USGS 2017 June Evening Public Lecture
Title: The Effects of Climate Change: A Scientific Pathway Forward
- The frequency of extreme and unpredictable weather events is increasing.
- What are the effects of an increase or decrease in carbon emissions?
- What is scientific research projecting for the future of climate change?
Location Taken: Menlo Park, CA, US
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[ background conversations ]
Well, good evening. And welcome
to the public lecture for June.
We’re delighted to have you here.
I’m Susan Benjamin. I’m one of the
Science Center chiefs,
and I get the honor of introducing
our speaker, Tom Suchanek, tonight.
Before I get started
with the introductions,
I do want to remind people,
because safety is always
utmost in our minds, that if something
should happen, follow the exit signs.
They’re all lit up and easy to find.
And go out of the building.
If anyone needs to use the restroom,
they’re right around the corner.
And I also want to mention that next
month we’re having a public lecture also.
And Dr. Bruce Molnia
will be talking about warm ice –
the dynamics of
rapidly changing glaciers.
So come on – come on back next month
when it’s hot and find out about ice.
So I am very pleased to
introduce Dr. Tom Suchanek,
who will be
our speaker tonight.
He’s trained as a coastal marine ecologist
and is currently a scientist emeritus
with USGS, having retired in 2014
from his position as lead scientist,
research manager, and climate
change science coordinator for the
Western Ecological Research Center
in Sacramento and the USGS
Southwest Climate Science Center
based in Tucson, Arizona.
Tom earned his
bachelor’s degree in biology
from the University of Connecticut,
his master’s in ecology and evolution
from Stony Brook University in
New York, his Ph.D. in zoology
from the University of Washington,
and did a postdoctoral stint
at the West Indies Marine Lab
at St. Croix in the Virgin Islands.
He spent 20 years as a research
ecologist and lecturer at the
University of California-Davis,
where he also served as the
western regional director
of the Department of Energy’s
National Institute for Global
Environmental Change for eight years.
He then spent several years with the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
in Sacramento as their
branch chief of the
Natural Resources Damage
Assessment Program and director of
the Environmental Contaminants
division before moving on to the USGS.
He also served on the
Action Coordination team
of the West Coast Governor’s Council
on Ocean Health, which is addressing,
among other issues,
climate change impacts
to coastal and estuarine
ecosystems on the West Coast.
He currently maintains research
associate appointments at UC-Davis
with both the Bodego Marine
Laboratory and the Department
of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation
Biology on the Davis campus.
Way back in the 1970s, Tom discovered
a new species of amphipod shrimp,
which was named in his honor –
And he has produced over
150 publications, including
peer-reviewed journal articles,
reports, and a book,
Marine Life of the Caribbean,
co-authored with Jacques Cousteau.
[background conversations and laughter]
We are delighted to have
such a distinguished colleague
to join us today.
Thank you, Tom.
[ Applause ]
- Thank you, Susan. I appreciate the
invitation and being back here again.
I’d like to start by
taking a poll, okay?
I would like to see hands for those
people who believe in climate change.
So about half and half,
I guess, right? [laughter]
No, seriously, I would like to get away
from belief systems and opinions,
and I would like to focus on data
and facts tonight, specifically related
to USGS’ mission of
having unbiased science,
and I’ll try to do that
throughout the talk tonight.
And we can talk about
other things, maybe, later on.
I do have two associations,
or two appointments –
one with USGS on this side and
one with UC-Davis over on this side.
And I may need to change hats later on
to be able to speak about things one way
or the other. So just be aware
I might grab a hat at some point.
So basically, anybody who has not
been living under a rock knows that
the world is changing, especially
weather and long-term climate.
And things like
temperature is going up.
Rainfall is either going up
or going down, but extremes.
Snowpack is going down.
Fires are going up.
Droughts are up.
Floods are up.
Tornadoes and hurricanes are up
and occurring in bizarre locations and
bizarre timing in terms of seasonality.
Sea level rise is up.
El Niño events are
becoming more frequent.
Seasonality is unpredictable.
And ocean productivity is unclear.
With all of that, I think we’ll try to move
on, however I would like to start us off
with a – you know, a grounding so we’re
all on the same page to start out with.
Anybody that’s gone to high school –
I won’t have a poll on that [laughter] –
you probably have been exposed
to the natural greenhouse effect,
which basically is, you know,
the sun beats down on the Earth,
heats a portion of the Earth,
and some of that energy is
reflected back out through
the atmosphere into space.
Now, some of that is captured
by some greenhouse gases –
heat-trapping gases –
CO2, nitrous oxide, and methane
are three of the most
important greenhouse gases.
And the human-enhanced greenhouse
effect is basically the same.
Sun beats down on the Earth,
heats a portion of it.
Some of that’s reflected
back out into space.
And, since there’s more greenhouse
gases, more of these heat-trapping gases,
that traps more of the heat,
and we have a warmer Earth.
So keep that in mind
as we move forward.
We’ve known about this heat-trapping
gas problem for quite some time.
Back in the 1700s,
we started recognizing it.
And in the 1800s, this fellow right here,
Svante Arrhenius, was the first one to
write a model and describe the
equations necessary to understand
how carbon dioxide in
the atmosphere actually traps heat
and contains it within our –
within our sphere.
And it took him two years to
write this model to understand that.
And at the end of that –
and he did it all by hand.
There was no
computers back then.
After the two years, his wife left him.
So I don’t know what that
says about dedicated scientists,
but he was
one of the first.
So just – in addition to letting you know
how old this understanding has been,
this is a newspaper article
from 1912 from New Zealand,
and I’ll read it to you. You probably
won’t be able to see it up there.
But this is coal consumption
The furnaces of the world
are now burning about 2 billion tons
of coal a year.
When this is burned,
uniting with oxygen,
it adds about 7 billion tons of
carbon dioxide to
the atmosphere yearly.
This tends to make the
air more effective – a more effective
blanket for the Earth and
to raise its temperature.
The effect – this effect may be
considerable in a few centuries.
Well, we’re already feeling it and
understanding more about that.
I also need to have you understand
about the scientific community
in terms of doing their diligence in
evaluating climate change publications.
97% when this particular figure
was made – and now it’s up to 99% -
of the scientists’ papers and
publications that claim a position
or state a position on
global warming agree that,
not only is it real, but it’s also
influenced heavily by man’s actions.
So that’s the Consensus Project.
You can look it up yourself.
So what I like to say is,
scientists are the map makers.
We provide the data and the information
to pass on to you guys – you, the citizens
and the policymakers – I put that in
quotes these days – are the navigators.
So we give you the information,
and you derive and develop the
policies that our country will follow.
And similarly, in other countries as well.
There’s thousands and thousands
of these scientists working on this,
and I will talk to you
a little bit about that later on.
So what are the tools and the data that
we use to investigate climate change?
We have modern evidence and
things that we actually measure,
and we have proxies.
So modern evidence is things like
global temperature and tidal gauge
records over the past 150 years that
we’ve been measuring, atmospheric
carbon dioxide concentrations that
have been measured since 1958 on a
regular basis – we’ll talk about that,
altered phenologies – what’s
happening in the ecological world.
When do the first buds come out
on trees? When do they first flower?
When do birds start
nesting and migrating?
All of those things we’ve been
measuring for a long time.
And then we have prehistoric evidence –
these proxies – which are oxygen
isotopes and various chemicals
in marine and freshwater animal shells,
tree ring data, sediment core data,
and ice core data,
which we’ll be looking at
a fair amount as well.
So this is the main culprit that
we’re going to be talking about –
It’s a very – pretty simple molecule.
One atom of carbon –
way down here – the black carbon.
And two oxygen –
two atoms of oxygen.
You don’t smell it. You don’t hear it.
You don’t feel it. You don’t see it.
But it has mass, so there is a lot of
mass there despite what it looks like.
So where does
that come from?
It comes primarily from the burning
of fossil fuels such as power plants,
automobiles, and all the
other kinds of combustion.
