Judith A. Curry is an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Professor Curry discusses the issues with climate change modelling and what governments should focus on.
Christopher Balkaran (00:01):
Hi, everyone. Continuing the conversation on climate change today, I sit down with professor Judith Curry. Professor Curry has been openly critical on climate change modeling and those presented by the intergovernmental panel for climate change. I can't wait to share with you my conversation with professor Curry.
Welcome to the strong and free podcast where my goal is to showcase multiple perspectives on the topics and ideas of our time, regardless of your politics and views, you will find a home here because I simply have no agenda to push. My name is Christopher Balkaran and let's start the conversation.
Christopher Balkaran (00:38):
Hi everyone. Thank you so much for listening to the strong and free podcast. I can't thank you enough for all the messages you send emails. I think it's incredible. It means that you value balanced discourse and I need to get better too. You know, I have my bias as well, which some of you have definitely pointed out and I'm trying to get better every single day. But definitely check me firstname.lastname@example.org. It's got all my podcasts there. It's got a little bit about me. It's got my blog, I think there and my social media posts, so definitely check it out. It is a work in progress as you can probably tell, but I would sincerely appreciate if you could leave me a review. If you're listening to this on Apple podcasts, it's really critical. It helps me get better. It helps me get and produce better podcasts.
Christopher Balkaran (01:19):
It's a work in progress and I can only get better if you let me know. So definitely check me out at thestrongandfreepodcast.com as well as leave me a review on Apple podcasts. So I wanted to pose this question to you, even though I know you can't reply because this is a podcast. But how often have you heard from scientists who are respected in their field that have openly questioned and been critical of the findings and the climate modeling put forward by the intergovernmental panel for climate change? I know I haven't, and I know the majority of us probably haven't. So I want to just sit down with professor Judith Curry. Professor Curry has been openly critical of the intergovernmental panel for climate change. Professor Curry openly accepts that climate change is real and it is happening, but the topic is so, so complex. And so determining what governments need to do is also complex.
Christopher Balkaran (02:14):
But so often today we hear about these very simple slogans and solutions to climate change, you know, just to accept the science and provide a rebuttal or to meet these, these lofty targets at a global scale, which is so challenging because not only our countries, you know, every country, every region has different, different issues, but getting you know, countries around the world to all agree on common goals, you know, is very, very challenging. So I wanted to sit down with professor crate to understand a little bit more about why the climate modeling that has been put forward by the IPC is flawed and specifically why. And also what professor Curry would do if she were in power in terms of what policies should be pursued. And it was, I hope you enjoyed this conversation. It was really fascinating and I hope we can continue having these conversations with multiple perspectives on climate change. They'll do it for me, enjoy the conversation I hit record. So professor Kerri, thank you so much for joining me.
Judith Curry (03:19):
Oh my, my pleasure. Thanks for the invite.
Christopher Balkaran (03:22):
Yeah, you are, you are so well known in the climate change and climatology space. But before we get into that, I want to know a little bit more from you about what drew you to this space when you did your first degree and then subsequent degrees in geography and geophysical sciences.
Judith Curry (03:44):
Okay. I guess it goes back to fifth grade. I was in a little sort of academically talented group that was selected for broader exposure to things. And this geologist came to talk to us and I was fascinated. I sages all this kind of thing. So I really started liking that. And then I thought that geology at the time, you know, in the seventies was really too qualitative of a field. So I wanted to really, you know, combine, combine this with physics. And then at the university where I was, it was a program really in meteorology, which was have the same sort of connection to the natural world, but was, seemed more physically based at least at the time. And then I continued on for my PhD university of Chicago and the department of geophysical sciences. And this was like late seventies, early eighties. And my PhD thesis was on the Arctic which I wasn't really thinking in terms of manmade climate change at that point. But as an understanding the processes between the atmosphere and CIS that happened in the Arctic and obviously as global warming ramped up the Arctic became a pretty important factor. And so, you know, I ended up really, I still have my foot in what I would call the weather field, but I also do climate dynamics in the Arctic, but also more broadly at this point.
Christopher Balkaran (05:33):
And how was the conversation on climate change in the seventies and eighties? Definitely we'll talk a little bit more about what it is today, but what were some of the major issues that climatology and environmental sciences
Judith Curry (05:47):
They weren't, they weren't issues at that point. Th th this was all about geophysical fluid dynamics, you know, trying to understand how the atmosphere and the ocean, the circulations happened and radiative transfer. It was, it was very physics based. You know, I would hear about various fringe people talking about, Oh, the ice age is coming or doom and gloom from CO2 emissions, but nobody was really paying attention to all that very much in terms of what I would say the mainstream field until, you know, the late 1980s, really. It was just like sort of a non-issue there were some very rambunctious people who were talking about this publicly and painting alarming scenarios on both sides, the cold and the warm side, and most people that I knew and where I was, nobody was really paying attention to all that.
