Summer Institute 2012 Keynote: John Abraham

climate change education, climate change, climate education, steger, will steger foundation, will steger, summer institute

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Over 90 educators attended the 7th annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education on August 7 and 8 at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley, MN. This Summer Institute focused on climate science basics, introduced the second edition of the Minnesota's Changing Climate curriculum and provided training on many of the hands-on activities from the Minnesota's Changing Climate curriculum.

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It's a great pleasure and an honor to come talk to you I view the science teacher such. As yourself as the people on the front line of this issue and the people who we researching.

Scientists need to reach out to and I'll tell you during the introductory comments you know I heard some of the feedback. That people are a little reticent you know reluctant to talk about this issue you might get pushback from parents. From students and I certainly appreciate that every time I do a major media report I am guaranteed to get pushback and every time.

I get a letter without a return address I know it's it's hate mail: But for every piece of contact that I get that is mean-spirited I. Get ten that are positive so we've got your back we scientists we are here to support you because you are doing the important job just.

To comment under the kinds of things the rapid response team does. You you heard about Jim Hansen's new paper.

We tend my organization interacts with mainstream media to try to explain science and so we had a number of people who gave stories. On the Jim Hansen paper I along with a colleague Kevin.

Trenberth appeared in the LA Times today talking about the Jim Hansen paper and and some of the consequences of that study so we our organization. Gets scientists out talking to the general public if it's through print media website interviews television: Or radio but what I want to talk to you today I want to talk:

To you today about a number of things first of all I want to talk about the science I'm gonna show you all? The science that we know it's the current up-to-date science and I'm gonna cover all the major bases I don't.

Want to get too deep in the weeds. Of the details I'm gonna focus on an overview because that's what we're most in and when you talk to your students and families I am going to have a!

Message of hope because there is something we can do about it and if we take smart action we can not only. Help the environment but we can create jobs we can improve national security we can diversify our energy. Supplies so there's a bunch of reasons.

For taking action aside from just the environmental aspects I am going to give you some pointers on how to deal with a hostile crowd. So I trained scientists to give speeches and interviews in all types of venues.

And there are some simple messaging techniques that we use to deal with the dismissive or the skeptical audience and then finally my contact?

Information please feel free to contact me if you have a student or a parent or you just heard something that doesn't make sense or!

You want some clarification call me send me an email email is generally better that's my office number. But without any more background I'm gonna get right into.

It so these are the major topics I want to talk about how certain are we what do we not know what. Do we know what's gonna happen and what can we do about it so I do have to put. A bit of motivation in for this talk we all are motivated to talk about this issue for variety of reasons.

This is one of the motivators for me this is a photograph that I found? When I started giving my talk around 2007 and it's!

A child holding a globe with the continent. Of Africa facing the photographer now that is important for a couple. Reasons first of all social equity the parts of the world and the peat and peoples of the world.

Who did not largely cause the problem will disproportionately suffer Africa being a prime example this photograph has taken on more impersonal: Meaning for me recently because the middle finger of that child the left hand ends on the continent of Uganda and my wife? And I returned in March this year with our adopted daughter from Uganda and she lives was born in a country!

That is being affected now by climate change so it's almost like I knew I was. Going to adopt a child from Uganda when I got this photo so how many of you ever. Heard there's a debate yeah there's a come on we've all we've all heard there's a debate now let me tell you!

Something they're in the science circles there's no debate I'm actually going to show you some facts that every scientist agrees! On there's no debate about these facts humans have caused a 40% increase of carbon dioxide by the way for the.

Organizers here I'm happy to leave my slides with the organisation's so people can get copies use them however you want there's.

No debate we now humans have caused. A 40% increase we've known since 1856 the carbon dioxide was a greenhouse gas this isn't. New this isn't something we learned last in the last decade.

Summer institute

We know the earth is warmed in the last hundred years the atmosphere is warmed the oceans have warmed? In fact that's what I study oceanographic thermal monitoring the earth is warmer than it's been in probably. More than 2,000 years greenhouse gas levels higher than 800,000 years the Arctic is losing ice the poles are warming.

