UCI Prof. Michael Prather’s Talk on “Where Climate Science Meets the Government”

Michael Prather’s Talk in UCI’s Physical Sciences Breakfast Lecture Series, January 10, 2017

Title:  Reporting From the Front Line:  Where Climate Science Meets the Government

The recorded talk will appear on the UCI Physical Sciences website.

Michael Prather, Distinguished Professor of Earth System Science, has held the Kavli chair at UCI, and has held a vast number of leadership positions in science.  Here is his website with a more complete list:  http://www.ess.uci.edu/researchgrp/prather/home

He started with the latest data, and climate over the last century.  He separated weather from climate.  He showed the picture with the many factors considered in modern climate analyses.  There were graphs of the rise in greenhouse gases, of global temperatures, including the recent sequence of rises in 2013-2016, and the world warming map.  The projected band of temperature rises by 2100 from business as usual was 3-5 degrees C, centered around 4 degrees C. 

Frost days would decline by 20 to 25 days.  This is the current problem we are having in California with our Pineapple Express of heavy rain these two weeks in the Sierra Nevada, but instead of falling as snow to last until we need it in the summer, it is just flowing as water, and taking out what snow had already fallen in lower altitudes.

Prof. Prather reviewed the international agreements on mitigating climate change.  It starts with the 1992 UN Framework convention.  Then there was the Kyoto agreement, which has mainly expired.  The new pact is the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was agreed to by 190 nations.  It does not require Congressional approval.  We have to submit reports about what we are doing.  The goal is to hold the temperature increase since pre-industrial times to below 2 degrees C, preferably to 1.5 degrees C.  The temperature rise has already been close to 1 degree C.  The contributions to this effort are determined nationally, and reported regularly.  There is a global stocktaking every 5 years.

The IPCC reports started in 1988, and Michael Prather has contributed to most of them.  The next one, AR6, will report in 2021, starting with scoping in 2017.   One key part is Working Group 2 (WG2), which projects the impacts of climate change.  The Summary for Policy Makers has grown to 18 pages of text for this.  The Saudi government objected to the more serious descriptions in this.  The economic impacts are most important to the US.  As the second leading greenhouse gas contributor, the US could be sued for the costs of adaption.

I liked his description of a greener versus a redder planet.  We are already above a 1.0 degree C rise.  The goal of 1.5 degrees C is actually quite near in the projections.  There was a meeting in October 2016 to report on this, which will come out in August, 2018.  Two organizations on the web lobbying for immediate action are onedegreeofchange.org, and carbonbrief.org.

One key point that I had not realized, was that the present amount of warmth and greenhouse gases will continue to melt the ice sheets.  In a few hundred or a thousand years, the sea level rise may be 9 meters.  (Only about one meter is projected by 2100.)

Although hurricane Sandy cannot be said to be caused by climate change, it was exacerbated by it.

He ended his talk with the first and third verses from Bob Dylan’s “Times They Are a Changing”: “And admit that the waters around you have grown”; and “Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall”.  (I’m pretty sure that Dylan meant the flood metaphorically.)

In answer to questions, he stated that the western states are reducing greenhouse gases.

Some of the public is not accepting the need to act on climate change.  We need to start from a public base, rather than elite reports.  This can be done with more recent local and regional climate level resources coming out.  (I’ve been trying this for a decade with our local Republican representatives, to no result.)

California has produced more jobs and economy with its green efforts than have been lost by them.

Our children and grandchildren will pay the price of our inaction.

http://environment.uci.edu/node/1300 has a CLEAN Education project to educate children to supplement their existing science education.

Asked about the East Anglia hacking, that is only one of four groups doing the climate analysis, so anything going on there would not affect the outcome.  (They have been cleared many times of any wrongdoing.)

Fake news is hard to combat.  We have to train students to find real news sources, as opposed to fake ones.

(There was a really big turnout for this distinguished speaker.)

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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