And in addition, it comes from cement
production – cement plant production.
A lot of carbon dioxide
being produced there.
And of course, all of you out here
are breathing out carbon dioxide.
So if you would all just please hold
your breath [laughter] until we’re
over with the talk, we would be
able to finish off and not have
to worry about questions and
answers later on, okay?
And for you guys out there, please don’t
blow me kisses while you’re listening.
I’ll just get
distracted by that.
So let’s look at the other end
of the spectrum – the other end
of the process, and that is uptake.
So plants, through the process
of photosynthesis, are uptaking
carbon dioxide, mixing it with water,
and then producing oxygen,
and they’re producing –
what else are they producing –
So that’s where the carbon dioxide is
going – into leaves and into the plants.
So let’s take a closer look
at what’s happening.
This is a – this is a figure.
This is what I was talking about.
This is the measurement of
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
first started by Charles Keeling
at the Mauna Loa Observatory
about 11,000 feet.
And he measured it
every month starting in 1958.
So the green – I’m sorry – the green,
yeah – the red lines up and down,
up and down, are the variations –
it’s going up and down.
And if you look in the lower right,
the annual cycle looks a little bit like this.
So we start off in January and December
in the winter, it’s going up, up, up, up.
And we come to about April and May.
April and May is when the leaves –
the trees leaf out and start
absorbing carbon dioxide.
They’re taking it, literally,
out of the atmosphere.
They’re sucking it out of the atmosphere.
So the concentration in the atmosphere
is going down. So it goes down all the
way through the summer, into the fall.
What’s happening in the fall?
Leaves are dropping off the trees,
at least in the northern hemisphere –
this is all northern hemisphere.
And then, once they drop off,
then the concentration of
carbon dioxide starts going up again.
And that’s what happens every year.
Up and down, up and down,
up and down.
And the blue line is just the
12-month running average.
So we are at now over 400 parts per million
of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
a special number.
It just means that we’re going
higher and higher and higher.
And we’ll see what it
looked like in the past as well.
So here’s that same curve –
Charles Keeling’s carbon dioxide curve.
Back to, you know, 1960.
Let’s look a little bit further back.
Using ice core data this time –
back 1,000 years.
So back 1,000 years,
looks like the concentration
of carbon dioxide was
about 280 parts per million.
All the way through
1000, 1200, 1400 years,
all the way to –
up to where we are now.
And here is where the
Industrial Revolution started –
somewhere around 1750, 1800,
when we started having
combustion engines –
internal combustion engines.
And once we stated that,
the concentration of carbon dioxide
started creeping up and up and up
and up to exponential concentrations.
And that kind of looks like –
in some people’s eyes,
it kind of looks
like a hockey stick.
So that’s why this is
called the hockey stick curve.
And it represents exponential growth.
That’s what’s happening.
So here’s that – here’s that curve again.
Here’s the Industrial Revolution.
This is what we just looked at.
And here’s where
we are now – 409 –
as of last month,
we’re at 409.7 parts per million.
And looking back further,
back beyond 1,000 years to
400,000 years ago, we’ve gone through
about four Ice Ages during that time.
This is an Ice Age down here
when the concentration of
carbon dioxide was
about 200 parts per million.
And, as we get into warmer times,
or as the concentration of carbon dioxide
goes up, maybe 275 parts per million, the
climate gets warmer, and we lose the ice.
And then it
starts all over again.
So what we’re – what we’re seeing is,
here’s – 200,000 years ago is about
when modern humans started
coming onto the landscape.
Here’s the Industrial Revolution
that we were just talking about.
And starting here,
instead of going back down,
it’s creeping up at an exponential rate,
which is about 20 times, or 50 times,
faster than the recovery
from the Ice Age period.
So we’re going
faster than that.
So that’s an indication that
it’s an abnormal process,
an abnormal change in the – in the
concentration of carbon dioxide.
So the global community – all the
countries – all the countries of the
globe are emitting about 100 million
tons of carbon dioxide each day.
Remember that little molecule
that you can’t see, feel, taste?
Each day into our atmosphere.
So last year, it produced about
40 billion tons of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere.
And the fossil fuel emissions –
the burning of fossil fuels
account for about 94% of that total
carbon dioxide emissions from
human sources as follows. Coal
represents about 42% of those emissions.
Gas – natural gas, 19%
And again, the cement plants
contribute some significant amount.
There’s also things that contribute to
either the increase in carbon dioxide
or the lack of ability to reduce
carbon dioxide, such as deforestation,
which people are using to grow cattle
for hamburgers and things like that.
So that adds another
certain amount that is
significant in the –
in the overall budget.
And I just have to say,
in terms of coal,
being the biggest one that’s
contributing to carbon dioxide,
coal use has been declining
over the last 20 years, significantly.
And that’s due primarily to the lower
cost of natural gas competing with it,
the alternative renewable energy sources
that are coming out to the marketplace,
and regulations imposed to –
in place to protect human health.
You should also realize that California,
as a leader in alternative energy,
has 10 times more jobs –
about 507,000 jobs –
in the alternative energy field
than does the entire United States
in the coal jobs,
which is about 51,000.
So there’s a very,
very large discrepancy there.
Coal is going out of the market.
Alternative energies are coming
into the marketplace, and they’re
reaping huge profits in some areas.
And that will continue as they
become more efficient and developed.
So thousands and thousands of
scientists around the globe
are working on this problem.
It’s very complex.
I can only skim across the top of
some of these subjects here tonight.
And they contribute to this
on Climate Change,
or the IPCC.
And they produce assessment reports
about every five to seven years.
This is the last set of reports –
four different reports that were –
that came out in 2013 and 2014.
You can look them up on the internet.
You can read them.
They’re very informative.
And this last one here is the
Synthesis Report, which is, you know,
geared to most people understanding
what’s going on with the science part.
And we’re expecting the next
set of assessment reports, number 6,
in the next year sometime.
So look forward to that.
So who’s emitting most of this carbon
dioxide in the globe? What countries?
Here it is.
The top 10 emitters right here.
I don’t know how many you can
identify there, but China is on top.
United States is second
with 19% of the emissions.
And the top 10 countries,
as a group, account for
more than two-thirds of
the global carbon emissions.
The U.S. used to be the first,
but China has been growing
so rapidly in terms of their emissions
that they beat us out about 10 years ago.
They took first place.
And they’re growing more rapidly.
So what about – what about the people –
individual people, on a per-person basis,
or a per-capita basis?
Let’s finish this one up first.
So, as I was indicating, China is first.
United States is second.
And I want you to
keep an eye on Canada,
okay, on the next –
on the next figure here.
So on a per-capita basis,
how much is each person using?
The U.S. clearly is
first in the world in terms of
how much each one
of you individuals are using.
Second is Canada, interestingly.
China is way down here.
And even though they’re producing the
most as a country, on an individual basis,
they’re producing much less than other
countries simply because they have such
a massive population, and that’s diluted
across the – across the landscape.
So here we have the
United States and China,
and Canada is number two
on a per-person basis.
And primarily, that’s because
they use a lot of heating fuels
during the wintertime,
and there are so few people there
that it really mounts up to individual –
high individual per-capita basis.
And they have – also have the oil shales.
Those oil shale-producing facilities
produce a huge amount
of emissions as well.
Okay, let’s talk about temperature.
Temperature is very closely related
to the amount of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere.
Here’s the temperature
plot from 1880 to 2015.
And you can see it’s bouncing
around here, but all the sudden,
it just takes off down and
starts going exponential as well.
Now, there are certain times, like in
the 1890s, when the temperature
seemed to go down. And again,
in the 1940s, it seemed to go down.
But we’re dealing with averages,
and we’re dealing with long-term trends,
not individual short time periods.
So, on the long-term,
we’re seeing that temperature is going up
and starting up exponentially as well.
Some people focus on these
individual little areas and say, oh,
the Earth is cooling. The Earth is cooling.
