Tipping the Scales on Climate Change

At a panel discussion co-hosted by Undark, thinkers from numerous disciplines gathered to consider an unwieldy issue. Here’s what they said.



In its physical, political, and ethical dimensions, the climate change problem is mind-boggling — and perhaps more complex than any other humanity has ever faced. With that reality in mind, the Knight Science Journalism Program and Undark Magazine teamed up at the 2017 Cambridge Science Festival to present a short film and panel discussion aimed at bringing the problem down to size.

Panelists included Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Ian Cheney, whose yearlong Measure of a Fog series for Undark took a unique look at climate change as a scale problem. A 10-minute overview of that film series launched the event. He was joined by Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication; climate activist Nicole Hernandez Hammer; and former Obama climate policy adviser Bina Venkataraman. The panel was moderated by climate journalist Andrew C. Revkin.

“Belief that climate change is happening is at an all-time high, at 70 percent of Americans,” noted Leiserowitz, “and that shift upwards that we’ve seen in just the past couple years? That’s not happened among Democrats, it hasn’t happened among independents, it’s happened among Republicans. And not just liberal-moderate Republicans. The real shift has happened among conservative Republicans.”

And that, the panel agreed, is reason for hope, given that the political dimensions to the problem have proven far more difficult to overcome than the technological ones.

The full panel discussion — along with the debut of Cheney’s visually stunning short film, “Measure of a Fog,” can be viewed above.

See What Others Are Saying

5 comments / Join the Discussion

    Moderator: Somehow I managed to double a paragraph. Please edit. Senior moment. Thank you, Leif – Or I can resubmit.


    Capitalism and tax funded pollution profiteering unencumbered by the requirements of functioning Planetary life support systems is mutually assured destruction.

    As George Orwell wrote in “Homage to Catalonia” about fighting fascists, I don’t always need to know what I am fighting for when it is clear what I am fighting against.

    Failure to act swiftly against corporate greed big time, and quickly, cements humanities mutually assured destruction via the CO2 induced Planetary ecocide. The big cull that the rich delude themselves believing that their paradise located gated communities will protect them from. The height of hubris.( Who could they trust to fuel their jets or cook their food?) The Big cull that the future youth of the Nation will be forced to confront and die for, protecting our shores from at the very carnage our taxes subsidize.

    What is the roll of the military as we go forward? This is a subject that is seldom discussed as humanity faces the the door step of doom? The military has acknowledged global warming a National Security issue for some time as well as being the top emitter of green house gas.. I have long argue that the military has to become GREEN in tooth and nail for the survival of the Nation, and by inference, the world’s planetary life support systems. Given that the military has taken an oath to defend the Nation and its people from all enemies, both foreign and domestic, it presents a quandary. To wit: It costs the nation >50% of out tax base to operate so it needs a strong capitalistic system to support it. However, that very capitalistic system of “socially enabled capitalism,” of consumption and trash is clearly killing the people and Nation it has sworn to defend. Wasting trillions of dollars on fuel, weapons, infrastructure, and killing our youth.

    “War becomes perpetual when used as a rationale for peace,” Norman Solomon.

    “Peace becomes perpetual when used as a rationale for survival.” Yours truly.

    The frightening, little understood, fact is that climate change threatens to end all human life within a decade.

    Should the data at Arctic News prove correct – humanity could be extinct by 2026 – without an 80% reduction in fossil fuel use as quickly as humanly possible.

    We face OMNICIDE: The total extinction of the human species as a result of human action.

    This is the greatest emergency humans have ever confronted.

    Every means should be employed to publicize, discuss and attack the Global Warming problem without delay.

    Bombers rolled off an assembly line every hour during WWII. Breakthrough new energy systems are being born. They are much less complex. Several are discussed at aesopinstitute.org

    Most reflect hard to believe new science. Some exploit a surprising loophole, only recently recognized by scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and elsewhere, in the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    Engines can run 24/7 on atmospheric ambient (solar) energy, without fuel! They can scale and provide a cheap, faster, alternative to rooftop panels, wind and solar farms!

    Such breakthroughs usually require a generation to gain acceptance. We do not have that luxury.

    Innovation is taking place at severely underfunded small firms. Mass production of the best systems will inevitably follow. We must speed the process on an emergency basis.

    A laser like focus to slow climate change is urgently needed. The lives you save may include your own – and those of everyone you care about.

    Yes, it likely is the greatest emergency humans have ever confronted and serious action is required. Saying patently silly things about impending human extinction or loopholes in the laws of physics really isn’t going to help. Seriously.

    Worst case planning is always wise. See Arctic News data and draw your own conclusions.

    Human survival may depend on comprehending new science and the remarkable technologies it makes possible.

    Experiments prove the work.

    Products reflecting new science will soon enter the market. Schools and universities will be interested.

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