As the inauguration nears, KCRW is asking locals what they’d like to tell Trump before he takes office. For Michael Prather, a professor of Earth System Science at UC Irvine, climate change is top of mind.
He says that science around climate change is always evolving and although the situation is critical, it’s not too late to do something about it:
Michael Prather: With climate science it’s always a work in progress. There’s no exact answer. We continue to discover new things all the time. Most of these are often fine tuning but they reaffirm what we know. Others can be game changers. Sea level rise from the glaciers melting more quickly – new stuff we’ve come up with between satellite and ground base and aircraft stuff and glacial modeling is sort of really surprising and it means sea level could rise much more rapidly over the century. That certainly is the bigger change. The other thing that people don’t recognize: that scientists gain respect by being innovative and careful.
You get dissed not for being a contrarian but by having no theory, no evidence, no hard work, and done nothing to back it up except to complain about it. Congress in the present are sort of like lawyers playing poker. We’re more like scientists playing chess. And lawyers playing poker — you have got hidden hands, no rules on what to do next, and it works on hunches. Let’s go to the scientists playing chess. It’s an open board, everybody sees all the pieces, there’s nothing hidden. The rules are very clear of what you can and can’t move or where you can go, but yet it’s still such a complex game. It’s certainly not always predictable. You don’t want to think that lawyers playing poker understand scientists playing chess unless they make a great effort to do so.
KCRW: It seems like as a lay person that when we hear the data about climate change over the last several years that one of the things that really stands out is that we are starting to reach a fundamental turning point where we may not be able to repair the damage. Is that one thing that you would really be trying to hammer home and say,” look if President Trump were to get on board is that he could play a fundamental role here?”
MP: Certainly. The issue of going beyond where you cannot go back or fix it is becoming more apparent. The Paris Climate Accord is being based on 1 degree, 1.5 degrees, or 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels as being the maximum. You want to get near to make our “climate habitable. A lot of people are pushing that we are near the point of no return. The promise you do not want to teach, the idea that point of no return means that the human race disappears. One of the worries I have about the threshold peep hole is that if you know you are going to fall off the cliff there’s still things you have to do. That doesn’t mean you say ‘well why bother doing anything about it’.