Christopher Balkaran (06:50):
I, you know, it's so fascinating that you say that because you know, me being a kid of the nineties watching captain planet and other cartoons at a young age, all I heard of at you know, on a much smaller scale was how important the environment is in today. It's, you know, it's taken over so many, so many spheres of our discourse. But in the eighties you start seeing late eighties, you start seeing this kind of discussion on climate change. What do you think are, were some of the underpinnings that guided both both sides was kind of this kind of protest towards big oil or capitalism more broadly?
Judith Curry (07:29):
Well, a lot of it comes from the UN environmental program. Okay. And there's a lot of, you know, world government, you know, socialistic kind of leanings, don't like capitalism and big oil is, you know, arch title capitalism. You know, so a lot of it really comes from that kind of thinking. And the you nap was one of the sponsoring organizations for the IPC now. Okay. And so then that really engaged more climate scientists and really brought it more into the mainstream. But in the early days, even if the IPCCs skepticism and chanting, a lot of people didn't like this at all, they didn't think that we should be going in this direction. And this was even the world climate research program under the international council on scientific unions and the world meteorologic organization, they didn't want to get involved in man-made climate change.
Judith Curry (08:34):
They said, this is just a whole political thing. This is not what we do. You know, we understand, you know, we seek to understand all the processes and climate dynamics, you know, we don't want to go there. And that was really a pretty strong attitude, you know, through, I would say the mid nineties, but 95. I think that pretty much changed when the people, you know, we had the UN framework convention on climate change at that point, they're trying to get a big treaty going. And so then, then people started pushing the thing that, you know, anybody who doubts us or challenges, this is in the pay of big oil. And, you know, it started this whole, you know, after that, it, it wasn't, it became less and less
Judith Curry (09:32):
Accepted to really challenge all that. And by certainly by the turn of the century, you know, anybody who was questioning the hockey stick or any of these other things where we're slammed as deniers and they were ostracized. And then after climate gate in 2010, that then the consensus enforcers became very militant. So it's a combination of politics. Some mediocre people try and scientists trying to protect their careers. And, you know, they saw this whole game as a way for career advancement. I think it gives them a seat at the big table. And, you know, there's some
Judith Curry (10:20):
Ranging from pretty shoddy science to overconfidence and Brian conclusions and the IPC assessment reports. So, you know, and at some point you start to get second order belief. I mean, it's such a big problem. You know, individual scientists are only looking at a piece of it, and then they start accepting what the consensus says on the other topics. You know, even though they may not be no anything, they may be a meteorologist or an oceanographer or something. And they may know very little about carbon dioxide, the carbon budget, Rite aid of transfer, all those kinds of stuff, but they will accept the climate consensus because it's it's, I think you've kind of, you know, approach and it's become stand for your career, you know, to seriously challenge important aspects of this. And so it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And now we have way too much confidence in some very dubious climate models and stuff like that. And we're not really framing the problem broad enough to really understand what's going on with the climate and to make credible projections about the range of things that we could possibly see in the 21st century. It's interesting to me, because it seems like and
Christopher Balkaran (11:54):
Just as a student who is always looking at reports to understand a little bit more about topics, you know in Canada here, we have statistics Canada. So always reading stats can reports on, you know, different segments of the population and how they're dealing with certain government interventions, whatever they may be in October. I did a series on abortion here and looking at the statistics behind abortion, and I had this kind of recurring thought about climate change. And that was if I'm a scientist and I want to fully study climate change in a specific way, I'm dependent in some part, perhaps a large part on government funding. And if government is politicized in saying, you know, climate change is happening and it's human caused or, or whatever the case is, if my research doesn't align with that, I can see my research being defunded. And then I think, well, if the public is only seeing the research that government is funding or being a big a big contributor to the funding, when people smell it, I rely on the research. It's not really unbiased research.
