March 22, 2019 by Dr. G
At the 2019 AAAS Meeting, I attended a full hour-long session by Dr. Chris Field, the Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford University (find out more about Dr. Field here). His talk was titled Climate Change 2019: Finding the Accelerator Pedal. It was standing-room only in this location to hear what he had to say. I’ve included some of my tweets/notes below.
Dr. Field made it clear from the beginning that we have a challenge, and that to solve the climate challenge, we need technology (energy), finance, policy, adaptation, and leadership. We have the pieces for the solution, just not the time to implement and to reach that solution. He highlighted a few of the climate impacts we are experiencing, mostly from extreme events such as the California drought, California wildfires, Gulf Coast Hurricane Harvey, and more. Some of the literature he cited included:
In moving forward, Dr. Field suggested that a specific target to strive for is less important than moving forward overall. He said that there are many opportunities for solutions, especially from corporations, states, and individuals (examples shared were the WalMart Project Gigaton and We Are Still In– check out video overviews of these efforts below).
Dr. Field continued with options for adaptation to climate challenges, such as addressing infrastructure, insurance, warning systems, protective structures, relocation, and activity switching. But leadership is needed in economic and technical capacity, economic opportunity, and national security. Historically, the leadership responsibility has been with the developed world, but leadership is needed everywhere.
There was an op-ed published in The New York Times the day before this presentation that listed seven steps to tackle climate change (alas, behind a paywall). But Dr. Field suggested how we can “find the accelerator pedal” to address climate change:
- make this a global priority, the “Moon shot” for our era
- unleash creativity
- pursue multiple options
- manage adaptively (may make mistakes and need to make course corrections)
- recognize opportunity (co-benefits)
To end with one the statements that has stayed with me even one month after attending this presentation (see second tweet):