SPP: I guess I kind of wanted to get more of a sense of I know you’re a professor and you’ve been dealing with climate change in the past and all that. I wanted to get a sense of have you always been interested in climate change or climatology, or kind of how you got to where you are today. And actually what you are kind of working on right now.
Dr. Alley: I liked to crawl around in caves when I was in high school and collect rocks and cut and polish them. And then I became a geologist and the glaciologist had a summer job and so I started working with him. And I was trying to help him figure out how much it snowed each year by finding the fallout from atomic bombs in ice. And then I was working on measuring the thermal connectivity of snow, and then I was working on a little ice core he had gotten from Antarctica, and then I’m old and grey and still having a ball so.
SPP: That’s fantastic. It’s always good when you can find something you enjoy doing you know.
Dr. Alley: Oh it is. And ice is so cool on climate. The big things on ice, the most fun things on ice let’s be honest, is sort of figure out how it moves and how it makes the landscape pretty. And we actually do a little work here on that, but people don’t usually call up and want to talk about that one. The two big ones on ice, one is will it actually fall in the ocean and flood the house.
Dr. Alley: And the other one is what can we learn about the climate system by reading its history in the ice core, because the snow is piling up year after year after year and it has in it records of how much dust is blowing around, how much sea salt is blowing around, what the temperature was, how much snow fell that year, what the atmosphere was like that year because it traps bubbles of old air. And so you have these very long histories of climate and once you become an historian of the climate you sort of have to talk about climate so.
SPP: Now you mentioned ice core. For our listeners who don’t understand what that is, can you explain a little bit on what an ice core actually is and a little bit of the background about how you go extracting these ice cores?
Dr. Alley: Absolutely. So Greenland and Antarctica have these ice sheets on them and an ice sheet is about a two mile thick one continent wide pile of old snow. And it piles up layer, layer, layer, layer and then it sort of spreads under its own weight and it melts on the edges or it makes icebergs drift away. In the middle get somebody with a big plane to fly up in the middle and you’re sitting there on two miles of ice.
And if you’ve ever seen anyone put a doorknob in you get a drill and the drill has got a little pipe on the end and the pipe has got teeth on the end of that. And you spin it and it just cuts into the door and pretty soon you take a cylinder of wood out of the door then you’re done. But you can take a pipe and put a piece on the end of it and put it against the ice and spin it and pretty soon you pull out three feet of ice. And then you put the drill back down the hole and you pull up three feet more and then you pull up three feet more and you just keep going until you’ve got two miles of ice. And lying there these cylinders, they sort of look like Plexiglas, and you get this thing that’s a few inches across and a few feet long. And it’s layered and those layers are the summer winter, summer winter of the snow and it piled up.
It’s sort of really high tech simple. The drill is you’ve got to put a fluid hole so the way to the ice hasn’t squeezed the hole closed, and you’ve got to keep the drill from sort of spending crazily and you got to make sure it goes straight down and you got to make sure that you don’t break the ice when you pull it out, and a whole bunch of things. So it’s really high tech. But the basic idea is the same as drilling a hole through the door.
SPP: So I’m a little confused. I’m trying to think about how to word this. If you are drilling down and you’re getting these layers of ice that means every year, every season, I mean technically every second, the ice is expanding or growing or getting thicker.
￼Dr. Alley: Yes you’ve got it. Okay you’re really good at this.
Dr. Alley: Do an analogy for a minute. So you pour pancake batter on a griddle and you watch it and it sits there and spreads. And it may drips off the edge if you pour too much on. So while it’s sitting there spreading you pour another layer of pancake batter on top and they’re both spreading and dripping off the edge. And now you pour another layer on, and another and another and another and another. Now the one on the bottom is getting pretty thin now because it’s been spreading for a long time and the ones on top are a little bit thicker. That’s an ice seat. So the snow piles up and then it spreads under its own weight and then it drips off to the edge of some experts. And more piles on top and it spread and more piles on top and it spread. And so the thickness of the layer is smaller at the bottom because they’ve been spreading for a long time. They get really long and thin and the ends break off and make icebergs.
SPP: Okay that’s actually a really good analogy in an odd way. So I definitely understand it a little better.
Dr. Alley: Cool.