Judith Curry (13:03):
Well, it's worse than that because the government funding is not that they just re reject those kinds of proposals. They make it hard for you to even submit them because their announcement of opportunity for proposals already implicitly or explicitly assume this you know, looking for impacts of manmade, global warming, regional impacts on whatever, you know, these kinds of things. So there's already either an implicit or explicit assumptions about all this. So, I mean, and, and so it's really the independent scientists, retired people, people in the private sector, independently, wealthy people who are doing this work and
Christopher Balkaran (13:52):
Professor from your experience, what do you think has been some of the major causes for this shift in how we understand climate change, especially given how recent relatively it is and why do you believe it's? So it is so politicized as such a drastic change in how we understand our climate and climatology. And the reason I ask you that is because you are, you are a PR, you are a professional in the field and you know,
Judith Curry (14:26):
Well, okay, you can see the signal of manmade, you know emissions the earth climate, okay. All of the things being equal, you know, it's warmer than it would otherwise be. It impacts to some extent, you know, we went from sort of unforced variability to more strongly forced variability, you know, starting in the seventies. I mean, you, you can see that. So, so it is there the, the issue is the magnitude of man-made warming relative to the whole host of other things that go on in the natural climate system. And then the bigger issue is really whether this warming is dangerous. You know, a certain amount of warm is generally regarded by people as a good thing. You know, a whole lot of warming, you know, isn't especially a good thing, especially if it's, you know, going to be melting ice sheets and stuff like that causing sea level rise.
Judith Curry (15:26):
But the whole sea level rise, you know, operates on very long timescales. And the warming that we've seen so far, I don't think is really contributing to the sea level rise that we've observed so far. I mean, that's just a much longer term processes. And even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide today, the sea level rise would keep, it would keep rising. So, you know, all of these things, the whole natural climate system is way more complex than just something that you can tune, you know, with a CO2 control. Now that just, isn't how it works.
Christopher Balkaran (16:10):
And that's exactly what I want to chat with you about because you've been quite skeptical of climate change modeling and for whose, you know on the outside, looking in, as you've just said, it's, it's extremely challenging for anyone to be that familiar or, you know, have a good command of the science. And, you know, a common theme I hear from my friends is I just accept the science when it comes to climate change. Can you explain to me why, first of all, so let's be clear that climate change modeling is very complex. And so first, why are you skeptical of current climate change modeling and why am I the only one that feels that there's just not enough skepticism of climate change modeling and there's just blind acceptance sometimes of what we're being told.
Judith Curry (17:04):
Okay. I mean the climate models, again, they derive from weather forecast models, and then they added an ocean then, you know, land surface biosphere, and then chemical processes. And they CA you know, then I sheets, they kept adding all these modules, you know, but, but the basic dynamics, you know, are driven by the same kind of models, the models, the weather. Now the climate model, we've learned a lot from climate models, by running experiments, turning things off, turning things on adjusting parameters, taking clouds out, taking CIS out, holding the sea surface constant and the tropical central Pacific and see what happens, you know, w w we learn how the climate works by using climate models in that way. However, the most consequential applications of climate models are to tell us what caused the 20th century climate change, how much the climate change is going to change in the 21st century and what's causing extreme weather events.
Judith Curry (18:21):
I mean, those are the more consequential applications and climate models aren't fit for any of those purposes. Okay. And that's pretty much acknowledged even in the IPC report. Well, th they, they do claim that they can attribute the global warming, but, but the forest from the internal circulations can't be easily separated. And the way they've used climate models to do that involves circular reasoning where they've implicitly looked at, you know, they throw out climate simulations that really don't match what was observed. So you, you end up, even if you're not explicitly tuning to the climate record, you're implicitly tuning. And then the thing with extreme events, weather events is beyond silly because these climate models can't resolve the extreme events and they can't simulate the ocean circulation patterns that really determine the locations of these extreme events. And then when you start talking about 21st century, the only thing they're looking at is the CA you know, the manmade human emissions forcing you're not look, they can't, they're not predicting solar variability.
Judith Curry (19:44):
They're not, not predicting volcanic eruptions. They can't even predict the timing of these multidecadal to millennial ocean oscillation. So all they're looking at is this one little piece. Okay. So, I mean, what are you supposed to do with all that? Not sure we know the sign of the change, more CO2 in the atmosphere, more warming. And then there's another thing. The most recent round of global climate model simulations, the so-called c-MET six for the IPC C6 assessment report. All of a sudden the sensitivity to CO2 the range has substantially increased with a lot of models, you know, way outside the bounds on the high side of what we thought was plausible, you know, even five years ago. So what are we to make of that? And how did that happen? Well, it, it's a, it's a rather arcane issue related to how clouds cloud particles interact with aerosol particles.
