The Climate Crisis Can Be Solved

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In the wake of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's climate report, Steven A. Cohen, executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, talks about the complexities of climate change and the solutions offered in the report, and offers his (optimistic) thoughts on how the world will adapt to a warming planet.


Steven A. Cohen

Comments [17]


@roseelen - For me, it is you who appears to be "more moral" and righteous. Most environmentalists very much concern themselves with all the "pressing, real hard ethical problems; human relations on a global scale. We are not above such concerns and we do take a stand on the hard issues as war ,economics, global poverty ,human rights."
I am sorry to hear you feel that way about me, but you are quite mistaken.

Apr. 22 2014 12:20 PM
Roger Johnson from Long Island

Rather the doom & gloom espoused by many, I find this a rather hopeful period and concur with Steven Cohen. Currently scientists at MIT, CalTech, Stony Brook, and elsewhere, are investigating the direct conversion of solar energy into the separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen can be burned for heat (product = water), or used as fuel to create electricity, as with a fuel cell. These technologies exist today. They just need to be improved and developed. In addition, the Navy has recently described a technique whereby the carbon dioxide in sea water can be extracted and used in the formation of hydrocarbon fuels. Continued subsidies to fossil fuel industries and the investment into fracking or trans-America pipelines are akin to investing in quarries at the end of the stone age. Let's move on. Let's increase investment in basic science research at our universities, research labs, and companies. The best and most productive ideas will drive innovation, development of new technologies and companies, and yield a huge increase in jobs that can only be done in the US. The distributed production of alternative energy, especially solar and wind, will free us from centrally located power plants and actually also be of national strategic advantage. Had we not spent the $4 trillion on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could have put that money into $20,000 solar panels on 200,000,000 homes across our great country, i.e. every home. Let's move forward with a spirit of adventure into this new era of pollution free energy for all.

Apr. 22 2014 11:45 AM
Jena from Brooklyn

Please ask about why the scientist keeps suggesting geoengineering which is incredibly dangerous and largely untested (carbon capture) when she's said that mitigation would be enough by 2052.

Apr. 22 2014 11:20 AM

Mass millennial hysteria. God may has left center stage but the scientific materialists are as apocalyptic and obsessed as the religionists of the last millennial. The puritanism of the 21st century; anal retentive; curb your carbon output acceptable miserliness. I don't buy it ,it's a pass time that places "environmentalists" above the fray of having to deal with todays real hard ethical problems; human relations on a global scale. If you're an environmentalist/ climate; sky- is- falling -proponent, you are above such concerns and don't have to take a stand on the hard issues as war ,economics, global poverty ,human rights and you will never be proved wrong as time, the earth and climate is forever changing. There's always a future possible apocalyptic "global warming" event just around the bend. By concerning yourselves with this you appear more moral as you're concerned with all of life, all of humanity then those dealing with the real problems on earth today. You succeed in appearing to be more moral then those concerned with concrete issues plaguing us here and now, while being outside the fray of real moral issues. Quite a coup.

Apr. 22 2014 11:09 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I think 1 problem is either/or thinking. Like so many other things, stopping climate disruption is a matter of degree. How much can we delay some of the effects, & how much can we limit the effects? Too often it's talked about as if we can just stop it at the point it's already reached. With that attitude, even if we could end greenhouse gas emissions immediately, when the effects of greenhouse gases didn't instantly stop, deniers would say, "See? It didn't work!"

Apr. 22 2014 11:00 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Sure, if we had no people Gee Whiz the environment would be great! But the task is to have people living well on this little planet too and it is possible if we stop raping the earth and seriously turn to solar and other renewable energy sources as well as conservation, or simply using less energy in general. Of course the power companies and the fossil fuel industry do not like the idea of people using less of their products but they will just have to suffer. Leave the coal and oil to rest in the ground and lets use the sun and wind and natural forces to power our needs.

Apr. 22 2014 10:48 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

One of our first climate wars is already here, the civil war in Syria. In the early to mid 2000’s Syria and the eastern Turkish mountain watershed experienced a continuous extreme drought. Farmers where unable to live on their ancestral land. They sold the land to make ends meet and later out of desperation moved to Damascus. The government had no response to their plight. Their anger and displacement from the land became the fuel for the current civil war.