SPP: So when you pull this out what do you see and from that what can you determine? I mean what’s it look like? What do these sheets look like? And what information can you gather from that?
Dr. Alley: Yep. So at the top it looks like a piece of ice with bubbles in it. And it’s sort of whitish and the ice itself is clear and then the bubbles make it look white. When you get deeper the pressure’s getting higher and higher and eventually the air in the bubbles actually combines with the ice and it makes little things called Clathrates. And then the whole ice is just clear and it just looks like a cylinder of Plexiglas.
So if you can imagine picking up a piece of plastic that’s a few feet long a few inches across and almost perfectly clear you better be wearing gloves or we’re going to yell at you because we want to keep the ice in good shape, but that’s all it is. And so it has these layers in it. In there we can actually identify annual layers in a lot of the cores. If you go to a place and it snows enough that a year is thicker than a snowdrift you actually can count annual layers. And the summer snow and the winter snow look a little different, they are chemically different, they have different ice tops. You can sample them electrically and the electric I different from summer to winter. And you really can sort of sit there and go summer winter, summer winter, summer winter, and we can check ourselves.
So that first thing I was doing many years ago when I was an undergrad we know that in 1954 there was an atmospheric test of a really big dirty atomic bomb. And that blew stuff into the stratosphere and in 1955 it fell out all over the world so you can count down summer winter, summer winter. We should find the fallout right here where you go and look and there it is in Greenland.
Seventeen eighty-three Ben Franklin is over in Paris working for the young United States and he these dry fogs start blowing across. And Ben says “Wow there must be a big volcano erupting somewhere.” And in fact it was a terrible thing in Iceland because it was rocky and it was poising the pastures and posing all sorts of trouble. The ash from Lochie blows to Greenland. And so you count down to 1783 and there’s the Ash from Lochie. And you can analyze it chemically and say this really is Lochie and here it is in the year we thought was 1783. We know that that’s the year 1783 so we got it right.
SPP: That’s amazing.
Dr. Alley: It’s it wonderful. And you can do Elton Heckler Katlaw and Psuvious and Aetna. So as long as we have recorded history you can find the volcanoes of recorded history lying in the ice core.
SPP: That’s crazy. And I guess that kind of leads into, obviously I want to talk to you about climate change and then how you’ve learned about it through this method that you use with the Ice Core and everything, but first I guess I wanted to say should the fact that you can test yourself, test your findings, and know the histories, and know you’re on tract, should that kind of be proof to those that don’t believe that you can garner information from this? Should that be proof like look we can. We’re right on point?
Dr. Alley: That’s science. When we did annual layer in counting in Greenland I counted and Tony Gow counted and Mace counted and the Kurt Covey counted, and I do it and then they do it and then we compare. You don’t tell them your answer first you tell them your answer later and see if you get the same one. And we were looking at it and Ken Taylor was doing it electrically and Pete Grudius was doing it icetopically and Michael Ram was doing it with a laser. And then we’re comparing to Greg Salinsky’s record of volcanoes and a bunch of other things. So we do this, when I say that age is 10,000 years it is based on a huge number of tests and inner comparisons and trying very, very hard not to fool ourselves so that it really is reliable. And that’s one of the things that I think is really important about science.
There’s a few people in the world who know my name because of work I did on the Ice Core, but if I hadn’t done that work it wouldn’t make any difference. Because Ken Taylor did his work and Pete Grudius did his work, and all these other people. And Europeans were doing a parallel car, doing parallel measurements, and getting essentially the same answer. And so when we get to the point that I’ll tell you that the scientific evidence is really strong at that. And then I’ll tell you whatever it is. If my
research got thrown away nothing would change or if any individual’s research got thrown away nothing would change because it’s been tested so many times by so many different people in some many different ways that nobody really matters anymore.
Dr. Alley: If they give an award to somebody for their science that somebody science’s doesn’t matter anymore because it’s been tested so many other ways that you can make them go away and it wouldn’t matter.
SPP: Right. We actually talked to, I can’t remember exactly which scientist it was, but along the similar lines they said “People need to realize that the stuff that these scientists come up with is pretty well tested”, because there’s so many other scientists who want to prove them wrong. It’s actually like a notch on the belt if you can prove a well known theory incorrect.