Judith Curry (20:54):
And by adding some extra degrees of freedom into the model, then it becomes all of a sudden way more sensitive to increases in CO2. What are we supposed to make of that? I mean, we do not have a convergence situation with these climate models and the climate model, the stone even include, especially for 21st century, they don't include solar variations. They don't include volcanoes or the ocean circulation, all of these things that they don't include. So what are we left with? And then we here, you know, these precise targets, we will exceed our carbon budget in 2038. You know, all of this, this is way too much precision, you know, before these very, you know, derive from these very inadequate climate models. So, you know,
Christopher Balkaran (21:51):
Everything that you said professor makes so much sense, and I can't understand how the, the, you know, the picket booze from the modeling is done on such a large scale where it can totally shift the politics of almost every nation in the world in Canada here. Every single political major political party has an entire section in their policy platform about climate change and what their government would do to fight it. That wasn't always the case and routinely political parties were, you know costed for not doing enough. And now it's the acceptance of specific elements of the IPCCs modeling. What do you think has led to this kind of concerted global action around very specific elements of the EPCC? And as you've just mentioned, completely turning a blind eye to other elements where politicians would be a cost. And if they said, Hey, let's let's balance this out a little bit. We need to have a healthy level of skepticism here.
Judith Curry (22:57):
Well, first off, people are looking for simple problems with simple solutions, and they thought that climate change was a simple problem, sort of like the ozone hole or something that wasn't as simple as they thought either. You know, like the ozone hole, you know, stop with the coral fluorocarbons climate change, stop with the CO2, you know, sorry, first off, I mean the whole energy debate. There's no way we're going to make progress on energy systems until we come up with alternatives that are reliable, abundant, secure, economical, et cetera, and, you know, wind and solar, aren't the answer. So until that happened, you know, all of the things being equal, everybody would prefer clean over dirty energy. That's a no brainer, maybe a few coal companies or something preferred dirty, but everybody would prefer clean, clean energy, but they're not willing to sacrifice those other things like cost and reliability and all these other things.
Judith Curry (24:10):
So it just doesn't make sense. All of these targets and promises about energy is just so much hot air, if you will sound and fury, we, we don't have solutions nobody's meeting their targets. I mean, all they do is go to these meetings, make more and more stringent commitments that everyone knows aren't going to be met. And at the same time, we're not dealing with the real problems that might be addressed. Okay. What water is a big issue either have too much or too little okay. Independent of man-made global warming, let let's sort out our water supply systems and our flood management and all this kind of thing. How, how do we prepare for droughts? I mean, just focus on the current problems that we have you know, food, water, and energy. Those are the three big ones.
Judith Curry (25:16):
And the other thing, while we're trying to make energy cleaner, we're basically sacrificing clean air, you know grid electricity for many parts of Africa and we're inhibiting their development. How does that help human development and human wellbeing? And it makes no sense. It makes no sense. So we're stuck with some very, very, some policies that make no sense and people think, okay, even if we were successful, say stopping CO2 emissions by 2050 we might see a few tenths of a degree reduction in the warming, you know, by the end of the 21st century, how does that help us now?
Judith Curry (26:05):
I mean, what we should worry more about is our vulnerability to hurricanes and floods and wildfires, and, you know, all of these kinds of hazardous events that have happened since time immemorial, whether or not they get a tiny bit worse over the course of the century is less important than really figuring out how to deal with them now. And to regenerate, reduce our vulnerability, you know, all the money that we spend thinking we're reducing CO2 emissions, it could be applied to these other problems, better managing water resources, you know, decreasing our vulnerability to extreme weather events and so on. So there are many more sensible things that we could be doing.
Christopher Balkaran (27:00):
Judith Curry (27:01):
Not, it's an opportunity costs all of this focus on trying to reduce emissions with 20 century 20th century technologies. We need new technologies.