Well, that’s true.
It was during that time.
But the big picture is it’s warming.
And here’s the – here’s – the blue
line is the graph we just looked at.
And the white line is the concentration
of carbon dioxide that we just
looked at before that. So we’re
up to 409 parts per million now.
And the last time CO2
concentrations were up at this level,
over 400 parts per million,
humans didn’t even exist, okay?
That was about 800,000
to 15 million years ago.
were substantially higher.
There was almost
no ice on the planet.
And sea level was about
100 foot higher at that time.
Give you some indication
of where we might be headed
if we don’t
solve this problem.
So how hot is hot? Well, the 10
hottest years were all since 1998.
And 2016 was the hottest year.
But if we look here, this marks the 39th
straight year of above-average global
annual temperatures – from the average.
And the odds of that happening
by random without global warming
is about 1 in 27 million,
That’s one you might
want to write down.
Okay, so 16 out of the 17 top –
16 out of the top 17 years
have occurred – the hottest years
have occurred since the year 2000.
And we only have 17 of those years.
So 2010 was the hottest year, then 2014
beat that out as the hottest year.
And then 2015 beat that out.
That’s the hottest year ever.
And now, here it comes – ooh –
2016 is hotter than those years.
But based on what’s happening
around here – oop – this is this week.
I just got this off the –
off the weather forecast.
There was this huge heat dome over
the west and influencing everything.
This is yesterday,
I guess – yes.
Las Vegas – these are all broken
records now – Las Vegas, 117.
These are all
And that’s happening every year,
depending on which city,
which township you’re looking at,
they’re breaking records all the time.
And like I said earlier, sometimes
you have tornadoes happening one place
and floods in another place
and droughts in another place.
And sometimes they’re happening all
at the same time within the country and
just in different places. So the weather
is becoming extreme and unpredictable.
So here it is. Here’s this
week’s plot of the country.
Having these massive heat waves,
which are breaking temperature records.
We’re having severe storms
in the mid-country – Midwest –
up in here.
And then we’ve got torrential rains
down here where they’ve already
had 12 inches of rain this past time
period here in the last couple weeks.
They were expected to get
another 12 to 15 inches of rain.
And here it is, tropical storm Cindy
is coming right through here,
and that’s expected to produce
tornadoes up in this alley here.
Now, Cindy is my wife’s name,
and sometimes there’s these
real storms at our house too,
but they’re not related to this.
So just want you to understand that.
Right, dear? [laughter]
I guess I’ll be sleeping outside.
No, no, no. It’s too hot.
So where’s all this heat going?
It’s going mostly – 92% of it is going
into the ocean. The upper ocean
has an enormous amount of heat.
The deep ocean has less,
but a lot of heat.
Some of it is wrapped up in the ice,
and some of it’s wrapped up in land.
But primarily, the ocean is absorbing
the most of the – of the heat.
So let’s look closer
to home here, locally.
These are a couple figures from
Mike Dettinger, who is a
USGS climatologist at Scripps.
And he produced some model runs
based on certain different
So he’s using certain assumptions
of how many – how much emissions
we’re using, and he did 23 model runs
on this for temperatures.
Here’s our – here’s our 2017.
And what we see is that
each one of these lines is
a different model run, okay?
And what he – what he sees is that
20 of the 23 model runs are
in this range from 3 degrees centigrade
increase to 6 degrees centigrade increase
by the year 2100.
And that’s centigrade.
It’s actually 5- to 11-degree
increase in Fahrenheit.
So we see that there’s a strong
consensus for warming based on
these models that Mike Dettinger
has been running.
Let’s take a look at what
he’s done with precipitation.
Again, he’s done another
23 models based on the
same assumptions he
did for temperature.
And what we find is, here’s 2017,
and 19 of the 23 model runs
were in this range, which is basically,
half of them are above, and roughly
half of them are below the zero line,
which means sometimes we’re
going to get more rain.
Sometimes we’re going to get less rain.
We can’t predict it.
It’s very unpredictable.
So there’s not a lot of – there’s a
large amount of uncertainty
with respect to precipitation.
Some of that’s due to the position
of the jet stream, which kind of
hits California about mid-level.
And sometimes it goes up,
and sometimes it goes down
to the south,
and it’s very unpredictable.
So let’s look at the temperature
variations over the past 12,000 years.
About 9,000 years ago –
this is when man – modern man
started agriculture and
developing harvesting procedures.
About 4,000 years ago,
they started developing cities
and more communities –
And within that timeframe –
each one of these lines represents
a different location on Earth, and the
black line is an average of all of those.
So during this last, what,
9,000 or 10,000 years,
when all of human social interactions
and evolution has taken place,
the temperature has not varied much,
if you look at the average.
About half a degree above and a half
a degree below the average line.
That’s all we’ve known in terms of
developing our human culture.
And so what we’re saying now –
what we’re seeing in these models
is that we’re looking up at 5 and 10
and 11 degrees Fahrenheit increase.
This is centigrade, but we’re still up
at 5 to 7 degrees centigrade increase.
And we have – we have
never experienced this in
human cultural evolution.
So there’s the 5 to 11 degrees.
So I want to run a short video clip
to show you – starting in the 1800s.
This – yeah, okay.
This represents different
temperatures around the Earth.
The blue and purple are cooler areas.
The red and orange are warmer areas.
And you can see that it’s not the same.
It changes all the time.
around the Earth –
sometimes in the north,
sometimes in the south.
As we move through the ’50s,
moving into the ’60s.
Different areas are cooling.
More areas are warming.
Getting into the ’80s and ’90s.
Getting into the 2000s.
So you can see that the arctic region –
the polar region – that polar region
has warmed a lot.
And because of that, we’re losing a lot
of the arctic ice – the arctic sea ice.
And, I mean, that provides
some opportunities opening up
but it’s also losing ice.
Let’s talk about precipitation – or not.
Atmospheric rivers are one form of
precipitation that comes from the tropical
Pacific area. The weather forecasters
like to call it Pineapple Express.
They’re usually about 250 miles
wide and about 1 mile high.
And they flow from the mid-Pacific
across into California and reach
the western coast of California.
We don’t have an eastern coast, I guess.
When the big one hits, we might –
you might have [laughter]
shoreline property out here,
but anyway, let’s take a look at that.
This was a super storm
back in December of 2010.
And this is a little video.
Here’s Hawaii out here.
And you can see all of this moisture
in the atmosphere is what this is
representing is streaming right into
primarily southern California.
There’s the ticker up here.
It repeats itself.
And that storm produced 26 inches
of rain in coastal California
and 17 feet of snow
in the Sierra Nevada.
The problem is that most of this
rain and snow is coming – or rain
is coming into southern California.
Where are our reservoirs?
Primarily northern California,
like Oroville and the other big ones.
So that doesn’t do us much good when
all the raining is falling and then just,
you know, flowing out to the ocean.
So we can’t capture that very well.
So these atmospheric rivers often
happen during El Niño years.
And we’re going to talk about
El Niño in a little bit.
So on the other end of the spectrum,
we’ve been in a drought – a long-term
drought for the past six years or so.
We’re still not out of the drought
even though we’ve had an enormous
amount of rainfall in the last year or two.
So the west, obviously, is being hit
the hardest compared with the middle
of the country and the East Coast.
And when we take a closer look at
California, this region in central
California, especially where we grow
our crops, which is producing food for,
you know, most of the country,
we have this exceptional drought.
And I was told that, when they made
these figures and made the data
to go along with them, they found
that it was exceeding the
extreme drought conditions.
They had to make a new color to
actually designate the extreme nature
and the exceptional nature of this
particular drought that we’re in.
Here is also – this is also
related to the snow drought.
Every year, the Department of Water
Resources goes up to the Sierra Nevada,
in the same place every single year,
and they take a core through the –
through the snow to look at
snowpack, and they record that.
This is what they found in
April 1st, 2015. No snow.
