YouTube video

If we do not take the next exit ramp from the fossil fuel highway, we commitment ourselves to dangerous and irreversible changes in our climate, says Dr. Michael Mann

Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Its The Real News Network, I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. President-to-be, Trump, has announced his transition team will be headed by his Vice President-to-be, Mike Pence. With 2 climate change deniers at the helm, Trump and Pence, and with them surrounded by more climate skeptics, such as Myron Ebell, who’s being floated as the possible head of the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. Everyone is now wondering if we will be able to stop the runaway train on climate change. Let’s have a look at what Myron Ebell had to say just recently. [VIDEO START] MYRON EBELL: Science established that global warming is not a crisis. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. We haven’t had any temperature increase. I would like to have more funding so that I could combat the nonsense put out by the environmental group. I hope whoever is elected president in 2017 for whatever party will undo the EPA plant rigs. [VIDEO END] PERIES: On to talk about the level of denial and frankly the ignorance on the Trump team is Michael Mann. Michael is the distinguished research professor and director of the Earth Systems Science center at Penn State University. He’s the author of the book, The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars. His latest book, co-authored with Tom Toles is titled, The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics and Driving Us Crazy. Michael so good to have you with us. MICHAEL MANN: Thanks its good to be with you. PERIES: And I also wanna take sometime on air just to thank you, Michael, for being so available for The Real News Network. Its so critical that we cover these issues, repeatedly, to get the message out as far and as broad as we can. Particularly in times like this. So thank you. MANN: My pleasure. PERIES: So Michael we’ve made very little progress to curb the rising temperatures and to limit greenhouse gases. And as a scientist, if Trump governs the way he says he’s going to govern, as he did in the campaign, what do you think the effects are going to be? What’s in store for us? MANN: As I’ve said elsewhere, if we were to follow Trump’s stated prescription to back out of the clean power plan to back out of the Paris Agreement where there has been real progress over the last year in the form of this agreement last year in Paris and nearly 200 nations from around the world making commitments to substantially lower carbon emissions. The US actually led the way through a bilateral agreement with china – so representing the 2 largest emitters on the planet, agreed to substantial reductions prior to the Paris summit where nearly 200 nations from around the world were brought onboard. So we’re headed onto a path, we were on a trajectory to actually acting and doing something about climate change but now, all those efforts are imperiled by president elect, Trump, who has stated that he doesn’t even accept the scientific evidence that climate change is real and will basically try to undo all the progress that we have made here in the United States by appointing climate change deniers to the highest governmental positions in the administration by backing out, basically going back on our commitments to the rest of the world. If we were to pursue Trump’s prescription then it would be as I’ve said “game over” for the climate. We don’t have anymore time to waste if we are going to avert dangerous and irreversible changes in climate and unfortunately Donald Trump’s stated policies and preferences would take us in exactly the opposite direction that we need to be going. PERIES: Now Michael what shocked everybody during the campaign is that they, the candidates, really didn’t talk about the issue of climate change given the catastrophes we are facing at least what the scientists are telling us we are going to be inevitably facing. Why do you think that was so? And give us some reason why these issues were left out of the campaign conversations and debates. MANN: Its very unfortunate and it wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of the democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. We did try to insert the issue of climate change into the discussion at every opportunity in the debates. But unfortunately the debate moderators essentially ignored the issue. Our corporate media ignored the issue. And so when one candidate was trying to place an issue like climate change in the center of the campaign discourse and the media refuses to cover it, its very difficult to really get any play for that message for the issue. That’s unfortunately what we saw. I don’t think we can neglect the fact that many of the cable news networks that hosted the debates and are replied upon for information, the public gets their information about the campaign and the issues, many of these networks were busy running commercials from Exxon Mobil, from the American Petroleum Institute and you have to wonder if there’s a conflict of interest. When they’re taking millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry, and they basically refuse to talk about an issue like climate change which of course implicates the burning of fossil fuels and our continued reliance on fossil fuels, you have to wonder if there’s a connection. PERIES: And in that vain, we’ve just done a film about the Koch brothers and their connection to the climate denial and of course now we now that they’ve contributed $950 million to various candidates running, that ran in the campaign in this recent election and now we have a sweeping presence of Republicans both in Senate and the