Climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer discusses his decades-long work on the issue of climate change, his assessment of how to confront the growing threat, and the political debate surrounding it.
On the state of climate science: “From a scientific point of view, our understanding has progressed immensely. We can now associate a particular climate event, like Hurricane Harvey for instance, with a fractional attribution of risk – that is how much of the intensity of that storm was a result of the buildup of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Even 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, we couldn’t do that. Things are changing radically on the knowledge front.”
On combatting the threat of climate change: “We’ve gone into a new climate zone and we don’t know how society will be able to adjust… And recognizing that, the political system has been creeping into gear starting in 1992, with the first global treaty on climate change, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Then a few years later [with] the Kyoto Protocol. But what’s missing is that governments have not committed to this issue at a level that they commit to economic health or national security. And until that’s done, until it’s third, at best, we’re never going to get the political energy together to solve the problem.”