Dr. Alley: Absolutely. So think about this for a minute, if you go down to Washington and you go right next to the Mall there’s a statue of Albert Einstein down there in front of the National Academy. Now suppose that Albert Einstein had want to spend his whole life and at the end of his life he said “I have spent a life doing science and the only thing I learned is that Newton got it right and I have nothing to add.”
SPP: Pretty hilarious.
Dr. Alley: Would there ever be a statute of Einstein on the Mall. SPP: Right exactly. No it’s just Newton.
Dr. Alley: Absolutely. So we scientist, you know, I like scientist, I love being a scientist, I have great colleagues, but there’s something’s just a little bit of ego sneak into a scientist occasionally. And could you possibly imagine that we would all not overthrow somebody else and get the statue.
SPP: Right. No I’m serious it’s a great argument. Now I guess I do want to jump into what’s on everybody’s mind and what is the most pressing issue. And one that you are and have become a leading expert on is climate change. First I guess it’s tough I don’t really have a poignant question because it’s such a large topic, but first I guess I wanted to ask in the most succinct way, how can you explain climate change? For those that obviously know about it many just know, yeah I just saw Al Gore’s movie or something, and that’s all they know about it.
Dr. Alley: How do you do this? It’s the same. Your gas tank, if you’ve got a big gas tank you put in 16 gallons or so that’s 100 pounds of gas. And when you burn it you add oxygen and it makes 300 pounds of CO2 and it blows away into the air and you don’t see it. If you drive your car you’re putting out about a pound a mile of CO2 from the tailpipe. If our cars packaged CO2 the way our transportation system used to package its waste, if you can imagine horse ploppies coming out of your tailpipe.
Dr. Alley: It’s a pound of CO2 a mile. We would cover every road in America and an inch deep every year. In a decade there would be no joggers in America. We’d all be cross country skiers.
SPP: I love that. I mean this is literally the best description ever.
Dr. Alley: So it’s real. Oil companies are really, really good. They get us this stuff at a remarkably efficient way and it really does a huge amount of good for us, but CO2 is real. Now we have known for more than a century that CO2 interacts with energy in the atmosphere and right after World War II the Air Force says we’ve got to understand this. Now the Air Force wasn’t doing climate change but they were doing heat sinking missiles.
And if you want to shoot down the enemy bomber with your heat sinking missiles and you put a sensor on your missile that looks in the wrong wavelength it can see the target for CO2’s in the way. And that’s really all we need to know. And so oil companies have been doing us a huge amount of good by getting us a huge amount of oil we burn to do things we want to know and the CO2 is there and it interacts with energy. And those two pieces say that we must ultimately be tweaking the climate. And very rarely you hear people arguing about this because there really isn’t much to argue about.
If you turn on the evening news the weather person will show you the water vapor loop. The water vapor loop really is a satellite looking at the greenhouse effective water vapor. They could show you the CO2 loop because, and it’s sort of boring because CO2 is better mixed but it’s a verified satellite every day. It’s real. It’s CO2 affecting the radiation balance of the planet which affects the climate. There’s not much to argue about because there really isn’t much uncertainty there. But we are doing this and if we keep burning fossil fuels, and we keep changing the conversations of the atmosphere, that has to have influence on the climate and with really, really high scientific confidence. And we don’t know how to get out of that.
SPP: Yes I was going to say it’s almost as if the argument of climate change doesn’t exist, because I mean you step outside and it’s hotter now than it was 10 years ago, than it was 20 years ago, etc, etc. But I think where the main argument comes is, in man really the driving force of this climate change. And I think that’s what people end up arguing about.
Dr. Alley: Right. And in our best estimate is that in fact we have done some sun blocking. We put particles up from our smokestacks that block the sun and make it a little cooler. And we cut dark forest and plant slightly lighter wheat fields and that makes it a little cooler. And if anything the sun has gotten a little dimmer over the last few decades, which makes it a little cooler. And despite a little push from nature towards cooler, and a fairly big push from humans towards cooler, it’s gotten warmer.
