Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Communication Climate Change - Discussion with three Nobel Laureates

As a climate physicist, I consider anthropogenic climate change to be the most serious known challenge of the 21st century – and likely also of the 22nd and the 23rd century. Even though this thread has been known to scientist for several decades, policy makers are still reluctant to take the necessary steps to preserve our climate. Some even openly questions the integrity of climate scientist and the existence of a human made climate change. At the same time, the consequences of climate change become more and more visible: massive coral bleaching, melting polar ice shields and rising sea levels are changing the appearance of our planet; extreme weather events, like heat waves and flooding, endanger millions of people every year.
How can it be that one the one side the basic science of climate change with the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, as the cause are very clear and other the other side the acceptance among public and politicians about the need to act are so low? Is it a problem of communication?
Together with three Nobel Laureates as well as another scientist I discussed this question during this year’s Lindau Science Days. Normally, the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting assembles once a year Nobel Laureates and young scientists of different science sectors to foster the exchange of ideas, cultures and disciplines. Due to the pandemic this year’s meeting was postponed and replaced with an online event. As a Lindau Alumni and climate scientist I was asked to join this discussion with Nobel Laureates Steven Chu (Nobel Prize in Physics 1997 for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light), Mario J. Molina (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995 for the research on the formation and decomposition of ozone) and Brian P. Schmidt (Nobel Prize in Physics 2011 for the discovery of the acceleration expansion of the Universe) as well as Georg Schuette from the Volkswagen Foundation that promotes the communication of science.

As all three laureates have extend experience in convening their findings to the public as well as policy makers (Steven Chu served as United States Secretary of Energy under the administration of President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013, Brian Schmidt is a laureate of the Australian Research Council and it is due to Marion Molina and his colleague’s efforts of informing policy markers and news media of their findings and the dangers of CFCs, that these were effectively banned from use), the discussion was extremely interesting and divers.

Even though none of us had the key to convince policy makers or the public from the severity of the thread, we certainly all agreed that we have no choice but to keep trying to convince them.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can watch the whole discussion at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Mediatheque.

Impressium from the discussion (copyright Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings).

About the author: Levke Caesar recently finished her PhD in Climate Physics at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Her research topic was the evolution of the Atlantic Overturning Circulation and its impact on the Earth System. In October 2019 Ms Caesar has joined the Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS at Maynooth University. There she works within the A4 project and studies how changes in the Atlantic region, in particular regarding the ocean circulations, will affect Ireland. 
A4 (Grant-Aid Agreement No. PBA/CC/18/01) is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute under the Marine Research Programme funded by the Irish Government, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.