Scientists Muller, MacCracken, Post‘s Eilperin Featured on Diane Rehm Program

Diane Rehm’s popular public broadcasting radio program devotes an hour to climate, using the Berkeley ‘BEST’ station temperatures research as a news peg.

Berkeley physicist Richard Muller was a featured guest on Diane Rehm’s national public broadcasting radio program August 14, along with Climate Institute lead scientist and author Mike MacCracken and Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin. A transcript of the program is available online.

“We’ve seen a decline in the sense of urgency,” Eilperin said, commenting on survey work done by The Post. But she also pointed out that much of the public overall, including many describing themselves as Republicans, continues to express climate concerns.

Muller, responding to a question from Rehm, said he is not particularly bothered by delays in initiating policy responses as a result of skeptics’ prolonged efforts to create doubts: Would-be moves to regulate carbon dioxide, the result of a “rush to judgment,” he said, “would not be, in my mind, an action that would actually work.”

MacCracken insisted that the developed and developing countries “are both in this together,” and actions by each are needed. He pointed too to the need to “go hard” on short-term greenhouse gases such as methane and black carbon and tropospheric ozone: “There are ways toward an international agreement,” he said, adding that those steps need to be seen as just one component of a broader long-term and more sweeping greenhouse gases strategy.

Asked to explain the rationale of some political conservatives in opposing climate science and policy initiatives, Eilperin emphasized the U.S.’s “culture of individualism” and pointed to financial interests “who are invested in the continuation of fossil fuels” as factors driving some climate skepticism. She cited in particular the growing influence of the Tea Party movement in influencing conservative politicians.

Switching China’s economy from coal to natural gas “is the most important thing, other than energy conservation, that can be done in China,” Muller said. He said he is disappointed many environmentalists are opposing a move to use more natural gas, and to fracking, simply, he suggested, because it is a fossil fuel.

MacCracken replied that a short-term switch to using more natural gas, rather than coal, might be necessary and helpful. But he insisted that it would be only a short-term approach and that several decades down the road the country will find itself having to again switch to more climate-friendly energy supplies. Muller made the case for what he called “clean fracking,” made possible, he said, by stiff fines and a serious regulatory program.

“In this interim period, natural gas will work, but we have to make it ‘clean,’ both in the U.S. and in China,” Muller said.

Asked about Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s strong opposition to climate change initiatives, Eilperin said “there is every reason to expect that you would see a pull-back on regulation of carbon dioxide” under a Romney-Ryan administration.

Rehm concluded her broadcast by saying, “Let’s hope we do begin a real move forward.”

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