Christopher Balkaran (27:13):
Yeah, those are very good. And, you know, when you look at ancient societies, they all kind of deal with the immediate needs and immediate concerns. Then like building better floodplains, protecting their communities, building sea walls. And so you're, you're, you're completely right there. And I think what I want to emphasize too, is we're not saying governments aren't doing this. I'm sure they are, but to the extent in which they can be doing them and making them a priority, as much as they're making, you know, the Paris Accords, climate change goals
Judith Curry (27:46):
Actually people are doing a lot less of that than you think, because, you know, especially in the developing world, you know, in South Asia and stuff like that, where they just get hammered, you know, with hurricane after flood, after whatever, and each one of these, that's some back a generation in terms of trying, you know, they lose all their livestock and, you know, it sets them back enormously. Instead we spend all our money trying to clean up the mess afterwards, trying to prevent it in the first place and then trying to prevent them from having adequate grid electricity so they can develop economically and better protect themselves. You know, it's, it's just, you know, how we got to this place where the whole thing just, you know, it's just, yeah. At conclusions based on false premises. And I think it really reverts to over simplifying the problem and the solution, and then trying in tying in with some broader political agendas, you know, anti-capitalist, you know, world government, you know, kind of things. So, and people have bought it largely because they're afraid that they're there they've been scared.
Christopher Balkaran (29:13):
You know, professor, everything that you've said is very reasonable and, you know, most people they, those familiar with the scientific method would think, Oh, this makes a lot of sense. You know, and yet in January, 2017, you leave academia because of their very poisonous nature on human caused global warming. And I know for a fact that there are so many people that share that this idea of they can't even have a conversation anymore. It seems it's about global warming and I'm sure. Yeah.
Judith Curry (29:48):
I know. I mean, I, I regard myself as sort of a centrist. Yeah. I mean I'm politically independent. I don't have any allegiance to one side or the other. I view my self as a centrist. I understand the complexity of the problems, you know, and I don't really advocate for any solutions because I can't think of any, I would want to advocate for that actually makes sense. You know, other than broadly talking about, we need to adapt to this no matter what, and if you want clean energy, you need to invest in better technologies. You're not gonna get very far by trying to massively deploy 20th century technologies and, you know, things like, I just try to make statements like that. But because I wasn't actively advocating with the greens, if you will. And I was critical of the behavior of some of the scientists involved in the climate gate kind of episode. I got booted over to the denier side, you know, and then they, they labeled me that sought to you know, really destroy me and de platforming. Okay. but you know, no, I'm not there. I, I don't have any allegiance to the extremes of either side of this.
Judith Curry (31:22):
There's crazy people on both sides of the debate. And then there's, you know, a range of credible perspectives, you know, and here, and I try to consider, you know, a wide range of what I regard to be credible perspectives. I mean, we, don't, it's a very complex problem. We, we don't have the solutions yet, or the answers are complete understanding.
Christopher Balkaran (31:45):
And it's fascinating to me that being in the center puts you at odds with academia and that you forced out almost to like, you know, because of the very poisonous nature. To me, it's like the there's an extremist view. That's taken over academia and has taken over our discourse and I want to learn from you, how can we, especially, like when I, my friends, how can we reverse this? And re-institute a level of everything we've just discussed, which is a healthy level of skepticism and saying, I don't accept fully the IPCCs modeling because there are gaping holes in it and we should be able to talk and convey that message in a straightforward manner.
Judith Curry (32:29):
Well, you know, I wish I knew that there's a social contract between policy makers and the scientists, which sort of reinforces all this. Right. You know, and I say in the U S I thought maybe that could be broken with president Trump, but a whole lot, a whole lot of other things got broken under president Trump, but not that one in particular. So, you know, I don't know what it would take. At some point we're gonna hit another plateau in warming, if not a little decline. And then maybe that will wake people up a little bit more. We just have to, you know, wait and see how the climate change plays out. But again, waiting for, you know, 30 years, because that's really the timescale on which things happen. Climate it's sort of a long time, a lot of stupid things can happen in the meantime.
Christopher Balkaran (33:30):
Right, exactly. I just want to quickly mention your blog climate, et cetera, which is filled with articles. I had Andy West on, and he's talked a lot about the, the the narrative that's the cultural narrative that's been built. But there was a really interesting quote that I found in one of your articles. And I thought it was very fascinating. You said we're breeding a generation of climate scientists who analyze climate model outputs, who come up with sexy conclusions and get published in nature, a nature magazine. Like we won't be able to grow grapes for wine in California in 2100, that kind of stuff gets headlines. It gets grants. It feeds our reputation. It's cheap, easy science. It's fundamentally not useful because it rests on inadequate climate models, especially when you're trying to look at regional climate change. That is where the field is going. We've lost a generation of climate dynamism, and that's what worries me greatly. Can you,
Judith Curry (34:28):
Okay. I, what I call that climate model taxonomy, where you look at the outputs mostly regionally, and then over interpret them, you know, find it relating to some really bad impact act. And like it's scientifically completely meaningless. First, the climate models don't have any skill on regional spatial scales. Okay. And second, when you, when you start making these, when climate scientists start making these linkages with wine growing or whatever, they forget a whole lot of other ancillary factors like land use and, you know, all sorts of other things that can contribute to whatever they might be looking at. And it ends up, you know, with climate change, being the dominant narrative for everything that's going on. And that's just simply not the case. Yeah. Okay. there was a sec, Oh, in terms of, you know, by over-reliance on climate models. Okay. Climate dynamics is really becomes sort of a dying field.
