE ARE A LOT OF DIFFERENT THINGS WE CAN DO. ONE OF THE KEYS IS FUEL SWITCHING SO MOVING FROM FOSSIL FUELS TO RENEWABLE FUELS AND NUCLUAR ZERO EMITTING FUELS. THAT’S PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE. ENERGY EFFICIENCY, HAVING MORE FUEL EFFICIENT CARS FOR EXAMPLE, MORE EFFICIENT BUILDINGS. AND THEN CHANGES IN AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES. REALLY, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT MAKES SUCH A CHALLENGING PROBLEM IS VIRTUALLY EVERY HUMAN ACTIVITY EMITS GASSES THAT CONTRIBUTES TO THE PROBLEM. SO IT’S NOT JUST A MATTER OF ENERGY POLICY OR TRANSPORTATION POLICY IT’S ALSO AGRICULTURE POLICY, URBAN PLANNING ACROSS THE BOARD.

TED: CAN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR LACK OF A BETTER PHRASE BAIL US OUT OF THIS?

DANIEL: THAT WOULD BE NICE IF IT HAPPENED. I DON'T THINK WE SHOULD BE COUNTING ON THAT, BECAUSE THERE IS A LOT OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE AND IT’S MAKING RENEWABLES A LOT CHEAPER. IT’S BRINGING IN MORE EFFICIENT CARS AND ELECTRIC CARS. SO I THINK THERE ARE A LOT OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES, THE QUESTION IS, IS THE RATE OF TECHNOLOGY CHANGE GOING TO BE FAST ENOUGH TO LEAD TO THESE VERY VERY DRAMATIC CHANGES AND EMISSIONS? AND I DON'T THINK YOU CAN COUNT ON THAT. YOU NEED—YOU REALLY NEED SOME GOVERNMENT POLICIES THAT HELPS DRIVE THE TECHNOLOGIES AND ALSO DRIVES PEOPLE TO ADOPT THE TECHNOLOGIES.

TED: YOU ALSO NEED COOPERATION BETWEEN GOVERNMENTS. THAT HAS TO BE A CONCERN AS WELL. YOU CAN'T HAVE CHINA OVER THERE WITH SKIES YOU CAN BARELY SEE ACROSS THE STREET IN, AND WE'RE ALL SOLAR OVER HERE. I MEAN YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE SOME KIND OF COOPERATION.

DANIEL: YEAH, SO WHAT I WORK ON PRIMARILY IS THE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION OF THIS. SO IT'S THE NEGOTIATING AGREEMENT TO TRY TO GET NOT ONLY THE U.S. TO BE TAKING ACTION BUT THE REST OF THE WORLD. AND ONE OF THE HUGE ADVANCES IN THE LATEST AGREEMENT, THE PARIS AGREEMENT WHICH PRESIDENT TRUMP SAID HE IS GOING TO BACK OUT OF, IS THAT IT NOT ONLY INVOLVES WESTERN INDUSTRIALIZE COUNTRY, IT ALSO INVOLVES THE BIG DEVELOPING COUNTRIES LIKE CHINA AND INDIA. SO THAT WAS A HUGE ADVANCE OVER THE PREVIOUS AGREEMENT THAT HAS BEEN NEGOTIATED.

TED: CAN THOSE-- IF THE UNITED STATES DOESN'T WANT TO GET INVOLVED, OKAY. BUT CAN THE OTHER COUNTRIES THAT WERE INVOLVED STILL BAN TOGETHER AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.

DANIEL: YEAH, SO ONE OF THE QUESTIONS WHEN PRESIDENT TRUMP ANNOUNCED THAT HE WAS GOING TO PULL THE U.S. OUT OF THE PARIS AGREEMENT, WAS WHAT OTHER COUNTRIES USE TO PULL OUT TOO AND SO FAR WE HAVEN’T SEEN THAT HAPPEN. OTHER COUNTRIES ARE STAYING IN THE PARIS AGREEMENT AND MAINTAINING THEIR COMMITMENTS SO THAT HASN’T HAPPENED YET. I THINK THE LONGER THE U.S. DOESN'T TAKE ACTION, THE HARDER IT BECOMES FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD TO BE ACTING. SO I THINK OVER THE LONG TERM IT WILL HAVE A NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCE BUT RIGHT NOW OTHER COUNTRIES ARE KEEPING THEIR COMMITMENTS UNDER PARIS.

TED: SO I GUESS THE BOTTOM LINE HERE IS IT'S BAD, IT'S GETTING WORSE, AND WHAT, YOU JUST TRY TO PUMP THE BRAKES A LITTLE BIT.

DANIEL: YOU GOT TO DO THE BEST YOU CAN. SO REALLY I THINK IT’S ACTION IN ALL FRONTS. SO IT’S INDIVIDUALS CAN DO THINGS THAT WILL HELP. BUY DIFFERENT KINDS OF CARS. DRIVE LESS, HAVE MORE EFFICIENT HOMES AND SO FORTH AND SO ON. LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND STATES IN THE U.S. ARE ACTING. SO AS THE U.S. NATIONAL GOVERNMENT HAS SORT OF STEPPED BACK AND NOT DOING AS MUCH, STATES LIKE CALIFORNIA ARE DOING A LOT MORE TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM. THERE’S A LOT OF CITIES NOW THAT HAVE CLIMATE CHANGE PLANS IN PLACE AND THEN IT REQUIRES NATIONAL ACTION, WHICH IN THE U.S. WE'RE GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION, AT LEAST IN MY OPINION. AND THEN YOU ALSO NEED INTERNATIONAL ACTIONS. YOU NEED ACTIONS, REALLY, SORT OF ALL FRONTS. IT’S ALL HANDS ON DECK.

TED: YEAH, I WAS GOING TO SAY UNTIL 20—OKAY, INTERESTING INFORMATION. GOOD TO HAVE YOU DANIEL BODANSKY FROM ASU. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

DANIEL: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

TED: AND UP NEXT ON ARIZONA HORIZON WE'LL MEET A CANDIDATE FOR ARIZONA’S 4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say governments and individuals must take quick action to avoid disastrous levels of global warming. Daniel Bodansky, a Foundation Professor of Law in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and a leading authority on global climate change law, talks about the UN’s call to action.

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In this segment:

Daniel Bodansky, ASU law professor and leading authority in global climate change law

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