Climate change is threatening life and livelihood across the planet according to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The latest in a series of reports from the U.N. panel, this is the first time the panel calls for adaptation to climate change and points to ways to prepare for the massive changes coming, including protecting against sea level rise, increasing crop yields, and beefing up disaster response. We’ll discuss the report with a few of its authors.

Here's the email that Michael wanted to read at the end of this show. We ran out of time, so we thought we would post it here.

Joseph wrote:

"Perhaps it's not quite seasonal, but I'm reminded of these lines that Scrooge speaks to the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come:

'Are these the shadows of the things that will be or are they shadows of things that may be, only? Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it thus with what you show me!'

It's not unreasonable for the report to say 'here is the future that is in store for you, if you continue on the same course.' Would that life would imitate art in this case. It's true that our human ingenuity might save us, but not if we don't use it, both to conserve and to adapt."

Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences, Princeton University; and an author of the new IPCC report
Dr. Virginia Burkett, chief scientist, global change research at the U.S. Geological Survey; an author of the IPCC report
Patricia Romero-Lankao, multidisciplinary sociologist, National Center for Atmospheric Research; an author of the report

  • thucy

    Grateful that the report doesn’t sugar-coat the situation.
    We need to take a hard look at our impact, and a realistic view of our own survival.
    For several hundreds of years, we Americans paid no heed to our rapacious consumption of everything from whale oil to petroleum. Our private car obsession, and worse, our failure to rein in the auto industry when it moved to SUV’s, is a sick disgrace.
    Now we have to ask ourselves, “how will we survive?”
    I hate to be the bearer of obvious statements, but on a moral level, it’s not clear that we modern humans deserve to survive.

  • Bob Fry

    You don’t need climate change to know the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is going to flood eventually. 150 years of farming there has created some islands 30 feet BELOW sea level, precariously protected by cheaply made levees (improved at considerable tax-payer cost). Even without sea-level rise, the Delta is doomed. But we continue to spend loads of tax money protecting a few farmers.

    The next time a levee breaks and an island floods, repair the levee but don’t pump out the island. Keep doing this, and you’ll soon enough have a Delta returning to its 1850 state, while still being able to send water south to the San Joaquin Valley and MWD. A lot cheaper than Jerry’s Twin Tunnels.

  • Jon Latimer

    Thank you so much for this discussion! Our everyday socio-political and economic concerns now seem so very short-sighted in light of the larger context of the looming human/environmental catastrophe we are now witnessing. Q: Why isn’t this topic the primary context for any and all political discussion and debate? After all, what good are the small victories made in economic or political reforms once we find ourselves starving, at war over dwindling resources, and ankle deep in a rising tide?

  • Robert Thomas

    My position on climate change, as a lay person capable of understanding statistical evidence, is about as orthodox as can be. I see that the new report is comprehensive and while I haven’t read it yet the sober descriptions (including some criticism) I’ve heard from several venues impress me with its scope.

    I have noticed in *descriptions for general audience* – in the popular press – of the consequences of the very likely physical changes a tendency among interviewees to convolve inevitability with speculation. Maybe this perception will be mitigated as I read the report.

  • Chuck

    Are there benefits of global warming?

    Rather than disaster, does climate change just mean that humans
    and others will have to move or change habits. Will new food crops
    grow in currently inhospitable areas or climates? Will populations
    need to migrate to better areas? Will new industries develop?

  • Chemist150

    Please comment on how the SORCE satellite data and thermosphere have influenced climate models.

  • Chemist150

    Perhaps if we didn’t build homes, businesses, etc below the sea level in the first place, hurricanes such as Katrina wouldn’t be nearly as bad.

    Poor choices are poor choices.

    As for Sandy, the structure of the east coast clearly indicate hurricane activity there for millennia, just because it happened in our lifetime does not make it more “extreme”. Of which, the destroyed area was originally swamps and bogs on the coast. It’s suppose to be underwater also.

    We simply have no memory of it or very short memories and lens our beliefs through ignorance.

    • Robert Thomas

      Professor Oppenheimer agreed with this.

    • ldemelis

      Somebody tell Bangladesh to disband their country. And the Netherlands.

      • Chemist150

        It’s not the US’ problem.

  • Stacey

    We SHOULD be realistic when it comes to the climate crisis. It’s interesting that this debate keeps emerging, but nothing seems to change. All the technology in the world can’t help us if we don’t accept our role in how we are destroying the planet and DRASTICALLY change what we are doing. Planet Earth has been around for 4 1/2 Billion years, before humans and after humans it will still be here – species die off all the time, humans are just harder to extinguish because we keep outwitting mother nature, but it will catch up to us, much to our own chagrin. If it takes 50 years from now for any changes to truly make any difference why is it so hard to put these wheels of change in motion – this isn’t a DEBATE, it’s REALITY.

  • clydelerner

    Kind of weird – that no one’s talking about how the plant-based diet has not been discussed. http://ga2.er.usgs.gov/edu/activity-water-content.cfm – 4,000-18,000 gallons to make a 1 pound burger. This says it all. Seems like super easy solution to climate change.

    • belle stafford

      Thank you Clyde for bringing this up! I agree, it’s crazy that no one ever talks about this crucial factor in our present crisis of global warming. The UN reported years ago on this , telling us animal farming creates more greenhouses gas than all forms of transportation combined. We have to wake people up to switching to eating less or no animal products!

  • Robert Thomas

    I do wonder how this report and earlier reports are apprehended by the world’s insurers and re-insurers.

    No matter the voices of the most powerful ideological axe-grinders, little focuses the corporate mind so keenly as hard evidence of risk to the bottom line.

    • Bob Fry

      I doubt they care much. 2008 proved Too Big to Fail works very well.

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