There’s Jerry Brown. There’s the
Department of Water Resources guy.
And here’s where it was in 2014 –
the year before that.
Still not much.
Maybe 3 feet.
But the year after that – boom – 2016
was a massive rain and snow year.
And this year,
it’s even larger – 2017.
This is what’s happening
up in the Sierra Nevada.
Cabins and homes are being
crushed by weight of the snow.
Mammoth Ski Resort is
a fantastic place to be.
So there’s good things
and bad things about that,
but the point here is the massive
uncertainty and unpredictability
of what’s happening
exactly what we found with Mike
Dettinger’s graphs and model runs.
So what happens when
we have a lot of drought?
Well, the farmers down in San Joaquin
Valley are pumping groundwater.
Where they don’t have surface water,
they’re pumping groundwater.
And they’ve been doing this
for decades – not a bad thing.
But that’s where the water was,
and that’s where they’re bringing it out.
Unfortunately, some of these
sedimentary formations –
the water-holding ones – once you
pump them dry, they tend to collapse.
And so they don’t recover.
You can’t pump them back up.
They’re just down, and they
won’t be recovering ever again.
And as a result of that, the
San Joaquin Valley floor, in some areas,
is sinking 2 inches per month.
Farmers – by farmers pumping out
the groundwater during
our extended drought.
And I’m going to show
you a little diagram here.
This is a diagram
So this is 1925.
The land surface was up here.
1955, the land surface had sunk –
had subsided to here.
1977, it had subsided down to there.
That’s a real person.
That’s not a little, you know, plastic
soldier guy. [laughter] This is …
- Where is that?
- That’s in San Joaquin Valley.
Benchmark 5661, if you
want to look it up, okay?
But today, right now, it’s still
subsiding at about 1 foot per year.
Now, this is not over the
whole valley, and I’ll show you.
It’s mostly along the I-5 corridor.
And these orange and blue areas,
those are areas that are sunk –
are subsided the most.
So not down in –
not down in Bakersfield.
There’s some subsidence,
but this is the worst area here.
A lot of this is work by Michelle
Sneed from USGS in Sacramento.
- You said subsidence from petroleum?
- No. I think it’s primarily water table.
So because we have droughts,
we also have low humidity,
when everything is really tinder dry,
and that causes fires from –
both from lightning strikes
as well as some perpetrated fires
that are started
by crazy people.
I like those, but that’s about it.
So I wanted to show you this
wildfire tracker, put out by –
I forget who has it, but the
Climate Central people advertise it.
And you can – you can drill down
into these individual fires online,
and you can expand it and expand it.
And for each individual fire,
you can get the statistics on that – how
much – how much area is being burned,
how much is under control, where
exactly it’s located, where it’s heading.
And you can see that in –
this is from August of last year.
This area in the west – California and
the entire west was hit pretty hard.
What you probably didn’t hear about is
the fact that Alaska was even worse.
It was getting
much worse fires.
The entire state was
being inundated with fire.
So just be aware that
you can look at these.
Just go to Climate Central,
and you can do this tracker yourself.
And since 1985, the number of
large wildfires in the west
has increased by four-fold.
And it’s getting worse.
Here is – here is the temperature
increasing since 1970.
And the bars represent the frequency
of fires. That’s just going up and up.
Not the same every year.
It’s not a perfect line.
But you can see
that it’s increasing.
SLR. What’s that?
- [multiple responses] Sea level rise.
- Sea level rise. Thank you.
Okay, there’s lot of things happening.
I mean, most of the
coastal states are experiencing
with sea level rise.
Clearly, San Francisco in California.
Florida is doomed. No. [laughter]
Florida is going to be in trouble.
Let’s put it that way.
Alaskan glaciers are calving.
And there’s other places
that we’ll talk about in a minute
that are having a hard time.
Sea level rise is caused
by a whole suite of factors.
And we don’t have time
to go into all of those things.
It depends on where you are, when you
are, how you are. There’s a lot of things
However, there’s two things that
really stand out to sort of describe
what happens with sea level rise.
About 50% of sea level rise is
caused by the melting of
glaciers and ice caps. All right?
Another 50% is from
the expansion of sea water.
Now, you might not think that seawater
can expand very much, but when you
heat it up, it does expand.
And literally, the ocean is expanding.
And that’s why we have
some of the sea level we have –
sea level rise
we have today.
Now, a third 50% is caused – no.
That’s not right. Okay.
So the Arctic has been suffering from
some of this increased temperature.
And if we look at 1980 – this is the
North Pole, and here’s Greenland.
Looking at the Arctic in 1980,
we had a lot of sea ice.
2012, you can visually see,
it’s tremendously diminished.
This is the minimum that
we see in those two areas.
And this is – this is the Arctic. And the
Antarctic is having problems too.
Just returned a couple weeks ago, or a
couple months ago, from an expedition
to the Antarctic. And there’s things that
are happening down there similarly.
So here’s the Arctic that we just
looked at. Declining, declining, declining
up to 2017. More dramatic decline.
Now, the Antarctic is a little different.
The sea ice there, in some areas, has been
increasing, all right, for quite some time.
However, this last two or three years,
it’s been dropping off dramatically.
Here’s a mixture, or a combination
of the two – Arctic and Antarctic,
and you can see, at the bottom,
it’s really dropping off. Yes.
There’s something else that’s
happening in the Antarctic as well.
The Larsen C ice shelf has a problem.
There’s a large crack that has occurred
in the ice shelf, which is –
which was 70 miles long,
I think in January,
and is over 100 miles long now.
And there’s only about 8 miles
remaining the last week or so.
It may have broken off at this point.
But that shelf represents – that part
of the shelf represents about 9 to 12%
of the entire Larsen C ice shelf.
That’s kind of what the crack looks like.
In some areas, it’s over 3 miles wide.
And it’s just moving,
moving, moving out to sea.
And I’ll show you
Here’s the crack that’s occurring.
And this is the Antarctic Peninsula
where we were working.
And this is January ’17.
It’s probably over here
because there’s only 8 miles left.
And maybe it’s 2 miles left today.
I’m not sure.
This area here that’s breaking off is
probably the size of about Delaware.
All right? And while that ice shelf,
which is sitting on top of the ocean,
probably isn’t going to raise sea level
much, what happens is, behind the
ice shelf, at this margin right here,
there’s glaciers that feed into that.
The glaciers now have nothing
to stop them from moving.
And they will start
moving down and down.
They will be melting, and they will be
breaking off and moving into the ocean.
That’s what’s going to increase the
sea level rise in this particular area.
The Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated
a few – several years ago.
But now it’s this section that’s
calving off more and more.
So that’s what’s happening
in the Antarctic.
Little closer to home – California.
The National Research Council
in 2012 did a report –
an estimate of what sea level rise
would be in Washington,
Oregon, and California.
And I’m going to walk you through
projections for 2030, 2050, and 2100.
So in 2030, they’re projecting that
the sea level rise in California,
which is this yellow/orange
kind of thing, would be
up to about 30 centimeters,
which is about 0.8 feet.
In 2050, the sea level rise is projected to
be up to 60 centimeters, or about 2 feet.
And in 2100, the end of the century,
it’s projected to be up to about
or about 5 feet.
So this is local projections from
the National Research Council.
Now, if we go out to the
tropical Pacific, we have a number of –
a lot of atolls out there.
And atolls are all pretty much
formed from the same process –
submerging mountains or volcanoes.
And because of the way sea level
has risen, they’re all about 6 feet
above sea level. And there’s
people that live on some of them.
And because of that,
these people could be in trouble
if we have the 5- to 6-foot
increase in sea level.
And some people have kind of
overbuilt their atolls. [laughter]
It might be a little difficult to
get to the grocery store if you
have 6-foot sea level rise there.
So what are they going to do?
This is in the Indian Ocean, but let’s
take a look at the broad Pacific.
The Carteret Islands have
about 2,000 people on them.
