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.
Our new paper on how physical geography influences perceptions of flooding just got published online in the Journal of Hydrology (impact factor: 4.405). Here is the abstract of this paper:
"How does physical history of flood-related hazards affect individuals’ perceptions? The present study represents a unique effort to understand perceptions of flood hazards in light of the geographic background. Situated in Alabama, the United States, the cities of Mobile and Huntsville display two different physical geographic contexts. Despite one being a coastal city (Mobile) and the other being an inland city, both are similarly vulnerable to flooding. We first present results of historical analyses of heavy precipitation in both cities and analysis of storm surge history in the city of Mobile. We then report results of both descriptive statistical and inferential statistical analyses based on a two-city residents’ survey that was conducted in the spring of 2016. We find that residents in both cities are able to connect the particular natural hazard of flooding with their physical environments. Residents in both cities are influenced by their perceptions of precipitation when making assessments of flooding. Despite the fact that Huntsville has not experienced heavy precipitation events as much as Mobile in recent history, residents of Huntsville tend to link heavy rainfall – the most frequent cause of flooding in that city, with flooding. In contrast, residents of Mobile tend to link hurricanes, more particularly hurricane number, with flooding. These results show that people are attuned to their physical environments and take into consideration their personal observations when forming perceptions of natural hazards. More studies need to be conducted to further investigate the dynamics of physical exposure to hazards and risk perceptions in other geographic areas."
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."
The Department of Geography at the University of Alabama is accepting applications for a one-year research assistantship in political ecology with the possibility of renewal for the pursuit of a doctoral degree. The assistantship provides a stipend plus tuition remission.
The successful applicant will work with me and will be involved in political ecology projects focused on human dimension of climate change, community resilience to climatic hazards, environmental hazards and public health in the U.S. in general and the U.S. Gulf Coast in particular.
Qualified candidates should have a Master’s degree in Geography, Environmental Studies/Sciences, Planning or a related discipline. Candidates should have a strong interest in the intersection of social, political, and physical dimensions of climate change and be eager to work in an interdisciplinary environment. Experience in quantitative data analysis and geographic information systems (GIS) are desired. Strong oral and written communication skills are required.
For more information about this assistantship, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org well in advance of February 15, 2019 (the application deadline). Please include a copy of your CV, unofficial academic transcripts, and a brief personal statement that highlights skills relevant to the position.
For more information about the department, please see https://geography.ua.edu/.
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.