We speak with climatologist Gavin Schmidt about the ongoing problem of climate change and what to expect in the future.
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Derik Allen: From flooding to wild fires to migration, climate change is not only a fact but it’s proving to be an immediate concern. Hey, welcome to watchmojo.com. I’m your host Derik Allen. And today, we had the chance to speak to climate modeler Gavin Schmidt to address these issues. So, you’re a climatologist and also a climate modeler. Can you explain to us what climate modeling is? Gavin Schmidt: We don’t have like a hundred different earths that we can play around with. We just have one. So, what we need are analogues. We need kind of computer models, digital numerical models that we can poke and prod. We look at all the processes that are going on on the planet, so, evaporation of water from the oceans are the formation clouds, rainfall, the winds pushing the ocean currents around. We can put it all together and then we can see whether what we produce actually looks like the real one. Derik Allen: In terms of climate change and the environment, how do you take into account what we are doing to the planet? Gavin Schmidt: We’ve been chopping down forests and planting crops. Well, that changes how much the sunlight is being reflected and how the evaporation through the trees is being changed. We’ve added greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. We’ve added about 30% more carbon dioxide. We’ve doubled or more the amounts of methane in the atmosphere. They’ve made most of the difference in the last few decades and particularly the last few decades of global warming. It is obvious that humans are in some way a part of the problem. How we are able to support this land? Different causes of change have different fingerprints in the system. So, for instance, if the sun gets brighter or dimmer and it does. It has eleven years cycle. It gets slightly brighter or dimmer. What that does is it heats up the whole atmosphere from the bottom all the way up to the top. Greenhouse gases have a different signature. So, they heat up the bottom but they actually cool the top. And so, if you look for specific patterns that are associated with specific forcing elements or specific drivers, then you can see whether what we thought all is being the cause, actually is the cause. So, we can do this kind of pattern recognition and build a kind of a balance of evidence. Derik Allen: So, you mentioned some of the symptoms that we’ve seen in the past and we’re seeing now. What can we expect in the future? Gavin Schmidt: In the American Southwest for instance, we anticipate that it’s going to get drier. We’re going to get more intense rain. So, that leads to more flooding, wild fires that depends on moisture availability during the summer time particularly. We’re going to pest and invasive species kind of moving forward, moving further north out of where they used to live and to high latitudes. I’ve already seen that with the Pine Bob Beetle in British Columbia. That’s devastating pine forest there. Derik Allen: So, during some of our research, we saw you often called an alarmist. How would you go about explaining why people tell you this? Gavin Schmidt: I am one of the people who isn’t afraid to put their head above the paraffin and say, “Look, this is what the science shows.” Global warming is real. It’s being caused by humans. And it’s very likely to get worse.