And the warming is it staggers from year to year. But if you get any long enough window that you sort of average over the weather it is getting warmer and it’s getting warmer in thermometers, and it’s getting warmer if the thermometers are analyzed by NASA or by NOVA or by Berkley or by the British. And it’s getting warmer in thermometers outside of cities and thermometers in the ground and thermometers in the ocean and thermometers on balloons, and thermometers looking down from space. It’s getting warmer if you average over the staggers of the weather with the high confidence. And yet we the sun a little bit and humans by blocking the sun with our particles have been trying to make it cooler.
So you ask how much of the arming that’s happened and it’s been caused by our greenhouse gases and it’s probably more than all of it. And there are several greenhouse gases not just CO2. And yes the sun did get brighter 50 years ago but since then it’s started to stabilize or gotten a little bit dimmer. And so yeah nature changes climate, no doubt about that, a huge number of things that nature can do to climate, and a lot of my research has been trying to understand those. But if anything nature has been trying to cool it a little bit, we’ve been trying to cool it a little bit with our sun blocking particles but it’s gotten warmer.
SPP: You know and here’s what blows my mind because being able to say “Look this isn’t up for debate anymore.” It is crazy because I always think about my dad tells me when we said we’re going to put a man on the moon we did it from the time it was proposed until the time it happened, and again I wasn’t born yet, but I think it was like 10 years right.
Dr. Alley: Yep.
SPP: And if we can do that, so I don’t understand why and for everybody that hates the government fine I get it, but I don’t understand why we can’t just say “Look, we spend a bajillion dollars on like all this ridiculous stuff like airplane a new fighter.” Why can’t we dedicate our resources? Say we’re going to fix it, take every crappy car off the road, put in a 50 mile per gallon or electric, put in a tester whatever and just fix it?. Just do it. Just get it done. Why can’t that not happen?
Dr. Alley: We can do it but we’ve got to want to do it. And it’s not going to be easy this isn’t falling off a log easy, but we’ve got to get to the point of saying we look at each other and we look at people on the other side of the aisle, and we all shake hands and say “This is what we want to do.” And I think one of the things that I’ve tried to work on fairly hard there are people in the world who jump immediately from where changing the climate with high scientific confidence to we should take away your pickup truck, or whatever.
Dr. Alley: They jump immediately from policies. And I think it’s really important at this point to back up and say “No the science does not tell you what to do.” Let me do an analogy if I may. A weather forecaster tells you it’s going to be warm this week, its July or something. So weather forecaster tells you it’s going to be warm but you know that there’s uncertainty attached to that. Weather forecasters do make mistakes, they do have uncertainty, but the weather forecasters are skillful. You know what to do with that. You take the weather forecast. The weather forecast does not tell you whether to have the picnic or not. It gives you information that you can use, have you put that information in the pot with everything else that you know, and you make decisions.
Now weather is predicting the next spin of the roulette wheel and climate is predicting that in fact the house is going to make money at the end of the day, but otherwise they’re sort of the same thing. If we make a climate prediction for a few decades out if you keep burning fossil fuels then it gets warmer the confidence in that is high. It’s not perfect but it is high. And that doesn’t tell you what to do. It is useful information that you can put in the pot with everything else and your national security, your jobs, your what have you, and then you can make wise decisions. And we know from the weather forecasters that including the science with everything else makes us better off. And I truly believe that this is the case with the climate. It doesn’t tell you what to do but including it in your decision making with its uncertainties and its strength will make us better off.
SPP: Now I believe you had said something awhile back, and please tell me if I’m misquoting you, but you had mentioned that if we just studied this climate and the climate change it would only take about 10 years and 1% of what the economy produces. Do you still think that to be accurate and am I quoting you correctly there.
Dr. Alley: The optimum path sort of says that you don’t try to do things much faster than 30 years. So this gets interesting that if we were to say panic, we got to change right now, I have to walk home my wife can’t pick me up, the people who float the meetings have to walk home, but that would be a disaster. Even if you try to make huge changes over a few years there’s people who decided that work for oil companies and gold companies who made honest decisions. And they have mortgages and if we said “Okay sorry you’re out of work walk home”, there’s a real problem there. And so when the economist have looked at this what they keep saying over and over is the best thing economically it is to start really slowly to get off fossil fuels. But to make it really clear to everyone that in 30 years changing the climate is going to get expensive. Either you want to switch away from fossil fuels or you burn the fossil fuels and put the CO2 back into the ground. And if you do that the people who honestly quit their jobs and made their investment will retire in their jobs and get their investment back. And the next generation will be making decisions knowing that that change is coming.