They are starting to make plans
to move their citizens over
to the mainland of
Papua New Guinea.
The Tuvalu natives
are about 10,000 strong.
They have made arrangements
with New Zealand to move
their people down there.
These are all people thinking ahead.
The Kiribati Islands hold about 110,000
people, and they are already negotiating
with Fiji to move their people down
to higher islands down there.
So these are island nations.
However, there’s also coastal nations
like the Inupiat Eskimos up
in Alaska, which are on the land,
but they’re on the
edge of the land.
And the sea ice has been protecting them
from invasion – you know, inundation.
Now that the sea ice is melting,
those wave actions from storms
are coming in, and they’re
wiping out their villages.
So they’re going to have to
move someplace as well.
So you can see, throughout the Pacific,
these island nations are having a
hard time, and they are – they are
actually preparing for what’s coming.
Let’s go a little closer to home.
I want to show you that the ocean
is not the same height everywhere.
So Seattle up here in Puget Sound
is about 8 feet higher than it is
down here in
And, even closer to home,
San Francisco Bay area, we have
about 4-foot-higher sea level in the
South Bay as opposed to Suisun Bay.
And this is a lot to do with how the
water flushes in the bay, comes in,
goes out. But basically, the South Bay
is higher in elevation of sea level.
So let’s take a look –
aerial photograph of the bay.
Here’s Palo Alto.
Here we are at this red star in Menlo.
Here’s the bay – the blue.
Here’s 101 coming down through here.
Middlefield Road right here.
And I want you to notice what
happens to the bay when we
introduce a 100-year storm surge.
Okay? No sea level rise.
Just a 100-year storm
surge would produce this.
Okay, this is Noah Knowles’ work from
USGS. Here’s located here at Menlo.
And if we add to that
a 50-centimeter sea level rise,
we would end up inundating
where this light blue area is.
If we had 100 centimeters of sea level
rise, it would be up in the yellow zone.
And 150-centimeter sea level rise,
on top of the storm surge,
would be out at the
red zone out here.
Now, that’s pretty striking.
However, let’s take a look at
what’s in the South Bay.
What’s in the South Bay?
Oh, just a few businesses.
Little Silicon Valley companies like Dell
and Yahoo and Intel and – oh, there’s
Moffett Field. Oh, geez, we ought to
be careful. Where’s Susan? [laughter]
So we have a whole bunch of
really critical corporations
and businesses down here that
would probably be affected
by something that’s
They’re talking about building sea
walls down here to protect these.
There’s all kinds of proposals
that are being developed.
So I want to do another
poll of the audience here.
I want to know how many people –
how many people have an iPhone,
an iPad, and iPod, an Apple computer,
or you have Apple stock. Okay.
Oh, a couple.
So I want you to
know that you’re okay because
here is Apple’s headquarters
down in Cupertino. [laughter]
And their new spaceship site.
And you’re probably good.
You can still invest in your Apple stock.
And I wish you would because my son
works for Apple, so that’s going to
help him out a little bit. [laughter]
All right, so be aware of
things happening down here.
You know, keep your eyes open
when they talk about sea walls.
This might happen.
Okay, we’re on to other ocean
processes here – upwelling and El Niño.
El Niños are looked at that –
they believe that they’re
increasing in frequency,
and this could create a problem.
There was some guy that said the
coldest winter I ever saw was the
summer I spent in San Francisco.
I never could figure out
who that was.
But – oop, here he comes.
Oh, yeah. Okay.
So the problem with – problem,
quote, unquote, with San Francisco,
for some people, is the fact that
it’s chilly in the summer.
And that’s because of the fog.
Why does the fog happen?
Let’s take a look at that.
The fog is critical for the redwood
forests. I forgot to jump into that.
The fog precipitates on the
actual branches up in the –
up in the air and provides moisture for
the redwoods, which provide a habitat
for diverse ecological communities.
So the only reason, really,
we have these redwood forests
is partly because of this fog.
Okay, so coastal upwelling is a
process whereby northerly winds
blow down the coast –
and this is the – this is the land
over here, and this is the –
we’re sitting in the northern area.
North winds are blowing down
the coast, and as they do that,
they circulate out, and they curve
out to the open ocean with the
Coriolis effect and the – and the
circular – and the spinning of the Earth.
And those winds sweep out
on the surface to open ocean.
That leaves a void here when that
water is missing and is disappearing.
And what happens is that the
deep ocean water from
thousands of feet down comes up
to the surface to replace that water.
So we have what’s called –
what’s called upwelling.
And that upwelling, when the cold,
deep water hits the surface –
warm air, you get fog. That’s what’s
happening in San Francisco.
Roughly from about March or April
on through August is the time
when you would expect that.
Perfect time in the summer, right? Yeah.
So also, in addition to getting the fog,
we also get nutrient-rich water
coming up from thousands of feet down.
The nutrient-rich water provides food –
nutrients for phytoplankton.
Those provide nutrients for the
microscopic zooplankton, which
support food for small fish, large fish,
marine birds and mammals, and a
diverse productive marine community.
This supports our fisheries,
supports recreational aspects,
and helps tremendously
with the economy.
However, when El Niño events occur,
we lose a lot of that strong winds that
either, you know, damper – they go
down, or they disappear completely.
And when that happens, we don’t get
the upwelling, and we don’t get the
nutrient-rich water or the phytoplankton,
zooplankton, all the way up the line.
And what happens
during El Niño events
is that we get a crash in
the entire community.
So El Niño events are,
by some estimates, increasing
in their frequency and their intensity.
We just had one a couple years ago.
And this year is still iffy in terms of
whether we’re going to have an El Niño
or a La Niña, which is the opposite.
So that’s critical to healthy communities.
Here we may be jeopardizing some of
those productive marine communities.
OA. Who can tell me what OA is?
- [inaudible responses]
- All right. You guys got it.
Ocean acidification –
a risky shell game.
Another ocean-related process
with climate change.
Here is our carbon dioxide from
Charles Keeling graph again.
So if we look at this, we’ve got
atmospheric CO2 increasing over time.
We’ve got the
oceanic surface CO2.
As the atmospheric carbon dioxide is
absorbed by the surface of the ocean,
that carbon dioxide
in the ocean also goes up.
And as that goes up, we find
ocean surface pH going down,
or, because it’s an inverse
relationship, the acidity goes up.
And, as the acidity goes up,
we see all kinds of other problems.
We have a decreased pH,
which is an increased acidity,
lowers the saturation of
calcium carbonate in the seawater.
And what’s happening is, for those
animals that use or create shells,
either an external shell like a snail,
or an internal shell like a sea star,
those organisms are not able to
pull out those carbonate ions
out of the water
to build their shells.
And when that happens, you get a
decline in those – in those species.
So the ocean absorbs
about a quarter of all of
the global carbon emissions,
and that’s a lot.
So these are the kinds of
organisms that would be affected –
all the kind of things
that we like to eat,
like oysters, abalone, scallops, sea stars –
all those good things that we eat.
And the bottom line is,
by the end of this century,
it’s predicted that the ocean surface
will be more acidic than it has been
in 400 million years,
which could be a problem.
Not only does it affect the adults,
but it also really affects the larvae,
which have this tiny,
little larval shell.
And if they can’t build the larval shell,
they can’t grow up to be adults.
So they’ll be picked off
by predators very quickly.
So where do
we go from here?
Let’s go to Paris, okay?
Though we might not
want to go to Paris right now.
There seems to be a few
other things happening there.
But, over the past decade or so,
President Obama has been
working with many other countries –
basically the lead on developing
the World Climate
Summit in 2015.
And this was formed by the
Conference of the Parties – COP21.
So every year, there’s a
Conference of the Parties.
This happened to be the 21st Conference
of the Parties on the United States –
the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change.
in December of 2015.
194 countries participated in COP21
to formulate this agreement.
