2018 has brought a record number of extreme weather events, Hurricanes Florence and Michael and California wildfires being the most prominent ones. This led to a common speculation within the circles of scientists and mass media that these extreme weather events would drive up American public concern for climate change. Surveys conducted by the Yale Climate Change Communication Program with George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication show that there is a steady increase in the number of Americans who are most worried about climate change and supportive for aggressive actions to reduce carbon emission since 2013. Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press seem to reveal the same trend since 2013.
The 2019 Journey in Science series at Rodgers Library for Science & Engineering at the University of Alabama:
I will give a lightening talk summarizing my past and recent research on the topic of American public opinion towards climate change. In this talk, I will discuss the various forces including both natural and socio-political ones that influence American opinion towards this critical issue.
I just published one analysis article on extreme weather and American public opinion towards climate change on the Monkey Cage on Washington Post . Here is one paragraph:
"Here is what is going on: The baseline probabilities of Democrats’ and Republicans’ perceptions of climate change and extreme weather are different. To illustrate, imagine that the probability that someone in Party A believes in human-made climate change may be 80 percent, while that probability for someone in Party B may be only 30 percent. What my research finds is that extreme weather events can change that baseline probability upward, regardless of partisanship or ideology. That change may be more dramatic for those in Party A than Party B. Nevertheless, the change does occur; extreme weather can move the needle."
The recently released Fourth National Climate Assessment sends an urgent message to communities across the nation. Extreme weather events will intensify and become more frequent. The increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events will pose serious threats to communities, especially low-income and other marginalized communities. Although many local communities have displayed growing interest in elevating their resilience to the ever changing climatic conditions, much less interest has been shown in mitigating carbon emission as we have seen in the failures to pass carbon tax in even liberal states. Understandably, climate change being the ultimate tragedy of the commons, the benefit of reducing carbon emission is trivial compared to that of taking actions to adapt to climate change at the local level. However, this level of urgency and impact does demand regional and national cooperative framework.
Glacier melting not only adds more water to the ocean, which directly contributes to sea level rise, but also releases large amounts of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. Now it is found that great amounts of this powerful gas being released from Icelandic glacier. This wild card is likely to add another layer of uncertainty to the future climatic condition.
It is disheartening to see the horrific devastation created by wild fires in California. The human society, despite being armed with advanced technology, can feel extremely humbled when confronting the mother nature. Climate change, despite being questioned and denied by some, has certainly played a role in worsening the dry and hot condition in the west, which contributes to an upward trend of big wild fires.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, many beach houses were wiped out. One building has stood the test of the strongest storm that ever struck Florida's Panhandel since hurricane was first recorded. NYT reported this remarkable building, which highlights the importance of voluntary decision to build "for the big one."
William Nordhaus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences because of his decades' effort to integrate climate sciences into economic models. His Dynamic Integrated Climate and Economy (DICE) is used to explain how Greenhouse Gases emissions if not tamed could lead to catastrophes down the road. This pioneering effort is not immune to criticism. Using climate-economy integrated models to design and implement specific climate policies is subject to misuses, as Robert Pindyck contended. According to Pindyck, modeler's limited knowledge about climate sensitivity and arbitrary selection of functional forms and parameter values do not make results from complicated models more valid than modeler's own "expert" opinion.
Two events with significance for the climate community took place today. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released a special report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C . Half of the Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to an economist who integrates climate change into economical models and puts a price tag on carbon emissions.