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Do you want someone to care about climate change? Make it personal



What people say they know that climate change is a roller coaster of human ignorance – wait, everyone knows it this but no one knows this? According to Yale's climate survey program, it is striking to learn that 74% of women and 70% of men think that climate change will harm future generations, but that 48% and 42% think this their night personally.

This is, of course, in many ways. Yet less than half of Americans believe that climate change is a problem here and now. It is therefore essential that a new report on the impact of climate change speaks of the present as well as the future. Balance: 157 million more people experienced a heat wave in 2016 compared to 2000, or 12.3 million Americans. This heat and the injuries that can result have cost the world 153 billion hours of work, of which 1.1 billion in the United States. The geographical distribution of mosquitoes carrying dengue, Zika, malaria and chikungunya is becoming widespread. The same goes for the range of bacteria responsible for cholera. The world yield of crops is declining.

You are like, old news! But you may be thinking of the apocalyptic report on the apocalyptic climate of last week. It was volume 2 of the fourth national climate assessment. Of the day red alert is the 2018 Lancet Countdown, an annual report published by a British medical journal on the effects of climate change on public health.

Some confusion here would be understandable. The common feature of these two reports (with the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in October, on an increase in global temperature of 1.5 degrees) is immediacy. These reports are designed to show that climate change is happening now, and to inspire people to take action. How? Show them how climate change affects them personally and describe these effects in a way that transcends their politics. Global warming is causing "current changes," says the Lancet report. In a telephone meeting for journalists, Renee Salas, director of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the US chapter of the report, said he saw more patients with asthma attacks and stress in the heat. "Considering climate change as a public health emergency is literally second nature," said Salas.

Nevertheless, these reports address immediacy with different strategies. the Lancet The countdown focuses on health. For NCA4, the approach was a little more subtle. His hundreds of writers began by considering their audience. The Global Change Research Act of 1990 states that these quadrennial reports are specifically for the President and Congress. Climate change affects the American Southwest in a very different way from the Northeast. Therefore, the decomposition of regional effects into chapters makes these data more useful for members of Congress who may see specific effects on their districts. (NCA is not the only research to do this, you can explore the economic effects by county as much as possible, if you are there).

The breakdown of climate impacts by region and by sector gives the report a potentially wider impact. "The idea is that the risks are more salient if they apply to you," says Robert Lempert, principal investigator at RAND and author of the report. "We really wanted to talk about it, call them makers, on many levels, not just the federal government." Lempert said they thought about water management agencies, land managers: to people who write the instructions.

In the twenty years of the NCA's life, science has improved. The same is true for thinking about how to make people understand this science. Talking about tens of thousands of deaths and tens of billions of dollars can help solve this problem. "Over the past 20 years, we've been thinking more about the economic costs," says John Furlow, an expert in development and support at the International Institute for Climate Research and Society at Columbia University and author of NCA4. "And we have more examples."

Almost everyone (even oil companies, but not the president) now understands that burning fossil fuels sends gases into the atmosphere and raises global temperatures. In recent years, climate science has improved attribution, making it possible to determine more precisely how much a hurricane, fire or drought has been caused by this warming and gas. "We can see impacts on things that interest people, which leads to shorter lead times and more concrete examples," Furlow said. "Science allows us to attribute things more or less to the climate than current trends, and to analyze how these things interact."

the Lancet report tent pretty much the same type of anchoring in the individual experience. Part-million-per-million carbon dioxide meters and the margins of error on global circulation patterns are not the most intuitive ways to talk about the end of the world. Abstract numbers and scenarios for the distant future do not cut it. "Babies today, in adulthood, will live on a planet without the Arctic. The frequency of heat stroke and extreme weather will have redefined global manpower and production beyond recognition, "says an editorial accompanying the report. "Many cities will be uninhabitable and migration patterns will be well beyond the levels that are already creating global pressure." Cats and dogs living together; Collective panic. Your planet is on fire, children.

However, the actual functioning of this immediacy and personalization may depend on the immediate nature of the problem and the identity of the person. "Most mitigation decisions are made at the federal and state levels. Or in principle they are; maybe not at the moment at the federal level, "says Robert Kopp, director of the Institute of Earth Scientists, Ocean and Atmosphere at Rutgers University and other author of the National Climate Assessment. "But adaptation decisions are made at all levels, perhaps more locally than elsewhere."

the Lancet This report is full of simple policy recommendations, such as "Reduce carbon emissions, dummies". By law, the NCA can not do it. "We may have been a little bit more careful this time around, because we did not want anything to encourage the administration to try to delete the report," Furlow says. "Given the history of the climate administration – calling it a hoax and all – I was afraid we would have a hard time doing it as it was written." (That does not seem to have been the case, all the writers I've talked to say that executive power has not interfered with its content.)

But the NCA can (and make) adapt its analyzes to the people who could best apply them. Lempert's chapter on adaptation, for example, is based on the basic assumptions of a civil engineer. "In a sense, the structure of the chapter is trying to get them to do things," he says. The past climate no longer predicts the present or the future, this is what scientists call stationarity, and it is almost dead. The past performance of the planet no longer makes it possible to predict future results. So, if the engineers assumed the infrastructure (height of the dyke, flood levels of 100 years, days of the year above a certain temperature), eh Well, they probably should not do it. What they think of climate change as a political issue does not matter. "Even in the red regions of Florida, people will vote for bond issues to increase the number of water treatment plants, and let's not say why," says Lempert.

Engineers will not be the only users of these reports. Consider the lawyers. After all, the NCA is a government report recognizing the damage caused by climate change. It could therefore be evidence of a lawsuit against climate transmitters. "We used the latest assessment for this purpose, which is even stronger," says Steve Berman, Managing Partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, a firm involved in some of these lawsuits. "This also takes away much from the petroleum industry's argument that this science is still nascent and that no one is really sure that there will be all these impacts."

These prosecutions took place because cities, states, and environmental groups did not feel they were getting results from the executive or legislative branch. Until now, the executive seems to ignore NCA4. But in January, the Democrats took power in the House of Representatives, and some of them agitated for action on the climate. "It's a powerful piece of artillery for any lawmaker who wants to advocate for an action," said Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for the Law of Change. at the Columbia Law School. The report could also make it more difficult for the Trump administration to weaken EPA rules on carbon dioxide. The EPA under President Obama has determined that carbon dioxide was a harmful pollutant that should be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and the NCA reaffirms this conclusion.

None of these things necessarily change minds. They might not move the needles during the Yale Climate Survey. But maybe they do not have to do it. As a New York writer, Osita Nwanevu argued recently on Twitter, negationism is not a common position. The real problem is the lack of climate policy. Ideally, the construction of the IPCC reports, the national climate assessment and the Lancet The countdown will not only make policy more obvious, but will help pave the way for a policy to come into effect. The clock is turning.


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