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Heidi Cullen Joins Lateline to Discuss Record Sea Ice Melt

Climate Central's chief climatologist Heidi Cullen appeared on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline with host Tony Jones to discuss climate change and the recent news of the record low Arctic sea ice.

Click here to watch the broadcast and/or read the full transcript.

Comments

By M Tucker
on August 29th, 2012

Heidi that was a wonderful interview! You really do a good job and so did your colleague Michael Lemonick in a recent interview. But I think you overestimate the resolve of the American public and underestimate the recalcitrance of one particular political party to address the issue at all. Or maybe you do completely understand that the landscape has changed, that one particular party will continue to vehemently deny a problem exists and will promulgate bizarre conspiracy theories. I understand you might not want to discuss our American family problems with the neighbors and I understand that Climate Central wants to keep as far away from politics as possible but if you think that government must take action then it is about politics. If you think that eventually the US must set an example for the rest of the world then it is about politics. And, since Citizens United, it is now much easier for the politicians who support the fossil fuel interests to get their campaign funding problems solved. It no longer takes the vast majority of their time to fill the campaign war chest. It only takes one or two enormously wealthy fat cat fossil fuel donors to meet the politicians every need.

We are now much further away from a solution than was thought by many way back in 2007 or 2008. Since the death of the House passed climate bill our current Chief Executive can barely utter the phrase “global warming” or “climate change.” We are light-years away from any kind of climate legislation. Oh, and those polls that show “.the American public really does support moving away from fossil fuels and taking steps to prepare for climate change” don’t do the follow up questions. How many Americans want government to take action? The American public has once again become hypnotized by the old hackneyed slogan, “the government is the problem.”

So we are left with what we are currently doing, mostly nothing, and I see that continuing for some time to come unless by some miracle our President’s party retakes the House at the midterms in two years and they don’t lose the Senate this year.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on August 30th, 2012

M. Tucker - I agree completely.  One political party?  Sure - the point is a good one and bears loud and constant repetition.  Many republicans / deniers get so hot under the collar about it that just having a rational conversation with them about climate change can be impossible. That seems to be a fairly consistent US political divide. There are some republicans I know of who are not deniers but they are a small numerical minority. So I also agree and think that any significant effective action on this issue that substantially entails bipartisan political approval and anytime soon is indeed highly doubtful. Clearly there has been more government support - albeit fairly quietly done - of alternative energy under Obama.  Unfortunately that is not enough. However, politically climate change is a toxic issue.  The net result is that in a country that has pretty much all the resources needed to make a real difference, the resulting and ongoing lack of substantial federal policy efforts to combat it now borders on open criminal negligence. Unfortunately that’s not illegal.

One small point of detail in the interview: “Greenland has upwards of 25 feet of ice stored in it, 25 feet of water stored in it and we don’t expect to see that melt anytime soon completely.”  To the best of my knowledge, the Greenland ice sheet which covers most of the land there, is in the region of thousands of meters thick not 25 feet.  Am I missing something there?  But yes - a nice interview.  Thank you.  Let’s see you on Letterman too.

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By M Tucker
on August 30th, 2012

Dave,

I thought Heidi meant sea level would rise 25 feet if Greenland melted. A little bit of a miss-speak.

And as for those few, very few, Republican voters who do not deny the science of AGW will still vote for a Republican; even if that Republican is a rabid denier.

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By Robert E. Wozna (Holland Patent, NY 13354)
on August 31st, 2012

Heidi Cullen has been explaining climate change to us ever since she was a regular on the Weather Channel (I don’t know why she ever left there) Her discussion on Lateline was excellent. Here in the United States I think more people are accepting the concept that our weather problems are being caused by our fossil fuel use. The problem of why we can’t get any legislation passed here to curtail fossil fuel use is mostly being caused by members of our Congress who first, don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change and secondly, are willing to accept funds from fossil fuel producers and others who are well-endowed monetarily and have for one reason or another, interests in maintaining the status quo. Unfortunately, maintaining the normal of our relatively moderate climate over the last 10,000 years cannot be maintained if we don’t get serious about reducing fossil fuel use. So far we are doing very little in this regard.

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By Tamara Griesel (Wisconsin)
on August 31st, 2012

I think what was meant by 25 feet was that there is enough ice stored in the Greenland ice sheet to raise sea levels by about 25 feet.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on August 31st, 2012

M.Tucker and Tamara - thanks for the explanation.  That makes sense - of course.  I realized the same thing after I left my comment.  Dah.