Glacier ice loss and the ocean is becoming more acidic now that actually is one of my biggest concerns you think about a soda can it's called carbonated? Beverage because carbon dioxide isn't in the liquid that's happening to our oceans?

Now why do we care well we care if we eat or rely upon a food chain that goes: To the base of the food chain of the ocean because anything that makes a shell has a harder?

Time making a shell and keeping a shell in an acidic ocean so ocean acidification is is another issue those are facts! Now what do we do about those facts well how do we interpret them 97% of the most active climate scientists look at those.

Facts hmm they're connected I think that they're related to each other the facts that we've increased greenhouse gases and the fact that.

Greenhouse gases should warm the planet and the fact that planet has warmed that makes sense! As a consistent story it's like a crime scene if you watch like CSI isn't that a crime show does anyone! Watch CSI okay you see someone walking down a hallway in a video camera with a gun in their!

Hands then a door to an apartment is broken into the fingerprints are on the doorknob a body in the apartment with. A bullet wound matching the gun the gun is found in the perpetrators car and blood is in their apartment. Now they may say you didn't see me pull the trigger.

You can't prove it and that's true in the same way I can't prove all these.

Facts are connected but what is the standard of evidence that we use in our daily practice. If these things are all occurring it makes a lot of sense to take action. Because it it takes a mental gymnastics to disconnect them 97% of the most active climate scientists say they are connected:

Two percent say we don't know let's keep watching and one percent: Says I think they're unconnected go home and have a beer so that's the breakdown now it turns out that the general. Public thinks there's a debate but that's because this so-called debate or Foe debate has been foisted upon us by outside!

Inside organizations it's not just that the planets warming?

That's not why we know we're the cause it's that it's warming. In the right way there are fingerprints that tell.

Us it's humans let me give you an example by the way these are fingerprints you see one in the upper left cooling of the upper atmosphere if the. Sun were the primary cause of the warming we see which.

Some people say it's the Sun John it's the. Sun if it were the Sun we would expect the entire atmosphere to warm because sunlight goes through the entire atmosphere. And we would also expect days to warm more!

Than nights that's when the sun is shining.

We've observed the opposite we've observed the upper atmosphere is getting cold the lower atmosphere is getting hot why because. We're holding heat down we've observed nights are getting warmer. Faster than days so we know it's not the Sun and there are many other?

Instances like this but there are fingerprints that tell: Us it's not just the warming it's the way it occurs so I like to book in my talk with my prime motivations and:

I showed a globe with a child holding it but this is so important I have to show it.

This is a photograph of Earth from Apollo. 17 this thing is pretty cool this is where?

We live our families our friends even? Our enemies our pasts our futures our hopes and our dreams and. It's this thing that brings us here today.

It's this thing which brought me here today and brought eugenie from your beautiful.

Will steger

Home in near san francisco's there right excellent so brief discussion of the greenhouse effect sunlight. Passes through the atmosphere that's why we can see things? We can see the sunlight outside the atmosphere.

By and large does not stop sunlight but the earth sends energy back we're actually emitting energy it's.

Called infrared it's it's sort of like light but a different color.

That energy is trapped by the atmosphere and returned to earth that's the greenhouse effect. We've the greenhouse effect would be around whether humans:

Were here or not if it wasn't for the greenhouse effect. The earth would be uninhabitable cold so?

The issue isn't do we have a greenhouse effect the issue? Rather is what happens if we make it stronger it's sort of like you're lying. In bed and you've got two blankets on that makes you feel comfortable but what happens.

When you add two more it's the addition of our own greenhouse contribution that we're concerned about some people think. Climate changes a deck of cards if you? Pull one bit of data away it all collapses and it's not we've got a bunch of different.

Independent pieces of evidence one of them which is particularly striking is our neighbors: Mars Venus and the earth you would expect. Mercury I'm sorry Mercury Venus and Earth you'd expect mercury closest to the Sun to be the hottest hey it's closest to the Sun but it.