Now the other thing that the economists say is that if we had started this 10 years ago we’d probably be better off. You can’t wait 30 years and then start. Analogy time. The captain sees the iceberg way ahead. The captain turns just a little bit it’s real easy to go around the iceberg. The captain waits until the iceberg is looming over the bow and then starts to turn, and you’re surely going to dump a few drinks and knock a few people over and you might crash the ship. If you want to deal with climate change starting early and slowly or worse waiting until everybody is convinced that it’s already happening and they’re in trouble before you start the turn it’s hard. Because then people who made honest decisions about jobs and investments and so on end up losing money and losing their houses and what have you, and it’s a bad thing.
SPP: I love that analogy as well. I guess maybe I learn better hearing analogies. But one of the things you mentioned earlier was how we are admitting things from smokestacks and all this that actually cool it. And I know that I’ll talk to people sometimes about climate change, and I’m fairly passionate about it, and they’ll say “Look we’ll fix it like we fix everything. It’s going to be okay, people are going to go on and on.”
And I think okay how are we going to fix it? Well we’ll probably come up with some scientific way to just do it. And so I’m thinking maybe we’ll purposely blast things into the atmosphere to block sunrays or something. Or maybe we’ll go and take another planet over or something like that. Are these viable options? Are these things that actually get discussed how we can manufacture artificial ozone, if you will?
Dr. Alley: Oh absolutely. So it’s called queue engineering and there’s plenty of people are thinking about it, but there’s a lot of worries. So we know that if we put up particles that we can block the sun and make it cooler if we put them up in the stratosphere above the rain they’d stay up longer. So we wouldn’t have to put them up as fast because they’d stay up longer.
There’s some worries about what that does to the ozone and that is an issue. Putting them up is not simply anti greenhouse gas and among other things it tends to make the world a little drier. It keeps its sun from beating down on the ocean to warm the surface to make the water evaporate, to make it rain. And so you end up probably with less rain if you put the particles in the stratosphere.
And then what do you do internationally if somebody gets a drought, because you’re trying to keep it cold and they decide they got the drought because your pipe was putting particles in the stratosphere to keep you from melting. And what do you do if they shoot your pipe out and who decides where to set the sun blocking. And what happens if we hold off a 100 years of warming and then the system breaks down and we can’t fix it and we get all the 100 years of warming in a very few years.
So there’s a lot of people thinking about it. It is certainly possible to block the sun in ways that would offset warming, but it’s not a perfect offset and it raises a whole lot of questions of what you’re doing to the ozone, what you’re doing to the rain, what you’re doing to your neighbors. And so no one is done with this yet. The scientific community has not yet gotten together assessed what we know and says this is the best answer, but there’s a whole lot of nervousness that this is not as simple as we’ll put up a sunshade and be done with it.
SPP: Yes I wish it was. And you know that’s interesting that you kind of went that route, because I was thinking I can only go off of what I’ve experienced here in Washington, D.C. area in terms of weather, and then what I see on the news. But a couple of years ago we had snow apocalypse, the most snow we’ve ever had in like 100 years. And then this year we’re having the, I don’t know, one of the driest winters we’ve ever had or something.
And then there was the tornado that was a mild wide and went – I can’t quote the thing – but went forever. And there’s all this stuff. And this is happening in a condensed period of time. We’re talking a couple of years. So isn’t it just completely obvious if this reaches its tipping point, Malcolm Gladwell, then we are screwed, we’re dead. We’re not just in trouble we’re dead.
Dr. Alley: I have faith in people. We’re really, really clever. I don’t think we even know how to kill ourselves off. We do know how to cause ourselves really serious problems. So I think ultimately humans are the ultimate weed, we figure it out someone, but whether we figure it out without getting a whole lot of people I’m happy in having a few wars and things like that is a harder question. It’s very clear that for decades the scientific community has been saying that global warming will push us in some directions. More record highs fewer record lows we’re seeing that.
