Melba Lara: You're listening to WBEZ. Every week we have a segment where we answer questions about climate science and climate change and we've had several people write in asking the question: Is it too late? Well, in a recent Op-Ed in Crain's Chicago Business, Don Wuebbles writes that he's optimistic about what can be done about climate change. Wuebbles is a Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and joins us now. Welcome.
Don Wuebbles: Hi Melba. Very much appreciate you asking me to be on this segment and to talk about what is clearly one of the most important issues facing humanity.
Melba Lara: You know, our conversations about climate change can be kind of depressing. There's a lot of very grim news and reports that are out there. Why is it important to face this with a sense of optimism?
Don Wuebbles: Oh, boy, I get asked that all the time and I basically answer that we really have no choice, you know? Yes, the topic can be depressing. I know I give a lot of public talks about climate change and why it is one of the most important issues humanity faces. But I also feel that there's a sense of hope. That we have a long history of solving difficult problems. We can do that. We just have to decide that it's important enough in our priorities to be able to address this problem. You know, the solutions are at hand, we just have to decide we're gonna take the steps to make them happen.
Melba Lara: And in fact, your Op-Ed lists a couple of policy shifts that are giving you hope. One is the Federal Inflation Reduction Act. How does that actually address climate change?
Don Wuebbles: Well, there's a number of aspects within the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, that are aimed especially at transforming our energy and transportation systems, leading to, you know, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving the climate change. And basically that's going to transform our industry, our agriculture, our transportation and our energy and how we do things. At the same time, the IRA promotes alternative fuels, renewable energy through tax credits.
Melba Lara: You know, those federal efforts to transform renewable energy, industry, agriculture... but what can individuals do to help?
Don Wuebbles: Oh, there's so much that we can do as individuals, I think that probably the single most important thing is to communicate, you know, let those leaders who represent us, whether it be locally statewide or nationally, know that this is an important issue that needs to be dealt with.
Melba Lara: And Don, for our listeners who ask, is it too late? How much do you think can be done at this point to mitigate the effects of climate change?
Don Wuebbles: Well, it's not too late and there's a lot that can be done. You know, I get asked all the time because the Paris Agreement really calls for 1.5 degrees if possible - this is a centigrade increase - as being, you know, the maximum change um trying to keep it below two degrees. Well, I think 1.5 degrees is not possible. We're just not gonna be able to transition fast enough. But I do think 2 degrees is still reasonable. And the lower we keep future climate change, in terms of that globally averaged temperature, the less impact we're gonna have from changing intensity of extreme weather. You know, less heat waves, less severe storms, less major floods, less major droughts. You know, I do feel confident that we can get this done and I don't think it is too late at all.
Melba Lara: I've been speaking with Professor Emeritus Don Wuebbles about his opinion piece in Crain's Chicago business called What can we do in Chicago about climate change? If you want to submit a topic suggestion for our weekly climate conversation, you can email us at email@example.com. This is WBEZ.
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