Apr. 22 2014 10:47 AM
MFan from Staten Island

I just tuned in a minute ago, but how can one discuss the introduction of inorganic poisons to the environment without discussing fracking, which does literally, exactly, unequivocally that? We are injecting toxic waste into the ground willingly, and the fallout of that will be massive. Is there really any going back from here?

Apr. 22 2014 10:44 AM
Jeb from Brooklyn

People. People are the single biggest factor in environmental degradation.

If we had fewer people in the world we would put less stress on the planet.

Why don't serious climate experts ever talk about population control/minimization?

Engineering isn't the sole or even the best solution to this problem.

Apr. 22 2014 10:41 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Africa is being saved by the cell phone which required no wires to be strung up all over Africa to communicate, and so the electric car and solar power will be answer for India and much of the rest of Asia.

Apr. 22 2014 10:38 AM

Did the caller honestly believe that not creating the keystone pipeline would stop an oil from being dug up? does she not realize that it still be transported other ways, or will and up with the pipeline that goes to the Pacific ocean through Canada allowing China access. Oil unfortunately it's fungible it will go wherever it is needed.

Apr. 22 2014 10:32 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I agree about the effect of environmental degradation (global climate disruption & other kinds) on other issues. I've been saying for years that if we don't deal with it, almost every other problem in the world will get worse: health care needs, war, immigration, housing, security, infrastructure, and--both directly and via all the above--the economy, especially global poverty.

Apr. 22 2014 10:29 AM

Humans need to evolve from being earth parasites to having a symbiotic relationship with our planet.

Apr. 22 2014 10:22 AM
LK from Brooklyn

Can the climatologists tell the officials in New York City that it is foolhardy and economically stupid to build along the New York City coasts and in flood plains as they continue to do. It should be taken off the table that they are allowed to build along the Hudson River on the piers and in the water and in Brooklyn Bridge Park and other waterways. Water level is expected to rise two feet by 2050 and it will cost the city lots of money to salvage those buildings that will be flooded. Real Estate developers have to stop setting the agenda for New York City. The only ones who profit are the developers.

Apr. 22 2014 10:12 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Solar panels and electric cars all over the world would solve the climate problem. I hope that China and eventually the US will ban the manufacture and sale of non-zero emissions vehicles. I expect China to take the lead because the fossil industry in the US is too powerful to expect any serious change here first. China is beset with environmental problems but does not have the Koch brothers or other great fossil fuel tycoons to stop it from happening over there. Once China goes totally solar and for EVs, then the US will have to follow in turn.

Apr. 22 2014 10:05 AM
Allison from Brooklyn

I have an idea. People want to pitch in and help solve the climate issue, but there isn't any way to really see one's efforts paying off. Is it possible to measure, say, total electric energy usage over a given period of time in a given area? If so, why not set up competitions? Measure the total electricity usage on a certain day, or month, or whatever length of time you want, in two different regions and have them compete against each other to see who can drop their electric usage the most. I can see something like a one-week competition between maybe New York and a group of other local states vs the state of California. Measure the total usage in both areas and then announce how much the usage dropped and who won. You could expand it to competitions between countries (say the US vs Mexico and Canada) or even do something like North America vs. Europe. People really like friendly competitions, and they like to feel like they're doing something good as part of a team, but they have to be given direct feedback so they can see how they're doing. It would also be important to have this be a voluntary competition so that people only have to participate if they want to. Of course, no individual usage would be measured, so there would be no invasion of privacy and no pressure to participate. Just make it like a big, fun sporting event.

Apr. 22 2014 09:44 AM

“.... Can Be Solved”

Yes, but many, like the New York Times, find democracy an inconvenient obstacle to their particular climate agenda. Coral Davenport, who wrote the main NYT article on the response to the IPCC report, when interviewed by John Batchelor on Friday, said that China had more ability to respond (LOL, or not!) because :

“In China, they are not hampered by having to move climate regulations through a two party congress.”

Why, those lucky devils ... smothered in new government coal plants every month!

What a bummer that the American Left can’t come out openly here as an oppressive authoritarian regime like Beijing and REALLY get things done!!!!
You know, like maybe “the trains will run on time” as they did in the 1930’s in Italy and Germany. - first hour podcast

Apr. 22 2014 09:35 AM

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