When the conditions are right to rain warmer air has more water in it so it can rain harder, and we’re seeing that. And yeah weather is a really weird thing and sometimes it surprises you, but we have some made some things more likely and they are happening. So that’s pretty clear. A really important thing though that you raised is that when we look at the future you take the best scientific assessment of what we face and then you say “What’s the best response to that to keep the economy humping?” And it is include the science in your decision making. And then somebody say “Well couldn’t it be a little better than you thought?” And you say “Yeah.” And they say “Couldn’t it be a little worse than you thought?” And you say “Yeah.” And then you say “But could it be really, really better? Is there any way to just changing the atmosphere turns this into Eden?” And we can’t find that. But we find slight changes of causing really bad things. And so analogy again you’re in the D.C. area right, do you have to commute by car?
Dr. Alley: Okay I’m sorry.
SPP: And it’s into Washington, D.C. so it is three and a half miles from my house, it takes about 45 minutes.
Dr. Alley: I’m sorry. So when you get in the car to commute you expect 45 minutes and you turn on the radio and it’s the Captain & Tennille doing “Muskrat Love”. Now the best thing you can hope for if you get on the highway and there’s no traffic and you make it in 25 minutes and it’s the Beach Boys Medley. But some days you get on there and it’s an hour because somebody had a wreck and they’re doing a test pattern for the emergency broadcast system. And some days you hope that you never get the day that you get on there and somebody with a truck runs over you.
SPP: So true.
Dr. Alley: But it’s possible. And so if you think about what’s the most likely outcome, sort of what’s the best and what’s the worst there’s way more room on the bad side. And that’s sort of the way our forecast of the climate system are as well our projections. If we keep burning yeah we face challenges that we can meet and it may be a little better now, and it might. And it may be a little worse than that, but there’s a slight chance that we get nasty tipping point and we make things really bad.
SPP: Okay that is my favorite analogy. It’s like what you can get to work 20 minutes earlier or you can die.
Dr. Alley: There you go okay.
SPP: Pretty much I mean honestly.
Dr. Alley: So that’s sort of the thing. And what you do is I bet you’ve got a car that’s got airbags and it’s got seatbelts and it’s got crumple zones.
SPP: And it’s a hybrid.
Dr. Alley: Yeah there you go. Okay. And you’ve got insurance. And so some fraction of your transportation budget is devoted to the unlikely but possible disasters that are out there. And so if you were to treat climate change or we as the world were to treat climate change the way we you treat your transportation then we might be considering whether we wanted to buy a little insurance, slow down a little bit and hope that change is down just in case there’s a drunk driver out there with our name on it.
SPP: There is a ton of things that people can do that really would be, I don’t want to call them quick fixes, but I guess like quick hits. Just ways to treat the environment a little bit better. Like yourself you ride your bike to a lot of places. A lot of people live within walking distance of stores, grocery stores, etc, but yet you still see these people. I mean I live in a community where the cleaners, there’s restaurants, bars, grocery store, everything within walking distance, yet I still see people that live maybe three tenths of a mile away that still drive to the grocery store.
Dr. Alley: Yeah.
SPP: What do you think is the hesitation for people to start riding their bike to work or to start doing these quick hits where they can walk to the grocery store as opposed to making that half a mile round trip in the vehicle?
Dr. Alley: I don’t know. I mean I enjoy it. I walk by the duck pond and see who’s migrating through just now, and it really works for me. There are people that, I know there are people that you say conservation and they hear Ben Franklin, they hear Teddy Roosevelt, they hear of course this is who I am this is what I am. Conservation is stewardship and the environment is something that I have to do. And there are people that hear their mother tell them to clean up their room and they get mad about it.
So and it’s true. And all of us have something in us that if we get told what to do we take umbrage at that. And so my suspicion is that ultimately a lot of this is showing people where the win-win is because there really are wins on all sides. And conservation is also saving money and the first steps pay you. Even if people believe in climate change and you don’t believe in greenhouse gases, and you don’t believe in any of that, conservation saves money.
SPP: Oh absolutely. And it blows my mind too. I mean like Chris I live about three miles away from work and I would love to ride my bike to work but I would have to ride on one of the biggest beltways in the D.C. area.
