Climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe still sees hope in cities & solutions
By Flannery Winchester
Each month, Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosts an international call featuring a guest speaker to educate listeners on topics related to climate change and our Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.
The guest speaker for November 2016 was climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, who recently participated in the White House’s South by South Lawn discussion on climate change and currently features in the “Global Weirding” video series. Dr. Hayhoe joined our November call to share her perspective on the state of climate advocacy today.
Stop arguing over science—we agree on solutions
Many of Trump’s campaign promises fly in the face of climate science, but as Dr. Hayhoe pointed out, “Climate science is different than climate solutions.” She’s had plenty of conversations with people all over the world who say, “I think it’s just a natural cycle,” or “It’s all going to be okay in the end,” but those conversations invariably turn to solutions anyway—farmers are interested in wind turbines, for example, because it just makes good economic sense. “Wind and solar are already cheaper than natural gas in Texas,” Dr. Hayhoe reminded us. The lesson here is that even if Trump and his administration don’t want to act on climate with federal policy, Americans and people across the world are already lining up for solutions.
We can see the difference between science and solutions in the Yale Climate Opinion maps, too. They show that less than 50% of people believe humans are the main reason the climate is changing. But when asked about whether CO2 should be regulated as a pollutant, Dr. Hayhoe said, “The vast majority of the country—over 70% of people—say yes! Why do they say yes if they don’t think it’s causing climate change? Doesn’t matter! What matters are the solutions. What’s so encouraging about CCL is that there is a solution, and that solution has bipartisan support.”
So instead of staying hung up in public discussions about the science, we can fast forward right to the solutions because a majority of the public already agrees. “We honestly don’t need any more new studies—we need a price on carbon,” Dr. Hayhoe emphasized.
Other levels of government will step up
In the last months and particularly this last week, all our eyes have been trained on the federal government and who will now lead it. But guess what? There’s an incredible amount of climate work going on that doesn’t rely on federal policy at all.
“I work with a lot of cities, states, and provinces, and that is where I have seen the action. That action has occurred regardless of federal policy,” Dr. Hayhoe said, mentioning that her largest city-level assessment to date occurred under the Bush administration. “So what I have seen happening, I think, will continue over the next 4 years, the next 8 years, the next 10 years, because there’s significant action that is not at the federal level.” This is especially positive because, Dr. Hayhoe reminded us, cities “are responsible for about 70% of the world’s emissions.”
Of course, federal level action and international action are crucial too, and there are still some safeguards against Trump derailing those. “The Paris agreement is amazing and it is going to continue,” Dr. Hayhoe reassured us. “Even if the US pulls out—and legally they can’t do that for 3 years—but even if the US does pull out temporarily, it will still continue.” Plus, other countries can continue their work. Canada, for example, will start pricing carbon nationwide in 2018. “There are amazing things going on not just in Canada but in China, India, Africa,” Dr. Hayhoe said. “If we look outside our own boundaries, we can see things that give us hope even today.”
Hope and healing
“Climate change is a casualty of bigger societal issues that we have today,” Dr. Hayhoe said, pointing to feelings of detachment, despair and polarization. “In a way, I feel like there has just been this boil of discontentment and frustration and fear and anger that has come to a head. And what’s the best way to fix a boil? Lance it! That’s what happened on Tuesday. I feel like that boil is lanced, and all of that awful stuff is coming out, but that is actually the first step to healing. Because slapping some coverup or a Band-Aid on a boil is not going to fix it. So in some bizarre, obscure, backwards way, this actually might be the first step forward to a better future.”
And we’re seeing that already. In the face of the negativity coming to a head, CCL’s web traffic has more than doubled. On the weekly introductory call, which usually has 15 or 20 attendees, we had 70. The healing—and the action—has already begun.
Dr. Hayhoe said that ultimately, “It does make sense to grieve—we have to acknowledge the emotions we have. But when we move on, the way to move on is not in fear, because fear just paralyzes us. It’s not in anger, because anger just digs deeper trenches rather than building bridges. The way to move forward is with hope and with love.”
Dr. Hayhoe also shared a quote by Canadian politician Jack Layton, from a letter he wrote before he died. It read, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. And optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, let us be hopeful, and let us be optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”