Biodiversity at stake

Interview with Raquel Garcia

The local extinctions of lizards in Mexico, the threat of shrinking areas of polar climates, the decline of Aloe tree populations in the Namib desert, the increasing frequency of extreme warming and drying events in tropical areas. Climate change is more complex than what is often portrayed in maps of gradual warming or gradual increases or decreases in precipitation.
Biodiversity faces very different climatic challenges across regions and the impacts of the changing climate are still extremely difficult to predict.
A recent study tries to shed light on the implications of climate change for biodiversity while providing a detailed global overview of the threats and opportunities for species and ecosystems resulting from different measures of climate change. Researcher and co-author of the study, Raquel Garcia (CSIC National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid and Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at University of Copenhagen) addresses these topics and explains what challenges biodiversity is expected to face. Interview by Laura Caciagli

Addressing the climate change issue for poverty reduction and development in sub-Saharan Africa

Conversation with Christoph Müller

Droughts, floods, rising sea levels, extreme events: these are just some of the environmental impacts of climate change on sub-Saharan Africa. They may have serious consequences for many economic and development sectors, while threatening the economies and livelihoods of many African countries. This situation is exacerbated by low levels of development, limited adaptive capacity and widespread poverty across the continent.
A recent study illustrates the African regions that are the most severely struck by climate change impacts while investigating implications for adaptation and development. In this conversation with Laura Caciagli, Christoph Müller, co-author of the study cited and researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), explains the main topics of the African vulnerabilities to the changing climate.

Global health and climate-change: together bound

Interview with George Luber

Understanding all climate-change related environmental and socio-economical impacts requires one of the large efforts in the science world. The effects of the global changes related to rapid modification in climate patterns are heterogeneous, complex, and vast. Think about public health and the ways in which it will be compromised through the changing climate.
George Luber – Associate Director for Climate and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – talks about this topics and focuses on a new area of concentration that is convening people in a wide variety of areas, involving epidemiology studies that are trying to assess what the thresholds for these health effects are. An example? “Malaria and Dengue – Dr. Luber says – there is increasing evidence that those geographies are changing, as you would expect with climate change, increasing in latitude as well as increasing its reach in altitude as those habitats become more suited”. Interview by Emanuele Bompan

Addressing climate change as a security issue: scenarios and perspectives

Climate change is an environmental, economic and social issue. Since the UN Security Council in 2007 it has been also identified as a concern for peace and security.
Climate change should be regarded as a threat multiplier while affecting key natural resources such as water, land, coastal areas and exacerbating conflicts. Contentions over natural resources, border disputes, environmentally induced-migration (due to further desertification, sea level rise, more extreme weather events), food scarcity and health diseases related to extreme events are a reality, and there are many concrete examples on security issues related to climate change: for instance, the management of the Jordan river basin is posed at risk by the negative effects of climate change on water stocks, while the inhabitants of South Pacific islands have become the first climate refugees. Angela Liberatore – European Commission, DG RTD – highlights the most useful approach on addressing climate change impacts and security issues while envisioning some possible scenarios. Watch the video

Science story hunters: the future of journalism and reporting

A conversation with Tim Radford

“What’s the future of science journalism? We don’t know. Science journalism is actually still a messy and undefined thing and as science journalists, we have a great opportunity: since we still don’t have science journalism, we can create it. There is no point in not being an aggressive journalist: go and hunt your story. Science doesn’t provide answers, science provides more questions”. This is how Tim Radford, freelance journalist and former science editor for the Guardian, begins his talk to an audience of students on science writing and reporting.
In an interview conducted by Laura Caciagli, he talks about the role of a journalist and explains how to catch the reader’s attention by shaping science facts into narratives, focusing on climate change media reporting.

Loss and damage: the third way to face climate change impacts

So far, the climate negotiations have focused on two parallel responses to climate change: mitigation and adaptation. However, the present situation suggests that in the future there might be events related to climate change that countries won’t be able to adapt to. These include both slow-onset events and extreme weather more intense than any seen so far. In order to deal with this, a large number of countries are pushing for a new approach to be negotiated within the UNFCCC. It is called loss and damage and aims to ensure an effective, coordinated international response to future economic and non-economic losses due to climate change. Even if Cop 19 in Warsaw closed with few results on this issue, loss and damage is going to be a central theme in present and future climate negotiations.

“Let’s be prepared”. Considering geohazards in the framework of climate change

An Interview with Nadim Farrokh

Geohazards are natural phenomena that cause major problems all over the world. Human communities, natural ecosystems, infrastructures and economic, social, or cultural assets are exposed to sudden geohazards such as earthquakes, floods and storms, as well as to hazards that occur slowly over a long period of time such as droughts and sea level rise that are becoming more frequent due to climate change. The presence of people as well as the expansion and development of cities have caused an increase in impact and damage due to geological hazards. In this interview conducted by Laura Caciagli, Professor Nadim Farrokh (Director IGC, NGI, Norway) addresses these topics and explains to us what a center of excellence for geohazards is, and how researchers are tackling the numerous issues related to them.

Climate negotiations: Europe, let’s close the gap

Interview with Connie Hedegaard

Climate is going to be one of the key political issues on the global stage for the coming decades. Connie Hedegaard knows it very well and this is why, as European Commissioner for Climate Action, she encourages Europe to make up its mind on climate policy in the 2030 horizon. “We have signals for a great hope – she explains in this interview to Italian journalist, Emanuele Bompan – but we can’t avoid being realistic and realizing that it’s difficult for countries such as China and the United States to engage in legally binding global agreements.” Serving in the European Commission since 10 February 2010, Connie Hedegaard is working to push the EU into becoming a role model in climate negotiations and strongly advocates saving the European ETS. Moreover, she knows that effective climate action includes several issues that are becoming topical in public affairs. Thus, the European Commissioner explains her ideas to us about various topics, from adaptation (“We need infrastructures that should be ‘climate proof’ in order to open up investments) to shale gas that should be considered a “transition technology”.

Geoengineering: a panacea or a false solution?

A conversation with Ken Caldeira

Is manipulating the climate God’s work? Mankind, since Moses and ancient Cherokee tribes, has always tried to control the sun and the wind. Nowadays, thanks to advances in climatology and meteorology, controlling the climate has become a feasible option. However, it is a very controversial issue that involves concerns related to potential risks and requires a wide array of social and political responses. Journalist Emanuele Bompan asked Professor Ken Caldeira (Stanford University and lead author of the “State of the Carbon Cycle Report”, a study for the US Congress), to tell us more about geoengineering. «We have some technological options – he says – but it is never easy to talk about geoengineering because it requires having to face concerns that arise when we start interfering with something as complicated as our Planet».

“Journalists, what does it mean to be objective when you cover climate science?”

A conversation with Naomi Oreskes

The book “Merchants of Doubt” addresses the connections among scientific research, politics and the role that media play in building connections between technical knowledge and common knowledge. Science historian at the University of San Diego and co-author of the book, Naomi Oreskes explains to Emanuele Bompan and Paolo Savoia that science is a historical process. “Scientific activity is a rather complicated affair – she says – It is a human activity in which progress and expert judgment is fundamental. What we call scientific knowledge is the result of collaboration, research, proof, and consensus, however partial, from a community of experts that formulate informed judgments, though they are still subjective, on the information they gather, and eventually draw conclusions about their meaning”. Dealing with science, media usually grant equal space to two opinions that are not equally supported by scientific evidence. “Journalists – Naomi Oreskes assesses – should stop and reflect for a moment on what it means to be objective”.