Crossposted from Think About It

I have been interviewed by Bulgarian National Television as part of their build up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.  The programme was broadcast today and an excerpt with a Bulgarian language voice over of the interview is available here.  As far as I can see they have used the interview in full and overlain it with some relevant footage on the impacts of and solutions to climate change. The interviewer is Think about it member Hristo Hristov.  

A transcript of the interview in english is below the fold…

1. Why do we need to bother about climate change?

The world’s climate is changing all the time and there have been dramatic shifts over the last 4 Billion years since it was first formed. Most of these changes occur over very long periods of time – geological eras – but we have also seen ice ages and mini-ice ages, severe droughts and floods, in various regions of the world in the past few millenia. So the human influence is only one of many factors effecting long term climate changes.

What is different now is that there are 7 Billion humans on the planet – and growing – and we are all generating more greenhouse gases as our lifestyles become more affluent, and so our influence on planetary climate and the world ecosystem is growing all the time. Major climate changes are associated with mass extinction events – with many species disappearing altogether and others having to adapt quickly to survive.

So, regardless of the causes, we have to try and stabilise the global climate if there isn’t going to be a major extinction event amongst humans – we are already seeing many other species facing extinction because of our destruction of their habitats. Many low lying areas face flooding by rising sea levels and other areas face droughts destroying local food chains. So while the effects will be localised at first, ultimately they will effect us all.

2. How does it affect the lives of ordinary citizens?

The science of climate change is complex and controversial – as all emerging sciences tend to be. So it can be difficult to explain in terms that non-experts can relate to. Yes, climate change models predict the melting of polar ice caps, rising sea levels, much more frequent extreme weather events, storms, floods, droughts, etc. But these are statistical probabilities, and it is not possible to conclusively state that human activity caused this or that change or storm event. There are other factors as well – Sun spot activity etc. – which we cannot control. However the key is to control what we can, as otherwise many of the trends will become self-reinforcing and irreversible.

3. What will Copenhagen change?

Kyoto was quite limited in its scope and did not include some of the worlds most polluting powers like the USA. So it has failed to have a major impact on climate change to date. The issue is only starting to become centre stage in the USA, and there are many vested interests with an interest in denying its existence altogether.

Hopefully Copenhagen will cement the development of a global political – as as well as scientific – consensus on the topic and agreement on the broad parameters of what has to be done. I think it is too late for a formal legal treaty to be agreed, but hopefully a political and operational agreement will be reached on the way forward which can lead to a binding Treaty in due course.

4. What can we do?

At a personal level, we can all obviously try to reduce our carbon footprints by using bicycles or public transport, buying more efficient cars, insulating our houses, and designing and promoting more sustainable products and lifestyles.

In terms of politics we have to overcome the power of vested interests and encourage our governments to promote more sustainable and energy efficient industries through progressive industrial policies, better waste management facilities, stricter building standards and codes, taxation incentives, and moving away from carbon fuels towards wind, hydro and solar energy technologies. In the short term some of these may cost more, but in the longer term they will enable a more sustainable and prosperous lifestyle for us all.