In this interview Climate Interactive team member and MIT Professor John Sterman describes how slavery was once an integral source of energy for our society and yet we realized how wrong it was and stopped. John is optimistic that we will come to the same conclusions about the damaging energy sources we are dependent on today.
He explains his research, which shows that people are often so overwhelmed by the scope of climate change and the feeling they can’t do anything about it that they become cognitively dissonant. He explains that we can take steps to help people reorient their thinking about climate change, like reminding people that throughout history people have been able to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, like ending slavery.
Check out the video interview from the Australian School of Business above or visit their website for the full transcript or audio.
Suggesting that we can reverse climate change or that it’ll be okay because we’re leveling off emissions is thinking that doesn’t reflect the real dynamics of our world. CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for lifetimes, meaning we are already locked in to some amount of climate change. If we were to just level off our emissions and leave it at that, we would still be adding far more CO2 annually to the atmosphere than we can cycle back down to Earth without contributing to climate change.
These are just two angles on some of the misaligned, but generally well-intentioned thinking that one can run across in the daily energy and climate news. Below are two recent examples, both of which pop-up in articles from people trying to find a foothold to defend the widespread exploitation of the reserves of natural gas and oil that have been opened up by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in a warming world — a tough argument to pull off.
Myth 1: We can reverse climate change. This is from New York Times Op-ed columnist Joe Nocera last Friday:
A reduction of carbon emissions from Chinese power plants would do far more to help reverse climate change than — dare I say it? — blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
John Sterman, MIT Professor and fellow collaborator on many Climate Interactive projects, lays out the stark realities we are facing with climate change inaction in his presentation at the MIT Museum last month. He describes the risks we face by not taking immediate measures to address climate change in every sector of society and equates it to playing Russian Roulette with a revolver that has 19 of 20 chambers filled. His conclusion: we can despair, take no action, and allow the worst case to happen, or we can immediately initiate measures to reduce our carbon emissions as an insurance policy against the worst risks. Watch the video below for his complete presentation. Beginning around time 27:40 Professor Sterman demonstrates the unexpected dynamics of time delays and shows the Climate Interactive C-ROADS simulation, to demonstrate common misunderstandings about our climate system.
The current edition of the journal System Dynamics Review, features an article by our team here at Climate Interactive on our simulation C-ROADS.
With over 700 users worldwide and counting, C-ROADS has improved the understanding of which national climate commitments will have an impact and what is needed for us to close the gap between maintaining a safe livable planet and crossing tipping points that may have dire consequences. Our latest publication on C-ROADS reviews its uses and capabilities and explains a little bit of its structure and design. If you are new to C-ROADS and would like a better understanding of what this simulation can do for you we recommend checking out this article in particular. C-ROADS is available for free on our website. On our website you will also find much more detailed information and resources for you to explore as well.
Read “Climate Interactive: The C-ROADS Climate Policy Model”
Americans are not getting happier in proportion to GDP growth explains John Sterman, Climate Interactive team member and MIT Professor, as he describes the interlinked challenges our society faces and things we must look at to move away from “business as unusual” (BAU). John explains that many of our global challenges are a result of the dramatic growth that has occurred in population and economies. “If the Gross World Product continues to grow at current rates the economy will be 32 times larger in 100 years than it is today.” Check out the video to explore more of his insights.
MIT TechTV – Sustainable Societies
MIT professor and Climate Interactive team member, John Sterman, succinctly explains in the video below that using simulation models can help policymakers address climate change. John explains, “If these models are going to be effective they not only have to be rigorously grounded in the science—as our models are—but they have to be transparent, accessible, run quickly, and give people that immediate feedback on any experiment they may want to run.” Find out more about the C-ROADS model John describes and the work we are doing at http://www.climateinteractive.org.
Stories come back to us here at Climate Interactive from time to time that remind us that our work is making a difference. The following comes out of the MIT News Office about a graduate student who, after hearing a talk by Climate Interactive team member and MIT Professor John Sterman on the work we were doing around the climate change negotiations, was inspired to study systems dynamics at MIT and further his work on sustainability challenges.
Have you seen a presentation or used a simulation developed by us that inspired you? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Eric Smalley for MIT News Office
Early in life, Jake Whitcomb, SDM ’12, was a world-class competitive cross-country skier. Several years spent training in Norway exposed the American to a more sustainable society.
“What I found was a country that was living in a more sophisticated, more technologically advanced way, and with a lot of community attributes — and they’re doing it using half the energy [compared to the United States],” Whitcomb says. Continue reading
What is it that keeps an organization like Climate Interactive ticking? Co-directors Drew Jones and Beth Sawin, along with team member and MIT professor, John Sterman, joined Radio Green Talk host Diana Dehm to discuss this and elaborate on why we provide the tools that we do.
Check out the interview here.
During the program John discusses how we use role playing to help people viscerally experience some of the dynamics at the climate change negotiations in the World Climate Exercise. As Drew put it, Continue reading
With the close of COP-17, parties to the UNFCCC maintained the same inadequate emissions reduction pledges, thus committing the world to a more costly and risky path forward than is needed given the immediate availability of cost-effective measures to reduce emissions and begin the transition to a low-carbon economy.
As our previous analysis showed, postponing the adoption of more ambitious targets until after 2020 would commit countries to rates of CO2 emissions reductions after 2020 far larger than what has been seen either historically or in energy system model projections. By failing to agree to a mechanism to increase the ambition of mitigation targets before 2020, the decisions made at COP-17 place unnecessary burdens on future generations who will have to work much harder and endure much greater costs and risks as a result of these decisions.
Without new pledges for emissions reduction on the table, our Climate Scoreboard analysis projects future global temperature increases far above the global goal of 2°C (3.6 °F) , pointing towards temperature increase of 4.3°C (2.6 – 6.9°C) or 7.7°F (4.6 – 12.3°F) by the end of the century.
Even though countries were unable to agree to increase the ambition of 2020 pledges, many cost effective mitigation opportunities exist today; and the costs will fall as low-carbon, efficient technologies develop and scale. Commitments lacking the necessary ambition delay these cost reductions and the maturation of the technologies needed to make a sustainable, low-carbon economy a reality. Continue reading
Coming on the heels of an announcement that a forthcoming IPCC report confirms that climate change is causing more extreme weather events, Climate Interactive consortium member and MIT professor, John Sterman, challenges governments and companies to prioritize infrastructure maintenance to prevent accidents.
Author, John Sterman, on skis removing a tree after a New England snowstorm
By John Sterman
Published in the Boston Globe on November 05, 2011
NEARLY A WEEK after the Great October Snowstorm, thousands were still without power yesterday. Many blame the utilities for delays in restoring the juice, while the utilities argue that trees in full leaf caused unusually high damage.
The real problem, however, is the failure of the utilities to implement the maintenance and system upgrades that would have limited the damage in the first place. That failure includes Continue reading