Anyway, M. Tucker, to your point about Republicans and perhaps of interest to one or two others who have commented here. The details of what’s going on in Washington in terms of the disproportionate effect of lobbyists and money (now also Citizens United) is of course a national disgrace with unmistakable implications of plutocracy.  We all know that the Koch brothers and others have tended to get there way more often than not regarding climate change issues and that affects the entire planet. However I mentioned a minority of free thinking Republicans who are actually not in lock step with the official congressional Republican doctrine on this issue.

FYI these are examples that I personally know of the minority people I was referring to:

http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20120718/NEWS/307180020?nclick_check=1

Rob Sisson: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2009/05/20/time-for-the-gop-to-become-green/

However these individuals vote, I think their existence represents a ray of political hope that maybe rationality about climate change isn’t completely dead in the right wing.

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By M Tucker
on August 31st, 2012

Robert E Wozna.someone is electing those rabid denier members of Congress. The voters, American’s, moms and dads and young Republican college students, select those despicable politicians. They are even in strong blue states like California. Issa comes to mind. The Republican voters want government subsidies for massively wealthy fossil fuel companies. Republican voters want to end government subsidies for struggling wind and solar companies. Republican voters do not want government to put a tax on carbon or even create some kind of cap’n trade scheme. The Republican politicians attract the voters by appealing to their fears and prejudices. You cannot separate the politician form his or her base electorate, they go hand-in-hand.

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By M Tucker
on August 31st, 2012

Dave, look, I’m not saying your wrong in your second comment on the 31st but I am reminded of those Log Cabin Republicans. If they don’t expect their party to change why have the organization? If they keep voting for the same old bigoted politicians how will anything change? In 2008, even before Obama took office, a massive backlash erupted in the Republican Party. They were tossing well established, respected, Republican politicians under the bus faster than the busses could arrive. They pointed fingers at everyone including gay Republicans. Not one Log Cabin member came to anyone’s aid. Crickets! It was as if there was no such thing as a gay Republican. I was most disturbed when McCain came out publically and said, “I never said I was a maverick.” Maverick had even become a “bad” word to the new radicalized Republicans. There were other cases of denying previously held positions and the entire party rallied around bizarre conspiracy theories about our new President. For me they became a party beyond the pail. Diabolical and despicable. No longer to be trusted. So, of course Dave, you can maintain hope and I hope they eventually prove me wrong.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on September 1st, 2012

Thanks for a good conversation M. Tucker.

I certainly don’t have an answer to this. As far as I can see, the US congress is currently nothing more than an arena for hyper polarized political combat these days. We know that a rational carefully considered and planned coordinated national effort is absolutely required to most effectively combat, mitigate and adapt to global anthropogenic climate change. Such a plan needs to be designed and implemented by Washington politicians (a.k.a. our national leaders) in conjunction with a host of departments at the federal and state level. However, climate change is not even on this election year campaign agenda. Therefore my personal expectation of seeing such an effective federally mandated and coordinated national climate change / energy policy come about that also supports, leverages and rewards regional, state and local efforts and so on is, well.. about zero for the foreseeable future. It is surreal. There is increasingly clear evidence of climate change happening with some really nasty environmental consequences including this year prolonged excessive heat, widespread drought, brutal wildfires, floods and even pestilence. This year so far has been almost biblical. We can all see it. The contrast between this reality of climate change and the absence of a national majority acceptance of a direct connection to climate change is so bizarre that groups of psychologists, sociologists and media experts have and are variously researching it to try to understand it.

So, anyway, here we all are talking about this while for some reason key politicians in the US, with the absurd assumption that scientific facts and predictions about climate change are somehow optional and up for them to debate and tear down, have effectively managed to erase or at least temporarily suppress the topic from the national political election year debate. They have been remarkably effective in doing this. ‘Upstart’ climatologists and rational members of the general public with concerns about climate change seem to have been either cowed into silence or short-changed on this topic.

It bears stating and restating until everyone gets it. Politicians are not qualified in climatology, physics and so on because they are not climatologists and physicists. No politician will therefore ever have any valid technical contribution to make about anything scientific and certainly anything so complex as climate change. To me the current spectacle of the Republican Party versus climate change is in many ways like a modern version of the Vatican versus Galileo in the 17th century. And we know how well that worked out. The Vatican only recently apologized. That was nice of them. It only took 300 years or so. Compared with that, the Republican core right denier camp has only had a few decades to digest climate change. C’mon now, where’s your patience M. ?

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