Generation Us: The Challenge of Global Warming

Provisional notes. To cleaned up when slides obtained and before communicating with Earth and Environment for discussion.

The Centre for Canadian Studies and the School of Earth and Environment, both of the University of Leeds, present ‘Generation Us: The Challenge of Global Warming’, a lecture on both the history and the future of the science of global warming. The acclaimed Canadian scientist and author, Dr. Andrew Weaver, will explore how international policy, media portrayal and technological solutions can all impact climate change, ultimately asking how modern society can turn the challenge of global warming to potential creativity and innovation. The lecture will take place on Monday, 31st October, 5pm-7pm, in Room 8.119 at the School of Earth and Environment.

Convincing account of the science of climate change. Showed the political  and age demographic of those most likely to doubt climate change is happening. Right wing and older.

Demonstrates that the agreed carbon emission targets designed to keep us below the 2 degrees ‘guard rail’ , even if we succeeed in meeting them, will not limit us to 2 degrees and 4 or more is likely.

Why scientists are bad communicators to the public. Always frame their answers with conditions and uncertainties. E’g of ‘is the sky blue?’ Also misrepresented in the media. Policies needed now to get results for future generations in 50 or more years. Not politically powerful compared with hospitals and so on – the 5 year election cycle. Bottom line: do we owe anything to future generations?

Showed how the  less developed nations who contribute less towards the problem are the most likely to be affected and the least able to mitigate or ameliorate. A Canadian emits250 time more carbon than an Ethiopian, e.g.

Continued growth on present scales is unsustainable. Equilibrium will be met but may not include humans. Gave the tragedy of the commons as a reason why we are in trouble. Individual advantage of an extra cow on the commons while costs are shared with all the others. But breaks down if all follow the same logic. Tend towards over grazing and destruction of the resource. Advocated technology as a solution – solar panels would only take up a very small are of the planet for instance. In addition the externalities should be priced in to reflect the true scarcity and cost of the resources used so that the markets work efficiently. In answer to questions about capitalism he said that a fixed capitalism woudl be prefereble to a Chinese command economy and would be possible. Why not have corporations that, having achieved a certain level of production, flatten and stop growth? A zero growth capitalism is possible.

How would this address issues of equality, equity and environmental justice? Reminiscent of Urry’s point, hopefully made tomorrow, that climate policy is framed almost exclusively in terms of science and technology coupled to a flawed and crude economic theory as a surrogate for social science. Weaver’s account of policy implications demonstrates this quite well.


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