SPP: You would die.
SPP: Yes I would die.
Dr. Alley: I’m sorry don’t do it.
Dr. Alley: With this kind of thing it’s once we get at the point where we look at each other and say “Wow it’s nice to have these choices. We’re not going to take away your pickup truck, if you want your pickup truck, but in the same sense can’t you help me so that if I want to ride my bicycle I can do it. At the point where we look at each other and say, “Let’s give ourselves choices.” I suspect that a lot of people would find out how much fun we’re having.
SPP: Yes. And so while we’re talking about this a lot of people are going to say “Look, ride your bike you’re not saving the planet.” I mean there are people out there that are going to say that. How much impact can that small stuff have? And I guess as a second question, what things can we do? What things do you recommend these win-win-wins that you talk about?
Dr. Alley: Right. I mean it’s very clear that there are things that our institutions can do for us that we almost don’t have to help. The ozone hole is going to get fixed and it’s going to get fixed because there’s an international treaty and there’s a couple of inventions that say use this refrigment and not that refrigment, and we’re all going to do it, and that’ll take care of it. And nobody really had to change the way they lived to that. Somebody had to invent something really good and then our governments had to get together and agree. And we didn’t change our lifestyle and that’s going to be fixed. There are things that we don’t need the government. Come on you wash your hands after you use the restroom and you don’t really need a guard standing at the door to make sure you did.
Dr. Alley: Right. There are things that are big enough that’s going to take our institutions and our individuals. And if we’re really going to change the way we generate energy and the way we sort of move to something that’s sustainable for the long term, something that our grandchildren and their grandchildren can do, I think it’s going to take cooperation among people and institutions. And I don’t think any one thing will do it.
Dr. Alley: I think it really doesn’t take this is sort of like at the point where we decided that I did not want to drink what was coming out of your bathroom, and that we probably really did need to sewers and clean water, and things like that. It really took people and it took their institutions getting together to do that.
SPP: I definitely agree. And I know I promise we’re not going to make you walk them, so we’ll let you out of here soon. But I did want to kind of end this on a recent development actually just happened today and it’s interesting that it’s in the news right as we get to talk to you. The US just said it plans to contribute $12 million dollars to a six country initiative to help climate change programs through low cost initiatives, things like clean cooking, stoves, and things like that.
And I found this interesting. So Hilary Clinton’s the one kind of heading this up and I mean I guess it’s a move in the right direction but $12 million dollars, I mean that’s honestly like you giving a homeless person 1 penny. I think they would say “No thanks.” And I don’t know is it more as long as we have people talking about it and doing something that’s better than nothing or is it like come on let’s be real about this?
Dr. Alley: Yes. I was at a meeting a while back with the great climate scientist Ramanathan and he’s been working on issues of cooked stoves and things like that. And these people who really have terrible health problems because they’re sitting there burning in a stove in a little enclosed space so that they can have a cup of tea or something hot to eat. And you get them a solar stove and they save time and they save money and they get healthier. And so he’s been working on this and it was amazing how far they could get with reasonably small resources. So I honestly don’t know whether this is proportional to the problem or not but based on personal stories I’ve heard from really good people there’s a lot of good can be done here.
SPP: Do you think that the government, I know you kind of mentioned it, but the government needs to play a bigger role?
Dr. Alley: Ultimately we’re all going to be better if we put the science into our decision making with everything else, and that includes our government yes.
SPP: Yes. I mean as much as a lot of people don’t like to admit it they have the ability to make decisions with funds available to them through what we pay for. So I think if they’re behind us right that only helps.
Dr. Alley: There you go. So yeah it really is – it’s a long term thing. When we decided to do sewers it was sort of you’re going to get collar and die next week if you don’t get this fixed. And that has a way of grabbing people that the climate will be notably different and make life harder in a few decades. It doesn’t quite grab you but it really is good science. It’s not perfect but it’s really good science. And we just know over and over again that when we include the science and the engineering with what we want and what we believe and what we care about and national security and jobs and all of that, that we end up better off.
SPP: Right. I definitely agree. Well Dr. Alley again thank you so much for being on the show. Thanks for dedicating your mental abilities towards this cause that’s hopefully going to save us all from ruin at some point in the future.