Ilene Carrie Blog | Hurricanes and Fires: Updated Interview on Climate Change with Jan Dash | Talkmarkets - Page 3
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I've been working as a writer, editor, and website manager on several large financial websites, including Phil's Stock World. My graduate education includes pharmacology, pathology, and law school. I've practiced law in ... more

Hurricanes and Fires: Updated Interview on Climate Change with Jan Dash

Date: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 8:10 PM EDT

Ilene: Many people believe that there’s no such thing as climate change; others believe that, while climate change may exist, it’s due to natural processes over which we have no control. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, slightly less than half of US adults believe that climate change is mostly due to human activity.

Source: Pew Research Center

What do you think the primary reasons are for such widespread skepticism despite an enormous body of scientific evidence?

Jan: In 2002, a Republican strategist Frank Luntz wrote a very influential memo that recommended deliberately attacking climate science by emphasizing “doubt” as a way to avoid acting on climate change. The same strategy had formerly been used by the tobacco industry that attacked the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco to protect cigarettes. We now have a whole industry of disinformation on climate change and a destructive politicization of climate science. Careful climate research papers from universities and laboratories worldwide are opposed by scientifically invalid disinformation from right-wing think tanks. This disinformation — distorting the very nature of science — contains factual errors, flimsy erroneous arguments, and cherry-picked data used with false generalizations, among other fallacies. The Trump administration is mostly saturated with climate disinformation and ignorance, obstructing climate action. Trump appointees now unfortunately running the EPA and other agencies spout climate disinformation, ignoring or suppressing valid climate science.

People need to wake up and realize that the influential, right-wing, “ tiny minority of contrarians,” who deny climate science and refuse to accept the facts of climate destruction are obstructing action and damaging the United States.

I believe that as the impacts of climate change become more evident, people will stop trusting the (mostly right-wing) media and politicians that loudly push climate disinformation, in spite of tribal loyalties and confirmation bias.

The good news is that most people do want action on climate change. Prudent risk management on climate would say that action is warranted. People who believe climate change is not a problem might ask themselves “what will I tell my grandchildren if I’m wrong?”

Arctic Ice Free-Photos/Pixabay

Ilene: How are the impacts of global warming most likely to destabilize the worldwide financial system? Given that there are multiple, serious consequences of climate change, what are the most worrisome pathways to an economic crisis?

Jan: In the language of physics, financial and economic systems worldwide are in unstable equilibrium. Economic and financial systems can be thrown into crisis by any sufficiently strong perturbations. The 2008 crisis is the latest example. I believe that climate change unfortunately has the potential to generate deep economic and financial crises, and I am not alone in this assessment. Pathways to an economic crisis include physical climate impacts and transition impacts from fossil fuels to renewables. The physical effects will negatively affect supply chains and business generally. If transition risk is not handled reasonably, severe economic problems could result. For systemic worldwide climate impacts, recovery from crisis could be very long, if it happened at all. Estimates in economic models of future GDP levels generally do not include effects of climate-induced crises and therefore do not reflect the full extent of climate-induced destruction.

Ilene: Are there any investing themes we should be aware of?

Jan: Dominant future investment themes are pretty clear — notably renewable energies (wind, solar, batteries, etc.), which are rapidly becoming economically more and more competitive. Electric cars, better electric grids, and energy efficiency are others. Technologies currently in research (fourth-generation nuclear energy, fusion energy, as well as carbon sequestration), are promising long-term investment opportunities. Divestment from fossil fuels will avoid financial losses in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies. As mentioned before, transition should be largely completed by 2050 if we are to leave a livable world to our descendants, with large amounts of carbon remaining in the ground as useless “stranded assets.”

Ilene: What about just adapting to climate change? Is adaptation viable on a long-term basis without mitigating climate change?

Jan: Adaptation to some extent will be necessary along with any amount of mitigation, with increased adaptation needed for less mitigation. The impacts that I mentioned will get worse and worse if we do not mitigate climate change substantially. Some people will adapt, though in a damaged world. The poor and vulnerable will be forced to adapt the most to survive, if they can. Many people will die early. If we have business as usual, BAU (with at most a token amount of climate mitigation), the planet in 2100 will be very different from what it is now. It will be a hostile place. I wouldn’t want to be there. Eventually the planet under BAU basically will become unlivable. It’s that simple. Again, right now we are moving out of the balanced temperature range that has made civilization possible. We need a simple message. The message is “act now.” Anything else is too risky.

Hurricane Harveys and Irma

The frontage road surrounding the Houston Chronicle on three sides, submerged in water due to Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017. Al Lewis, Houston Chronicle

Ilene: Do you believe the severity of recent hurricanes (Harvey in Houston and Irma in Florida) is a symptom of climate change and a preview of what to expect in the future?

Jan: Yes. The quick answer is that hurricanes now occur in a background of climate change and global warming, tending to make them more intense than they would be otherwise. Unfortunately, future extreme weather events will be made increasingly more extreme by man-made global warming simply because they will have more energy to wreak havoc. Warmer water gives hurricanes more energy when they form, and warmer air can hold more moisture, producing more rain. Sea level rise increases storm-surge flooding. There is evidence that the jet stream is being modified by climate change, potentially increasing the time that hurricanes may stall over a given region.

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