Judith Curry (35:38):
You know, I was old school at the university of Chicago with geophysical fluid dynamics and all this really hard stuff. Okay. Now people do statistical statistical analyses on climate model output, and we've lost our sense of understanding of how the atmosphere and the ocean interact to produce our climate. Right. Okay. There's very few universities that have good programs in climate dynamics at this point. And you don't see a lot of students in those research groups, you know, they're all doing, you know, sexy or things. So, you know, it's climate dynamics is still, it's still there, but it's far from dominant. I mean that you geophysical fluid dynamics, client dynamics that ruled, you know, in the sixties, seventies, eighties, and even into the nineties, but in the 21st century, we've seen that really become like a renascence subfield where climate model techsonomy rules
Christopher Balkaran (36:51):
And that taxonomy is so that the implications of which we're still not fully aware of, but we know that it has a very, as you mentioned, a sexy title, it captivates on the emotional level and allows us to override our ability to be rational and be able to say, let me be okay with being challenged on this. And I, my followup to that is if you're president of a university, how do you make sure that climate dynamics is part of your environmental science bachelor's degrees and master's,
Judith Curry (37:25):
Well, it's so low on the totem pole of what, you know, people high in higher administration worry about. I mean, you still have like meteorology undergraduates learn about atmospheric dynamics oceanography. Well, there aren't too many oceanography undergraduate programs, but when you go to graduate school in oceanography, you get a lot of fluid dynamics. Okay. but there's all these new degree programs spinning up in climate, you know, that are far away from the geo-physical roots that, you know, combine policy with a little bit of science and economics and whatever. And then the science part of it okay. Gets lost. And that's where all the students are running to these environmental science, climate policy kinds of programs, you know, and, you know, we've got sort of a, a talent dearth of people with the good mathematical physical mindset and wanting to enter into these fields. So, you know, th those fields are not especially thriving.
Judith Curry (38:39):
I mean, they don't bring in the big bucks in terms of research centers and whatever. I mean, it's hard to maintain them. A couple of years ago, I visited university of Chicago, my old Alma mater, and they still maintained their very strong focus on the dynamics. And, you know, there was nobody there running climate models and doing this silly stuff, and they didn't have a lot of students and they didn't have hardly any funding, you know, but they were carrying the torch and doing fantastic work. That's not where the that's not where the center of mass is. Okay. It's often these new climate degree programs or environmental studies kind of programs. So yeah, it's not a good thing. So we've lost a lot of our infusion from physics and hardcore cam as well. There, there still is an infusion from chemistry, more on the atmospheric chemistry. Part of this seems to be thriving, relatively relating to air quality and complex Oh, Zoni and chemical reactions in the atmosphere. That seems to be thriving. But I would say the more physics based side of all this it's really sort of dwindle.
Christopher Balkaran (40:05):
And that's my worry, you know, as, as someone who's, you know, parents, first-generation immigrants to Canada and education is number one. That's why, you know, so many people from around the world come to North America for education. And if something as important as climatology is becoming politicized and politically motivated, you know, I worry about that. I really do because our leaders are not being, you know, we're training the next set of leaders that are not versed in co in atmospheric sciences to be briefing the president of the United States. And that, that should worry more Americans Canadians as well.
Judith Curry (40:43):
Yeah. you know, people have said Trump is anti-science. Yeah. I don't think he's, anti-science, he's more a science in terms of, he just doesn't pay attention to it, you know, in terms of climate, you know, this is all energy policy, whatever you know, he just doesn't pay any attention to it. Does that mean it doesn't necessarily make you anti-science it makes you ignoring science, so it's different. So that's what we've seen in the us. And then we have on the other side of the aisle, I believe in science and they don't understand anything about it. They say they believe in it. It's like they they're believing in Santa Claus, you know, it's about, you know, it's really a political and cultural signifier rather than any real understanding. Okay. So it's just become so politicized, you know, how do you get around that? How do you get past that? I don't know.
