Richard Alley and Gavin Schmidt, currently two of the best climate communicators, recently gave presentations at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, about how we study paleoclimate and how this understanding can help us to project what will happen in the future. The presentations themselves are quite short, and then there is a discussion session, moderated by Rachel Gross, at the end in which Richard and Gavin answer various questions.
At one point in the discussion they were both asked which climate misconceptions was their favourite, and Gavin made what I think is an important point. The biggest issue is really that people don’t understand how science works, and so arguing about individual misconceptions doesn’t really help. I do think that we should probably be spending more time discussing how we actually do science, rather than simply trying to address various misconceptions (although, there is nothing wrong with also doing the latter).
However, an interesting discussion point might be what Richard Alley highlighted in his talk
Compared to “business as usual”, efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs, improved health and greater national security in a cleaner environment more consistent with the Golden Rule.
This is very like the argument Patrick Brown makes in his post suggesting that reducing greenhouse gas emissions helps the economy. Essentially, emitting less than we could will almost certainly have economic benefits. Of course, there are extreme scenarios where this would not be true, which is why it needs to be an “efficient response”. Defining this may well be difficult, but given what we’re currently doing I would argue that the starting point would be “do more than we currently are.” Also, in this context, “business as usual” essentially means a future in which fossil fuels are the dominant energy source and emissions continue to rise.
I do think that it is pretty clear that doing something is better than doing nothing and that the discussion should really be focussing more on what we should be do, rather than on whether or not we should actually do anything. However, I still don’t really have a good sense as to how to achieve this, but maybe others have some ideas.