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Regular contributor Bruce Lieberman’s 20-minute webinar probes the views of author and Professor David Victor on building public support for risk management actions.


“I think ‘harmony’ is too strong a standard. We don’t have harmony in any area of major politics. We won’t have harmony on this topic” of climate change, says University of California San Diego Professor David Victor.

“What I’m concerned about right now is gridlock.”

Those are among points Victor makes in a newly produced 20-minute webinar hosted by regular contributor Bruce Lieberman (see below).

For those wanting to promote action to reduce risks posed by human-caused climate change, Victor says a key step involves demonstrating that “climate change is linked to other things that people care about.” It’s important also, he continues, to identify how those risks can be addressed “in ways that are not too expensive.”

Victor explains his concerns with use of the term “denialists” or the term “denialism” in characterizing the views of a broad group of people, many of whom may actually accept the underlying scientific evidence. He says many in that category practice “motivated reasoning” — involving concerns over matters such as economic well being, policy change, or the role of government. A key factor in communicating with those interests, he says, may involve addressing climate change in ways that “respects liberty and respects economic growth and so forth.”

Victor finds of particular concern the “unknown unknowns,” for instance the eventual amount of sea-level rise or effects on various ecosystems. Those areas of concern may be built large on scientists’  “hunches,” but they’re important ones, Victor says. Nonetheless, they don’t find their way into summary reports from major assessments because they are not yet, at least, backed up by “robust evidence and lots of agreement.”

A convening author of the opening chapter of IPCC’s most assessment report, Victor says “the overall message is a pretty grim one.” An important message there: despite all the international agreement and policies over recent years, global emissions are increasing more rapidly than at any time since 1970 “and you don’t actually see the impact of those policies on the ground.”

Another key point from that report, Victor says: “The reality is that the policies you need to put into place and the technologies needed rapidly are completely beyond what any political system is going to do.” He say that means achieving the widely discussed maximum two-degree Centigrade increase in global temperatures is at this point impossible.

Note: On Jan. 29, Prof. David Victor gave a speech on the rhetoric and politics of climate change “denialism” at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. His talk, “Why Do Smart People Disagree About Facts?”, is posted here.

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