Christopher Balkaran (41:46):
Yeah. I know, I know the importance, as you just mentioned that the signifier I know you had mentioned before that there were some things wrong with the way in which the Walnut administration tackled climate change and climate science more broadly. Can you talk about what the Obama administration got wrong in the eight years while they were in power? When it comes to climate change?
Judith Curry (42:10):
Okay. Well, the first four years, I mean, he saw that it was a political tar baby, and so he pretty much ignored it and went on and tried to do other things where he thought he could be more successful. I think that was a good choice. He picked up on it much more in his second term, but he, he politicized it. John Holdren, his science advisor really politicized it. President Obama was tweeting about deniers and stuff like that. And on the white house page, you know, there was stuff about climate deniers, you know, and it, it was very polarizing. It was very politicized. You know, so I think a lot of the polarization that happened in the U S you know, really accelerated under the Obama administration, it was pretty, it was pretty stodgy prior to that. But it really accelerated in president Obama's second term, and then you get and then you have, you know, whiplash with the Trump administration who, you know, doesn't care about climate change. He does care about energy policies, you know, it was just off on a completely different tangent. Right. So,
Christopher Balkaran (43:36):
So that's fascinating because, you know, yeah, that's, that's fascinating for many reasons not going to get political on the podcast, but this is the fun part of the podcast. Cause now I, what I try to do is put put the guests in the driver's seat. And if you, the president of the United States what would you say would lead to effective climate policy knowing that, you know, there are, first of all, I've Al I've read this in a great book and it said you know, you can put the biggest, you can enact that the largest climate change policies in your country that, that generate the most revenue for the government. It does not mean your, your country is immune to the effects of climate change. But I wanted to ask you what you saw as effective climate policy and what parties should pursue.
Judith Curry (44:27):
Well, first is reduced vulnerability to extreme weather events. Okay. second is like clean up the real pollution, like air and water pollution, dirty stuff. You know, I don't see any way to make coal clean. I mean, this whole thing about all fossil fuels are terrible. Some are much worse than others. So I would, and coal does so much damage to the environment, you know, strip mining and coal Ash and all this other kind of stuff. I mean, get rid of coal and acknowledged that we need natural gas for awhile and then R and D for, you know, the generation for nuclear power and, you know, new technologies let's get a 21st century grid rather than relying on our old kind of way of thinking about electric grids. So, and the other thing is managing our water too little, too much. I mean, you, you, you do those kinds of things and you're going to address basically improve human wellbeing.
Judith Curry (45:40):
Okay. the climate change, the climate is going to change independent of what we do with emissions. I mean, people don't realize that they think climate change equals, you know, the CO2 control knob, right. We're bound to be surprised by what happens with the 21st century climate. I won't even hazard a guess as to, you know, could it be something really crazy that happens, or it could be relatively benign, a slow creep could be something completely independent of anything that could be attributed to emissions. You know, we don't know. A lot of people are talking about, you know, a solar minimum in the mid to late 21st century that could very well happen and have a significant impact. I mean, we just don't know and thinking, you know, the hubris, you know, of thinking that we can control the climate.
Judith Curry (46:46):
I mean, you know, I'm sorry. And we need to electrify Africa and we need to help people in South Asia and central America. So they're not so vulnerable to these extreme weather events, help them develop economically help them become less vulnerable to these events. I mean, these are the things about, I was in charge, what I would focus on trying to set targets and then enforce them. Isn't going to change the climate. It's just going to screw up the economy. And at the end of the day, it's an opportunity loss when we could have spent all that effort doing these other things that would have made a real difference.
Christopher Balkaran (47:37):
Yeah. just on Cole, I know that there are there are places like in Canada which I'm sure it's the same in the United States. You know, wind and solar are much easier. Hydro is much easier. But coal seems the cheapest solution. You can get energy the quickest and perhaps the fastest over large amounts of distance. And it might be harder for those regions to switch over to something more renewable or less damaging to the environment. And a lot of people talk about that switch and how costly that can be.
Judith Curry (48:13):
Well, I think natural gas, natural gas can pretty much do anything that coal is doing. Okay. So natural gas is a much cleaner transitional option. You need one or the other. I mean, I agree. Yeah, you can't fire up a nuclear power plant, turn it on and off. I mean, you just can't do that. If you're going to have ironically having wind and solar in the mix really means you do need coal or natural gas because it's, you know, you can switch it on or off. So the more wind and solar you add, the more reliant you're going to be on solar. And I mean on gas and coal the issue with, you know, Oh, but battery storage, you know, until we drastically get new storage technology, there isn't enough lithium in the world just for, you know, attempt of what we would need to do all that storage.