The goal was to develop an
agreement whereby the international
community would work together to
keep global warming at or below
a 2-centigrade-degree increase from
pre-industrial levels, which again,
we defined somewhere
around 1750 or 1800.
And they did a good job. They got
virtually all of the countries to participate.
And so the Paris Agreement was
entered into force about a year later,
November 4, 2016,
when they ratified it.
And after that, from November 4th,
2016, all of the countries then
fell in line that agreed to and
promised to ratify their promises.
There’s no – there’s no –
there’s no legal force there.
There’s nothing to punish
anybody for not participating.
But they came together and
agreed on the best they could.
So currently, all but two countries
have now signed on to the
Paris Agreement except Syria, which is
a war-torn country, and they probably
wouldn’t be able to do much, at least
in this timeframe – and Nicaragua.
Sort of ironically,
Nicaragua didn’t sign
because it didn’t go far enough
in protecting the environment.
And there is room for one more
line down there. Oh, yes. [laughter]
The current administration has indicated
it will pull out of the Paris Agreement.
And that’s all I’m going to say right
now unless I put on my UC-Davis hat.
So let’s continue
on with this.
The current pledges and policies –
we’re going to talk about
the current pledges and policies
from all the countries.
So here’s 2017.
Here we are now.
Here’s the year 2100, where we’ve been
projecting to for the last 45 minutes or so.
So if we continue on the way we’re
going now, we’re expecting that the –
that the concentration of carbon
dioxide will go up and up and up,
and the temperature will
reach somewhere around
4.8 to 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Somewhere in that gray range.
Now, based on the current
projections for policies that exist now
or are expected to exist in the future –
not what we’re doing now,
but what we currently are projecting –
it’s in this blue zone.
And it could be around 6 degrees
to 7 degrees increase in temperature.
Now, based on the pledges and
the commitments made at the
Paris Agreement, that would bring
that down to – into this red zone into
a 4.5- or 5-degree centigrade increase –
oh, I’m sorry – Fahrenheit increase.
And there’s some sort of
pie-in-the-sky other expectations
or hopes that we could
get down below 2 degrees centigrade
or below 1.5 degrees centigrade.
I just don’t think that’s probably
very realistic, but it would sure be nice
if we could get the countries to agree
to do what they said they
would agree in the Paris Agreement.
So that would bring us at least a lot lower
than what we are projecting now.
So, as we know, California is
a global leader in some of these
Assembly Bill 32, which was part of
the Global Warming Solutions Act,
was passed in 2006 and established
a program to reduce
California greenhouse gas emissions
to 1990 levels
by the year 2020.
That was about 15% better than we’re –
than we’re doing – or had been doing.
And then, just this last year,
Senate Bill 32 was passed,
which is another part of the
Global Warming Solutions Act,
which goes further than that
by reducing greenhouse gas emissions
to 40% below 1990 levels
by the year 2030.
An ambitious undertaking,
but possible, depending on how much
the federal government gives us.
We’ll see what happens.
And, because California –
40% of California emissions
are due to transportation, there’s room
in those mechanisms to target specific
areas to lower emissions, either by
gas standards or vehicle standards.
So what can we
do on a global basis?
Okay, what can – what can we
do and other countries do?
We can use other renewable
energy technologies. Solar is big.
China is just overwhelming
the market with solar cells.
They’re taking over –
they’re making huge profits.
Wind is being covered.
Germany is the leader in wind right now.
We have geothermal. California
has quite a few geothermal areas.
Currents are one option.
Tidal areas are another option.
Waves are another option.
We need to use everything we have.
Hydro. Hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Now, this is not a good option
right now, but they’re
still in early technological
development of those.
They may never be good.
And then finally,
ocean thermal energy conversion.
So there’s all these other options
besides fossil fuels that we could use
and should use in order to stem the
rise of carbon dioxide emissions.
And so what can
we do as individuals?
Well, we can eat lower
on the food chain.
We can – and this is also involved in,
you know, reducing deforestation.
If you’re not eating as many hamburgers
or steaks, that reduces the deforestation.
And that will increase the amount
that’s taken up into the atmosphere.
recycle everything possible,
especially plastics since
they’re made of fossil fuels.
And you can go to EPA’s website
still [laughter] and use the EPA’s
household carbon footprint calculator.
You better do it fast.
Drive an electric or hybrid car.
Or use alternative transportation.
Turn off all the unused lights
and appliances in your home.
Use a programmable thermostat.
Use Energy Star products,
which are great.
Don’t leave your car idling.
all these local actions,
if everybody contributes,
they have global consequences.
So we’re getting to
the bottom line here.
You know, thousands – I’ve been saying
thousands and thousands of scientists
have been working on
this issue for a long time.
And I think we’ve finally – you know,
there’s some little beacons of hope here.
We finally found the solution and
the answer that proves that global
warming is happening, and I will
just show you that right now.
There you go. Proof positive.
Thank you very much. [laughter]
[ Applause ]
- Thank you very much, Tom.
And now we’ll open it up
to any questions for Tom. [laughter]
And please, for the benefit of
our streaming audience, if you
have any questions, there are two mics
in the back. Please ask your question
into the mic, or I can bring you
this handheld mic as well.
- It’s not on. Go ahead. Shout.
- Just real quickly, some friends
and I were trying to figure out
which survey mark that
was a few years ago,
and we think it’s
gulf-united-0103 near Mendota.
It’s Sierra 661, and we’re not positive,
but that was the best guess we
came up with, and it is near the
town that was mentioned in
an article where we
saw that photograph, so …
- I’m sorry. I missed the first
part of what you were saying.
- That survey mark that
someone was asking about …
- Oh, yes, yes.
- … in the photograph, we think it’s –
the permanent identifier is GU0103
and that it’s near Mendota.
Thank you very much.
- Hi. I have two questions.
The first one is, what percentage
of climate change in the past
100 years can be directly attributed
to human activity and not
to natural temperature fluctuation
or external factors?
- Okay. Good question.
That’s a hard question,
but it’s a good question.
There are many factors that
contribute to changes in the climate.
And there’s all kinds of
natural cycles that are occurring.
There’s sun spots. There’s the elliptical
orbit of the Earth around the sun.
There’s changes in the planets’ positions.
All of those are contributing to different
aspects of climate change by
increasing or decreasing temperature.
There’s not an easy answer to that,
but it’s quite significant.
I don’t have a specific number, but
humans are probably more than 50% –
probably closer to 75% responsible
for the exponential increase in the
temperature and the carbon dioxide
concentrations in the atmosphere.
So that’s about as close as I can get you.
Because they change every year, or at
least every four to five years, based on
what the IPCC scientists come up with.
So that’s about
as close as I can get.
- Okay. And my second question is,
would it be more efficient to
either take steps now to
reduce the future impact
of anthropogenic catastrophic
climate change or to let it happen
and deal with the
consequences as they occur?
- Also a good question.
Unfortunately, we don’t know if we
are reaching a threshold where,
once we cross the threshold, it’s –
you know, there’s a point of no return.
So many scientists think that there is
a threshold that we’re approaching,
and that once we cross over that,
there’s no going back, and it’s just
going to keep, you know,
increasing and increasing.
So I think most scientists believe that
we need to be active and starting to
resolve this issue – not starting –
we need to be continuing to resolve
this issue within the
next 10 to 20 years.
So that’s the timeframe that
most scientists are thinking about.
We’re not going to solve it
within that timeframe.
We need to be starting a serious
program to diminish carbon emissions
during that time period.
- What is a 100-year storm surge?
I didn’t catch what that means.
- A 100-year what?
- Storm surge – that you were
talking about for the Bay Area.
- Oh, storm surge. I’m sorry. Yes.
So a storm surge is when you
have a storm that has a lot of wind
and a lot of waves
on the surface of the ocean.
And waves are created by wind
moving over the surface of the ocean
over certain distances.
And you get high wave action.
And a storm surge would be
high wind producing high waves,
and it would move up the shoreline a
long distance. And that would create
problems up the shoreline. It would
flood those areas. That’s a storm surge.
