David Roberts (Grist.org) Skypes Vanderbilt

Let’s be clear about this. Scientists consider 3.6 degrees catastrophic. There are serious scientists who doubt that human civilization can endure at all in the face of 7.2 degrees. And we are headed for 10.8.

We simply haven’t come to terms with what empirical science is telling us. We all sound like pundits, going with our “guts.” The science feels too scary, too abrasive, too implausible. The hippies out there protesting over climate change feel “unserious.” The notion that energy prices might have to rise or lifestyles change feels “alarmist.” We talk about climate, if we talk about it at all, in terms of folk wisdom and time-worn prejudices… It’s our own version of “math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better.” Call it math you do as an American to make yourself feel better.

— Climate Science is Nate Silver and US Politics is Karl Rove by David Roberts, The Grist

Today our class spoke with energy and climate superblogger Dave Roberts from The Grist. In the article I quoted above, Roberts paints a really effective analogy comparing election night to  climate doomsday. We’re not joking around anymore and we really can’t afford to. Things are getting serious. Like the pro-Romney pundits watching with optimism as  electoral votes grew more lopsided, so far we just haven’t been able to mentally or emotionally comprehend how bad it will be. Read it!

I asked D. Roberts what the next step in US politics would be to start fighting climate change, and what we should demand from our govt over the next 4 years. The answer? “Expect no federal legislation–not while Republicans control the House.” However, there’s a few key places where President Obama can wield his executive power to make a real difference. First is his veto power in the Keystone pipeline proposed to connect Canadian oilsands in Alberta to Texas, and leasing in the Powder River Basin. Last and most importantly, Pres Obama enforced regulations last year that only addressed new power plants, but there are potential upcoming EPA regulations on existing power plants as well. This is an area that Pres Obama can be as strong or as weak as he wants. If govt chooses strength against climate change, he could acheive the carbon reductions promised in Copenhagen.

So what can we do? “The biggest thing is to speak up in support of the EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency gets constant, unyielding opposition from the right wing and not a lot of support from the left. After all, we don’t celebrate every day the fact that we don’t have asthma (but we should). Also we can look to state and local level for change, not federal; normal people can support renewable energy mandates at the state level (while the right wing goes after clean energy legislation “with both barrels”) and speak up for action from the state house, the city (mayors).”

What will you do after we solve climate change? “I’ve literally never once worried about that. The one good thing about the problem I’ve chosen to focus on is lifetime employment.” But if we happen to solve climate change in Roberts’ lifetime, the interaction between humans and energy is endlessly fascinating.

Thanks for your time and insight. Love the blog! I don’t think the posts are long-winded at all.

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