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San Diego Scientists Say Extreme Events Caused By Climate Change Could Spur Action

August 8, 2018 1:37 p.m.

San Diego Climate Scientists Say Extreme Events Caused By Climate Change Could Spur Action


Veerabhadran “Ram” Ramanathan, professor of climate and atmospheric sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Related Story: San Diego Scientists Say Extreme Events Caused By Climate Change Could Spur Action


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

If people in wealthy nations start to realize that the fires flooding droughts and heat waves surrounding them are due to climate change will they begin to race into action. That's the hope of an article coauthored by two UC San Diego scientists. They propose that as the rich nations of the earth see a greater impact from a changing climate. They will increase their efforts to limit carbon emissions and create technology that may reverse the effects of climate change. It's a hopeful message coming at a time of great concern about our ability to change a growing environmental catastrophe. Joining me is Dr. Romm Ramanathan professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He coauthored the article in Foreign Affairs magazine with UC San Diego professor David Victor and members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences. Dr. Ramanathan welcome to the show.

Hello Maureen. And thank you very much for inviting me.

Now your article challenges the notion that Ritcher is safer when it comes to climate change. Can you explain.

Absolutely. A We are already learning from just this year's extreme heat waves droughts and fires. No one is exempt from the severity of climate change including the rich and wealthy nations. We are seeing wealthy Californians losing their homes to fires. And what I wanted to point out here is that I heard many experts say on the TV and other media that what we're experiencing now is the new norm. I wanted to make a slight correction. If we keep going with that we're pollution emissions as we are now it's couldn't get worse. I would be happy with the new norm being what we're experiencing. What I'm really concerned about is that our predictions are just that this is going to get progressively worse unless we take some actions.

Now your paper says that scientists now have the ability to more clearly convey the risks of climate change. I'm wondering can you give us an example perhaps about the effect of climate change on people's health.

Yes there are three distinct ways climate change is already impacting people's health. First is the heat waves and we are now experiencing heat waves anywhere from 105 degrees to 130 degrees around the world. And the second is Frunze it has waterborne disease and people lose homes which impacts on mental health. And sir which is really bothersome is that what we call vector borne disease. These are mosquitoes which carry Zika virus Chikungunya and all kinds of white as one disease. They are spreading northwards meaning you know what used to be too cold for them is no more too cold for them. So these are the three and there's a lot more in terms of health impacts.

You see a silver lining in this grim scenario that climate change becoming a reality may spur nations into action. Tell us about that.

Exactly. The good side of all this morning is that we still have time to condone or emissions Bendat warming curves within about 20 years and we already have the highest summit to start with. But we don't need to rely just on the fact that what we call subnational is tremendous the actions taken at the city and the state level. I want to start with what we are doing in San Diego under a Republican mayor Rehov some of the most aggressive climate action plan including that we want to cut down our emissions from electricity to almost zero within about 25 years. And if that can be accomplished in San Diego on board why should we have the problem at least 50 percent of the problem.

Let me play devil's advocate for a moment. You have scientists like Professor William Nordhaus of Yale University who are saying global temperature rise can no longer be held to two degrees Celsius no matter what we do. And that the world getting together for extreme abatement strategies is unrealistic. What do you say to that.

Well I have not exactly followed the basis in which Professor Nordhaus is saying that. And what I can say is that many policymakers rely on keeping the warming just by cutting carbon emissions. That alone we now know is not enough. So we need to do two of the things first is cut down. What I have been talking about last 20 30 years cut the super pollutants methane because of natural gas and it's you know methane is released by Food Waste and others. And the second sort come coming from diesel. And the third is hydrofluorocarbons used in refrigeration technologies to bring their emissions now. And I myself and several of them so shown just these cutting the super pollutants loan Condong the rate of warming in the next 20 years by Hamas and this is not a pie in the sky or a dream scenario by me. Thanks Joe. Governor Jerry Brown California has already mandated emissions reductions of the super pollutants the SB 1 3 3 that will reduce the warming is not enough. The further we have to do is to suck that carbon we already put in the air and there are many who are working on technologies. So when you take all these three myself and several others have shown we still have a fighting chance of keeping the warming below 2 degrees.

I've been speaking with Dr. Romm Ramanathan professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. You can read the article he coauthored climate extremes and global health in the magazine Foreign Affairs. And Doctor thank you so much. Thank you very much.