- His question was about
a 100-year storm surge.
- Well, the 100-year storm
is the part that – you know,
the surge created
by the 100-year storm.
So 100-year storms are storms that
occur once every 100 years, statistically.
And, you know, people who are
working in the – in the water division
calculate that based on
the frequency of storms.
in the early 1900s, late 1800s,
they had one yardstick that they
measured what was a 10-year storm
and a 100-year storm. And now
that yardstick has gone totally wrong.
And so now we have had to
re-adjust what a 100-year storm is
to smaller and smaller timeframes.
So it’s a moving scale.
- Over here.
- I’m a little disappointed when
you indicated alternative forms of
energy generation, you never talked of
one system that is being developed
in China and several other countries,
and that is liquid thorium fueled
reactors, which are much safer,
do not form radioactive uranium
that could be used for
bombs or anything like that.
And it could be much cheaper than
some of the things we have down there.
- Okay. Well, I appreciate that
information. I’m not skilled or
knowledgeable of that system,
but I’ll try to add it to my next slide.
- Another question that started in
the very beginning of your talk,
when you talked about the diurnal
variations of the temperature in Hawaii.
And because you claimed …
- That’s actually carbon dioxide.
- Carbon dioxide.
- But my experience in Hawaii
is that most of the plants there seem
to be evergreen – green all year round.
And I would think they would keep the
same – approximately the same amount
of carbon dioxide winter and summer.
- So it doesn’t explain …
- Good comment.
However, what they’re measuring
at 11,000 feet is not only what’s
happening on the ground in Hawaii.
It’s measuring the entire movement
of the atmosphere past that zone.
- So it’s combined from all of the other
areas in the Earth coming from China
and Japan and across the Pacific Ocean.
- Thank you.
- So I have a friend who is
not sure about climate change,
or at least human-caused.
And he always says, well, you know,
correlation does not equal causation.
And so you’ve shown, you know, graphs
that are correlated, and that’s great.
But I really don’t have any good
ammunition to, you know,
say it goes beyond just a correlation.
And you had answered this other
gentleman’s question is, about, you
know, maybe 50 to 75% human-caused.
Can you shine more light on how
that number might be derived
or have any more ammunition
I might be able to use to help him
see the light, if you will?
- Well, I think there’s been so much
work on analyzing previous times
during our history on what’s happening.
They’ve really gotten it down to a
very fine science on analyzing what
happens when carbon dioxide goes up,
what happens when
carbon dioxide goes down.
And we are affecting the
carbon dioxide, which, in turn,
and the global heat budget.
The global heat budget
has been disrupted.
And CO2 is, by all studies so far –
not all studies – the vast majority –
and we’re talking about
the weight of evidence.
We’re not talking about one study
here and one study here, and maybe,
you know, 99 studies here
and one study that refutes that.
We’re talking about the large,
vast weight of evidence of all of
these studies together indicates that,
yes, it is man-, you know, influenced.
And it is caused by
increased carbon dioxide.
And all of these other – I mean,
carbon dioxide is not the only one.
There’s nitrous oxide.
There’s a whole host of other
lesser greenhouse gases that are
this process as well.
So I’d say we take the vast weight
of evidence from all of these studies
and all of the scientists
and they’re all
showing the same thing.
So, you know, beyond a correlation,
they’re not all missing it.
showing the same thing.
- Okay. Thanks.
- Question here.
If it’s true that the –
or given that man influence –
are creating something
that’s really bad for us, and a lot
of that is coming through the
carbon dioxide vector, there have
been a number of proposals of
attacking that directly and sinking the
carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
I’m talking about things, for example, like
the ocean seeding or ocean fertilization.
Would you comment
a little bit on those proposals?
- Yeah. Let me just –
let me see if I can pull up a slide.
[ Silence ]
Let me just try
one more thing here.
I thought I had it
right at the end.
[ Silence ]
There it is.
Okay, so there’s been – not a million,
but there have been probably dozens
and dozens of geoengineering
proposals out there.
And I’ll just run
through a few of them.
Stratospheric sulfur aerosols – shooting
sulfur aerosols into the atmosphere,
which would lower the
development of CO2.
Manmade volcanoes producing
reflective aerosols – dust and metals.
If you pump up metals and dust
into the atmosphere, it prevents
the sunlight from coming down
and hitting the Earth as much.
reflectively of clouds.
Putting reflective sheeting
in deserts that reflects
the sunlight back out
to the atmosphere.
Space mirrors – we can put space
mirrors out there to reflect the light back.
A lot of these are
just harebrained schemes,
but this is
what’s being proposed.
Launching billions of reflective
balloons into the stratosphere.
Deforestation in high latitudes
exposes the snow, which increases
the reflectively and, again,
resisting heat buildup.
Building a 1,000-kilometer-wide
deflecting space lens between
the Earth and the sun.
Light-colored floating litter, or garbage
in the mid-Pacific gyre to reflect sun.
We have a lot of
garbage out there now.
Reforestation in tropical
habitats to absorb more CO2.
Pumping CO2 into
the deep ocean.
This is sequestration
or deep-sediment strata.
And then what you mentioned,
iron fertilization in the ocean,
algae growth, to then sequester the
carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
So these are only a very few
of the geoengineering possibilities
that people are proposing.
Lots of them out there.
- Let’s assume that, in spite of
all the things that we could do,
we don’t do it, and we
reach that point of no return.
What will life be like if we – if the
planet goes into a point of no return?
- Well, I can’t tell you exactly,
but it’s not going to be pretty.
It’s going to be very difficult
for your kids and your kids’ kids.
You know, we need to
be good stewards of the Earth.
And that’s what we’re trying to do right
now is to prevent that from happening.
We will see that the sea level is going to
rise tens of feet, flooding the coastal
areas and many cities, making them
inhabitable – uninhabitable, rather.
will cause human health issues.
And it’s not going to be pretty.
I mean, it’ll just keep continuing.
CO2 – the reality is that the
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
today is actually going to stay
there for several hundred years.
Now, we can reduce carbon dioxide
and reduce it to the point where it
slowly disintegrates, but it’s
going to be there for a long time.
We just need to stop
pumping more and more and more
carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
So there’s a whole host of things that are
going to look pretty bad if we don’t
stop it and reduce our carbon emissions.
- I have a couple
of arcane questions,
and then I’d like to
make a couple comments.
In a climate science class I took
at Stanford – adult education,
the text by David Archer said that
there was less than 0.1 gigaton of
carbon per year as a background
emission from geological sources.
From a lecture I saw back in 2012,
Don DePaolo over in Berkeley said that
the background geologic rate of carbon
emission was 0.03 gigatons per year.
Do you have any other figure
you’d like to add to that group?
Does that seem – between 0.1 and 0.3
seem like a reasonable amount of …
- You’re asking me to
verify what they’re saying?
- Are you asking me
to verify [inaudible]?
- Yeah. Do you have any – do you
have any knowledge of carbon
geologic background emissions?
- Well, right now,
we’re pumping 9 billion …
- Ten billion.
- … tons of carbon into the
atmosphere every year, so …
- So that’s about 300 times more than the
background rate, based on DePaolo’s …
- Right. I can’t verify
what their lectures are saying.
- Could you talk to the Pacific
Decadal Oscillation, which is
a long-term El Niño or La Niña events.
The period between 1940 and ’76,
when there was a decline matched
fairly consistently with a La Niña
where a cooling
Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
And can that be varying the temperature
gradient with that strong signal?
- The PDO is – the Pacific Decadal
Oscillations do occur about a 10 –
roughly 10-year cycle, 20-year cycle.
But, you know, these other –
these other processes
are increasing all the time.
- Right. But that cycle affects those –
it affects those smaller carbon dioxide …
- Sure. Right. There’s a …
- … and bends it – bends it
and changes it, which is …
- We have all kinds of – I mean,
I didn’t list them all, but we have
many, many natural cycles that are
all contributing to this process.