Turns out mercury is 525 time degrees colder than Venus now how is that Venus is further away. It should be cooler the reason is Venus has an atmosphere there's almost all greenhouse gases so we see: The impact of greenhouse gases on our neighboring planets so now let's go back in time the first question.

I want to ask is our greenhouse gas is increasing this curve that you see on the graph is one of the most famous. Graphs in all of science it's called the Keeling curve named after Charles David Keeling in 1957 he began to measure: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in Hawaii and in the Antarctic.

And the measurements have continued until today he is shown a consistent increase. Of carbon dioxide's like clockwork every year it goes up a little.

Bit we're actually at about 392 right now now what do those numbers mean they're called parts per million. If you take a million molecules out of the atmosphere 392 of them are gonna be carbon dioxide now that doesn't. Sound like much actually is less than a percent and some of our climate.

Contrarians like to say well it's a small amount? Of the atmosphere how can it do any harm and I would just let encourage them to drink a thimble. Full of arsenic it's a small amount how can it do you any harm the potency of something is just as important as its concentration so there is no doubt.

Carbon dioxide is increasing this graph goes back 2,000? Years on the right-hand side is today the left-hand side is 2000 years ago those are the three most important: Human emitted greenhouse gases do you see a trend the industrial revolution started:

Between the 17 and 1800's we have!

A significant increase in the three principal. Human emitted greenhouse gases not just coincidence. On the right hand side I make a note that methane and nitrous oxide are more.

Potent as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide so why do we focus on carbon dioxide so much because. There's much much much more carbon dioxide than methane each molecule: Of methane is 20 times more powerful than?

Each molecule of carbon dioxide but we have so much more carbon dioxide that's. Why we focus on carbon dioxide principally of the human emitted greenhouse gases car besides the most important methane.

Second in nitrous oxides third they're all important but one is more? Important than the others so where does it come from well electricity let's focus on that coal based electricity. Produces about 50% of the electricity in the u.s. just over a third of our emissions our coal plants produce more co2 than that Africa!

And South America combined if you read your electrical bill at the end of the month your energy. Use is measured in terms of kilowatt hours each kilowatt hour is 2 pounds of co2 which is 18 cubic.

Feet of pure co2 so imagine 18 cubic feet take all the air out fill it with co2 that's for each kilowatt?

Will steger foundation

Hour the next source one of the biggest sources transportation?

One gallon of gas burned to the car releases. 19 pounds of co2 you know that's amazing because that gallon of gas is a little under. Seven pounds which means the weight of co2 coming out the tailpipe:

Is almost three times heavier than the liquid you put in the gas tank how many of you have a chemistry background so you.

Balance chemical equations you've taken a carbon you're adding two oxygens so if you've done chemistry. You know how that can happen 173 cubic feet of space for one gallon of gas now I drove:

Here I'm using electricity I'm actually contributing to the greenhouse.

Effect I don't put these stats on here to say we should shut down everything and go live in caves:

But it's important to know the major sources if we're gonna make smart and efficient.

Solutions to solve the problem so now we no carbon dioxides. Going up we know methane and nitrous oxide are going up so what if temperatures aren't going up who cares this is a graph 1880s on the. Left 2011 is on the right each black dot is an annual temperature?

Value for the earth this is from NASA's Goddard. Institute of Space Studies a couple things to note the black dots go up and down one year top one year! It's cold one year it's hot one year it's cold actually the biggest indicator of whether you're gonna go up or down is whether you're.

In an El Nino or La Nina cycle the other thing to note is if you just look at the. Trend it's going up the trend is shown by the red curve underneath.

The black dots the trend is going on so 2010 was a hottest year on record that.

Didn't prove global warming but it's part of a longer: Trend 2011 was cool worldwide that didn't prove global warm and ended. It looks like we're entering a El Nino right.

Now which means 2013 will likely be the hottest year on record again 2013 will? Be 2010 what you want to do is you want to look at the overall trend and the trend.

Is up here the hottest years on record in order!