Judith Curry (49:20):
So until we solve the storage problem, I mean, those just, and, and, and wind and solar, apart from the storage issue, they use so much land space. It's the land use that is bad or a nuclear reactor uses tiny fraction of the land space. I mean, there's environmental issues related to mining and storage, but those seem to me a lot easier to address and all the, the other issues. So I think on balance, you know, nuclear is probably the best solution based on our, you know, current on the near horizon technologies that will be available.
Christopher Balkaran (50:03):
It's fascinating. You mentioned that land use, because I have a, another professor from the university of British Columbia coming on the podcast. And there's an article recently about indigenous communities in Mexico, worried about solar farms near their traditional lands that take up the majority of, of the land. And the same is true with biofuels and ethanol production. The amount of agriculture that's necessary for trucks to be powered by biofuels is, you know, the amount of land that's needed is, is quite quite a bit. So if there's negative externalities with this switch, as you just mentioned these are really fascinating thoughts, professor. You know, I love the idea of, you know, helping the developing world. I know Pakistan is going to suffer from severe water shortages over the next 20 to 30 years. And
Judith Curry (50:54):
I don't think their population is exploding. They don't I'm going to say about 10 years ago, right after the big floods my company got involved trying to help Pakistan with flood forecasting and, and water management and whatever. And my colleague, Peter Webster even went to Pakistan with a delegation from the world bank and whatever, but the whole thing was so poor that it was very political as to even who would be allowed to help. And at the end of the day, I don't think anybody helped. You know, so he said, Oh, you know, this is, this is, you know, we have a solution, but getting it, you know, through the political process and implementing it, you know, it was like a hopeless situation. So, you know, part of the problems is governance within country. And this is a part from the issue of resources, financial resources, and then somebody coming up with a real solution, but in country governance can be a real impediment in many of these places. So a lot of tough problems out there.
Christopher Balkaran (52:06):
Yeah. And again, if there's anywhere we can coalesce around common goals and hopefully get governments of all different stripes to commit to. I mean, that's always the ideal. But I think about what we're doing on climate change and the Paris accord and do that in the reverse, but on cortical real issues and you know, get politicians of all stripes in these countries, discipline
Judith Curry (52:30):
There's one example from today in the us, you know, they're passing the new budget and wanting to get a rider on related to clean energy. And what they agreed on was like an R and D program for nuclear, carbon capture and all that kind of stuff. And the people on the left really objected to it because they don't like nuclear just because they don't like it. And they don't like carbon capture and storage because that, that sort of leaves the oil companies off the hook, you know? So, so they don't like either one of those, you know, so I'm sorry, you know, here you have a bipartisan agreement do something that is fundamentally pretty sensible. Okay. Then you've got the people on the far left objecting to it over silly biases and things that just make no sense
Christopher Balkaran (53:26):
Politically economically or for the environment. Yeah. So I mean, these, aren't the deniers, these are our people on the other side who are, you know, putting, putting up the road blocks. So, you know, how do you break free from that? I have no idea. And that's something that I definitely want to explore with more people. It's how did all of a sudden, it seems to me, these groups on the extremes have so much political power Capitol dominating the conversation, determining whose research gets funded, determine what books make the New York times bestseller. I mean, if you really go down the list and you look at all the ways in which media touches us, it's largely effected by extremist views more so now than ever before. And I always wonder, where is that space for rational discourse, which is why I created this podcast, which is to get back to that we need this mind.
Christopher Balkaran (54:19):
Well, I didn't know our policy, you know, even five years ago, you know, the nutters were on the more denier far right side, but right now I think the bigger nutters around the lab you know, so I, I just don't know. Yeah. It's it's not a good situation, you know, these things change. We just have to see how it evolves and hopefully it evolves in a more sensible direction. Yeah, no, you're right. Thank you so much professor for your time. I know this is probably the first of many podcasts because I want to definitely talk to you more about many of the things we've discussed today. And thanks again for, you know, I'll link climate at EPC below, so people can check it out. And thank you for, for, for being reasonable, standing up for what you believe in and, you know, trying to spark so many peoples you know, what a lot of people are thinking when it comes to climate change, which is we need more rational discussion on this. Okay. Well, thank you very much. I enjoyed our conversation. Okay. Thanks again, professor. Take care. Bye bye.
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