- Yeah, yeah. Right.
Steven Chu, in a lecture back in 2014,
said 4, 5, 6 degrees Celsius is
He made it very simple.
- Who says this?
- Dr. Steven Chu, former secretary
of energy, Nobel Laureate.
In terms of this young man’s
question over here about,
how do we know
that humans are causing this?
I did a study of basic ice core
data and the Keeling curve.
And if you look at the ice core data –
when we came out of the Ice Age,
roughly from 18,000 to 12,000
years ago – 6,000 years,
we added roughly 90 parts per million,
or the planet, in its own natural
processes, whatever they were,
added 90 parts per million.
From 1958, when Keeling started
his curve, to 2017 – 60 years,
we’ve added another
90 parts per million.
Now, that’s 100 times faster than
the natural process, and the rise
of temperature and carbon dioxide
coming out of an Ice Age is pretty rapid.
That’s a fairly rapid change in …
- And presently, we’re adding
roughly 3 parts per million
to the atmosphere.
So in 30 years, we will
add roughly another 90 parts.
That looks like a very uncomfortable
exponential curve to me.
- Uncomfortable in what way?
- Well, James Hanson, Philip Gingerich –
two – is a geologist who wrote an article
back in National Geographic said that
roughly the best analogy to what would
happen to us if we have runaway
climate change was the PETM –
Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum –
roughly 65 million years ago,
and that raised temperature
about 5 or 6 degrees Celsius.
- So – and that lasted
roughly 100,000 years.
- Okay. So what’s your question?
- The question is, how bad things are
and how bad they will be and how
long they will last, if we – you know,
the Arctic Sea ice that you mentioned,
we’ve lost 80% of the mass.
That’s never coming back.
Not in any human timeframe if we’re
still adding 10 gigatons of carbon.
- Right. So what’s your question?
I don’t understand what you’re asking.
- What would it take to get people to
realize how bad
this is going to be?
- Now, there’s a good question.
That was a good question.
[ Applause ]
I don’t know the answer to that.
And that’s why many of us are
working along the sidelines
trying to influence this process.
I’m here trying to educate people so that
when these people speak to other people,
they can speak with an
educated background, okay?
- And that’s what I’m trying to do.
As best I can.
I’m an ecologist.
I’m not a geologist.
I’m not an ice core specialist.
I’m just trying to do what I can do.
And, yes, a 4- to 5-degree or a 7- to
10-degree or a 12- to 15-degree increase
in temperature is going to be really ugly.
I mean, there will be humans that
survive, but it’s not going to be pretty.
It’s going to be really ugly.
Many people will die.
I don’t have the answer to
what exactly will happen.
But it may be close to unsurvivable.
Okay? Thank you.
- Thank you.
- Anybody else?
- Yeah. So this might require you to
put on one of your hats, but …
I’m wondering, when I see things –
when I see things …
- I’m ready.
- When I see things on the internet
that talk about the changes that are
happening at the EPA, I’m just sort of
curious, like, how true they are.
Like, are people actually being
told not to be making these –
continuing to do scientific research?
Are they being asked to, you know,
stop working in their departments,
wherever they may be,
to be doing the things that we need to
do so that we can stop climate change?
Like, what is actually happening
in terms of stopping these scientific
inquiries and the policymakers from
making changes so that we can stop this?
- Well, I read the news just like you do.
And I understand and speak with
other people that work for the
federal government as well.
I do know that there’s tremendous cuts
in funding for many of these programs.
And there’s removal of terms and
scientific phrases, like “climate change,”
“global warming,” things like
that from websites.
And the rationale sometimes escapes me.
I mean, I really don’t understand how,
when the vast majority of the world,
and the countries in the world,
are all supporting this, how we
can’t support it on the country
that led the effort to create
the Global Paris Agreement.
People – you know, it’s possible that,
if the United States pulls out
of the climate – of the Paris climate
accord that other countries would feel
possibly let down by pulling out –
whoever that country was,
and that they might think, well,
why should we extend ourselves
and expend the money it takes
to accomplish this task
if the leader of the
free world is not doing it?
So I’m concerned,
as a citizen, just as you are.
And I don’t have
an answer for that.
Well, I do have an answer, but you
know the answer just as well as I do.
So all I can do is do the best I can
in trying to educate people
so that they can speak intelligently
and make the right choices.
When you contribute to a certain cause,
and you vote for a certain person,
those are the choices that you make
as well as an educated citizen.
- Are there some voices in the public
that are speaking out to get the –
to try to bring some rational
thinking into – and in a hurry,
to get the government to do something?
- Well, sure. There’s lot of them.
- Well, they’re not
being heard are they?
- Well, I think they’re being heard.
But, you know, the question is,
how can we accomplish what we’re
trying to accomplish in terms of
lowering carbon dioxide emissions
along with the rest of the countries
of the world.
That’s the challenge that we have.
- So keep that hat on.
So relative to the Paris accord and
the administration’s latest little decision
to pull us out, which isn’t going
to happen immediately, right?
- Right. The Paris accord –
our participation in the Paris accord
is pretty locked in.
So if there was an effort to pull out,
that effort would take at least
three or four years to be finalized.
- So what about Congress?
Do we see both sides of the aisle
you’ve talked about today?
Do we have members on the – we know
where most of the Democrats are.
Do we have – what’s the
other side of the aisle doing?
Do they understand this?
Do we have people on both sides that –
I think that kind of speaks to
this gentleman’s question –
that are willing to
stand up and say,
wait, wait, this is not a political issue,
or it shouldn’t be a political issue?
- Well, just from the facts and the
information that I read in the news,
whether that’s fake news or real news,
I see that there are individuals on both
sides of the aisle that do understand
the facts about climate change.
And hopefully those people will step up
and make the right decisions.
- I can give a little bit of
an answer to that.
I’m Ro Khanna’s district director.
And the congressman has been
approached by people to
join the Climate Change Caucus.
But the Climate Change Caucus
has a rule, sort of like the ballroom
dancing thing that my cousin was
approached about putting her kid in.
They would only allow a
girl to join if a boy also joined
so that everyone
would have partners.
And my cousin had a son,
and her friend had a daughter.
And her friend wanted the daughter to
be in the ballroom dancing thing,
so my cousin made her son take ballroom
dancing so this other girl could do it.
So far, Congressman Khanna has not
found a Republican partner to allow him
to join [laughter] the Climate Change
Caucus. But they are working on that.
- I’ve heard that as well.
- Some of these guys who
might be feeling a
little bit endangered next year,
maybe that will
provide some motivation.
But, you know, Al Gore was right.
This is an inconvenient truth.
And a lot of people just don’t
want to think about it or accept it.
- As a scientist, it’s appalling
that we even have to
be debating scientific fact.
I mean, it’s just appalling. I’m sure
you feel the same way. But we do.
And so the best thing we can do is
tell our friends in other states [laughs]
to wake up and smell the coffee
and that – you know, there is a place
that had a runaway greenhouse effect.
It’s called Venus, and the temperature
is 700 degrees, and they
have sulfuric acid clouds.
I mean, a mass extinction event
is quite possible here
if we don’t get
our act together.
- Well, I appreciate your information.
I think my goal here tonight was
to provide the updated information
on the science behind climate change.
That was my goal.
And clearly …
- And you’re doing
a great job, by the way.
[ Applause ]
- It’s unfortunate – it’s unfortunate
that this topic has become politicized.
I can’t control that.
You know, my personal feelings
are my personal feelings.
I think all of you have
your own personal feelings,
whichever way you vote
and whichever way you spend
your money is your business.
But I’m concerned about how we can
lower the carbon dioxide concentrations,
protect this planet for
our kids and their kids.
And whatever I can do, I’m going to do
in the future to try to accomplish that.
So I think that probably
brings us to a close here.
Thank you all for coming.
[ Applause ]
[ background conversations ]
[ Silence ]