Since 1880 coincidence let's go back further this is a graph that goes back 650,000 years the numbers. On the bottom are thousands of years the very right hand side is today the black curve second! From the bottom is temperature I'm gonna talk about?

How we made these measurements in a second but just bear with me for a moment the red.

Is methane the I'm sorry the red is car outside the Blues methane and the green.

Is nitrous oxide those are the levels of these gases that we've had for 650,000 years. In the way upper right you see three stars those are today's.

Levels we're off the chart now what I want you to notice. Is you see those gray bands when temperature goes up so do the greenhouse gases when temperature goes down so did the greenhouse:

Gases in fact if you put them on top of each other here's what it looks like there are two curves this red curve:

Which is temperatures measured from a South Pole or Antarctic ice core. And the green curve is greenhouse gases correlation do they go together now I am NOT saying that dinosaurs.

Steger

Or cavemen or extinct animals had coal plants that. They were burning to cause climate change all I'm saying is the. Two go together we call them handcuffed when temperature moves greenhouse gases move when greenhouse gases.

Move temperature moves they make their lockstep with each? Other so if someone is going to say or suggest that greenhouse. Gases can go up but temperatures go up they're going against hundreds of thousands of years of evidence.

So how do we make these kind of measurements we didn't have thermometers back then we use what! Are called natural proxies then let me describe a natural proxy let's.

Say you travel with will up to northern Alaska and you dig down into the ground and you discover fossil I'd palm fronds and crocodiles what? Would you infer about the temperature back in time it was warmer right what if you discover! That does anyone know a plant species:

That's characteristic of the Arctic like lichen okay what are you dig back! In time in Missouri and you discover a lot of lichen!

What would you infer about the climate cold right it was more comfortable yeah it was cold so we use markers from nature we didn't. Have thermometers back 100 thousand years we but we can use markers from nature you can use tree rings.

You can use coral growth you can use lake sediments but there are all these markers one of the most. Important markers are ice cores there's a photograph of someone digging out an ice core they can go down two miles there's. A fantastic book on this on this topic by Richard alley called two mile time machine written.

For someone like me who doesn't know anything about ice cores and they can pull these ice cores out. And I've got a photograph of a metre! Long section of ice core and if you're.

Sitting near the front you can see rings those are annual? Bands so you can count back in time so you can go back 100 thousand:

Years 200 thousand years you've got time the next: Thing you do is you melt that ice because trapped.

In small bubbles in the ice is the atmosphere when the snow fell so you.

Melt the ice and you release ancient atmosphere. So now you can say how much carbon dioxide methane nitrous oxide and so forth were in the atmosphere so now you've got? Greenhouse gas levels finally you look at the composition of the snow there's an oxygen what's called an isotope isotope.

Just means oxygen and all other chemicals come in flavors and the type.

Of oxygen in the snow is a marker of the temperature when the! Snow fell so you look at the isotopes to get temperature you look at the Rings. To get time you look at the bubbles to get the atmosphere and that's how you get this curve so let's.

Everything I've shown you today is looking back can we look forward.

Well unfortunately we don't have another earth on the other side of the Sun that we can run experiments on so in order to project. Where we're going we have to use we actually don't have to but it is common to use computer models. Or computer simulations some skeptics say that all of climate.

Scientists is reliant upon computer simulations and that's actually not true a couple years ago Jim Hanson used a forward projection. Just based on past data so you can do it but computer!

Models are a particularly powerful tool and what you do is you put into the computer model the greenhouse gas levels and you put any information.

About the Sun and so forth and based on.

The physics you get the temperature and precipitation so forth now this is a complicated slide but what this slide?

Shows us is what are called emission scenarios and I want you just to focus on two columns. A2 and b1 the very top curve of a2 is going up like this that's emissions going through the roof business-as-usual b1 the curve. Goes like this that means we pull down the emissions so b1 is humans take action a two is we don't.

Do anything what's the impact the impact is at the bottom these.

Are the temperatures if we're on this path we get a rise that's. Significant if we're on this path we level off the more of the story the important part.