House, and of course in the White House. What will this mean in terms of the US’s position on climate change? MANN: Well the Koch brothers are basically running our government now. Donald Trump of course is the president elect but his vice president Mike Pence, who I suspect will be far more influential in actually crafting policy, has a very close personal and financial relationship with the Koch brothers. As do many of the Republicans who are now in power in the Senate, in the House of Representatives. So, the Koch brothers, by basically buying our government through spending 10s of millions of dollars to influence our elections, have basically achieved what they have been looking for for years. Complete control of our government and that does not portend well for how we are going to face and deal with issues like climate change which require good faith engagement across the political spectrum. While the Republicans who are now in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, are on record rejecting the science, rejecting the notion that there is even a problem to begin with and its very difficult to have a meaningful debate within our politics. When one side is firmly committed to rejecting the evidence that there’s even a problem. PERIES: Michael, as we speak, in Marrakesh, at COP22, the climate representatives from 195 different countries are present and they’re talking about how to strengthen the Paris Agreement and they have been fed by some recent scientific study saying that in the current trajectory, facing more like 3 degrees Celsius in terms of the temperature increase, so what’s the trajectory here in terms of the real rise in temperature that we’ve been dealing with? MANN: Yeah, there have been some recent studies that suggest the sensitivity of the climate, how much warming we get for increasing, when we increase the concentrations of some greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the fossil fuel burning and other activities, that the sensitivity of the climate may be in the upper end of the sensitivity reach which means that it could be even more tough to stabilize warming below dangerous levels which are typically described as being constitute by 2 degree Celsius, 3 and a half degrees Fahrenheit, warming. If we reach that threshold or cross that threshold, that’s when we start to see the worst impacts of climate change. The latest numbers are sobering and what they tell us is that we do indeed have an uphill challenge if we were to avert dangerous climate change but there is still time. The numbers don’t lie about that either. There is still time to lower our carbon emissions to transition away from fossil fuels in a way that we do keep warming below those dangerous levels but we don’t have enough time to waste and unfortunately with the election of Donald Trump, we now potentially have a government in the case of the US, that is adversarial with respect to the rest of the world’s governments when it comes to acting on this problem. We have to hold our government accountable to making good on our commitments to the rest of the world. To stay in the Paris accord, to continuing to implement the clean power plan and to allow the renewable energy industry to flourish as it already is. The great growth industry of the 21st century will be clean renewable energy. The rest of the world sees that, China sees that, South America sees that, the rest of the world understands that that’s the future of our economy. And so Donald Trump has to ask whether he truly is committed to making this country great, because making this country great means making sure that we’re not left behind when it comes to the great economic revolution of this century. The move towards fossil fuel free energy. PERIES: Michael, if you look at the New York Times, you often see photographs of the conditions out in New Delhi or in terms of rising global temperatures, climate change and the smog, and so forth, or you see masked people in Beijing, but rarely do you see the effects of climate change right here in the United States, you hear about one disaster or another disaster or this flood or that flood but its rarely connected to climate change. Why do you think that is and what would 2 or 3 degrees Celsius temperature rise in the United States actually look like? MANN: We don’t have to look at the predictions, we don’t have to look at the models to answer that question. We just have to look out our windows. Because now we are seeing the negative impacts of climate change play out in our daily lives, on our television screens, in our 24 hour news cycle. Whether it’s the slew of unprecedented, thousand year flooding events that we’ve seen over the past year. Whether it’s the record strongest hurricanes or typhoons we’ve seen in either hemisphere, both of which occurred in the last year. Whether it’s the unprecedented drought in California, which the scientists who studied past patterns of drought tell us that is probably the worst drought in at least a millennium, and maybe even further. And the wildfires that we’ve seen breakout in the Western US, because of dryer and hotter summers. The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing the negative consequences of our profligate burning of fossil fuels play out already. And at this point its simply a question of how far down that road are we willing to go because if we do not take the next available exit ramp from the fossil fuel highway, we do commit ourselves to dangerous irreversible changes in climate. PERIES: Michael Mann, as always, thank you so much for joining us today. MANN: Thank you, always a pleasure. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. End DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Dr. Michael E. Mann is a Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).