Of this slide the reason why I want to show it is what we do matters what:

Humans do matters what path were on matters if we can jump off of a2 which is where we are! And get on to b1 it makes a big difference in the outcome so don't you know when.

People tell me it doesn't matter what we do so this is what we've. Seen so far these are temperatures going!

Back a thousand years the red is today here's what we've seen so far that's where we'll be by 2100 this year we had! 90 percent of Greenland going to a melt state we had an 80 million dollar flood in Duluth we have a drought. In the central part of the US it's gonna cost over 20 billion.

Dollars we had a drought in Texas last year that cost five point two billion dollars six hundred thousand. Head of cattle had to be killed we're seeing!

That with this I want to talk about some other indicators. From the natural world this is a sketch. Of the North Pole you can see Greenland that's.

The ice sheet in at the end of the summer melt in 1980 I should have pointed. Out it's equivalent to the continental US - Arizona that's how much ice we had in 2005 that's how much we lost 2007.

In one year we lost that much Northwest Passage. Is now open so Arctic ice loss is happening at a staggering? Rate if you go to the national.

Snow and ice data center they'll they show a graph of the ice each year this is where we're at it's! Interesting you know this was 2007 the next year it rose and people said Oh global warming is over.

You don't want to get caught with an up and. Down year to year you want to look at the long-term trend which?

Is shown by the blue line why do we care about ice because ice is reflective when sunlight hits ice it bounces back to earth. Keeps the earth cool but when global warming occur and the ice melts it exposes. Dark water and that allows more energy to be absorbed scientists call it a positive feedback it's a terrible.

Way to describe it positive feedbacks when my six-year-old eats broccoli and I let her have dessert this is a vicious cycle.

It is a vicious cycle warming that we caused causes changes in the environment which leads.

To more warming scientists have under predicted the ice loss part of the reason is there were things happening scientists.

Didn't appreciate one is Mulan's there's a photograph this it's a famous photograph of a river of water.

Flowing toward the photographer and going down into a hole let me actually. Show you that that is a Moulin I hope you can see it it's a little.

River on top of an ice sheet now watch where it goes it's going into a hole why do we care about mulan's.

I'm going to show you what impact they have in a couple. Slides but this is a pond this is a lake if you're. Sitting near the front you can see a white background that's an ice sheet?

This is a lake on Greenland that's a motorboat in a lake on an ice sheet why do we care about these.

Melt ponds and Mulan's hey that rhymes the water goes down. Underneath the ice sheet and then it flows to the ocean and it pulls? With it the ice sheet so it's causing.

More rapid ice loss than scientists said anticipated we're. Gonna go to the South Pole the Antarctic is broken into two sections the West which is small and unstable. And the East which is large and more stable!

In the West the warming is fast as fast as any place. On the planet so what so what. If we lose glaciers so what if we lose ice sheets in the South Pole well!

Aside from the impact in the ecosystem there they're. Gonna impact the ecosystem everywhere sea-level rise is one of the biggest concerns that we have this is a topological. Map of Asia with a focus on Bangladesh the colors show how many meters you're above sea level current projections.

Are by 2100 we'll have four feet of sea level rise if scientists are wrong they're likely to be wrong on the low side. Rather than the high side Bangladesh is a country with 160 million people we had trouble: With the refugees from New Orleans and we're the richest country in the world what happens if you're India and you've?

Got discipline millions of displaced people on your border this is the southeastern. Part of the US with one meter sea-level?

Rise three good bye Miami six good bye southern Louisiana but we can't have six meters of sea level rise can we well. If Greenland were to melt we get 7 which is 23 feet if the western part of Antarctica: Melted which is the unstable part we get 5 meters or 17 feet and if all of annika.

Antarctica melted we get about 270 feet so yeah we can get six meters somebody by the way when I get to this slide. I'm so depressed I mean you know it's you make the case for the evidence: And it can get depressing but just hold bear with me for a little bit we'll.

Get to some solutions because we really can solve this.

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