Richard Alley
9:20 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

WSW: Climate Change Science Made Accessible

Smoke from chimneys in Tokyo
Credit Eugene Hoshiko, The Associated Press

    

Richard Alley's work on climate science made him a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. 

He's also tried to explain the science to a larger audience. Television audiences know Alley as the host of the PBS program Earth: the Operators' Manual. On YouTube, Alley can be found singing about climate. Alley is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Penn State University He will speak at Albion College on April 24th as part of the Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium. 

Alley tells WMUK's Gordon Evans the atmosphere is warming because of carbon dioxide. He says "it is as close to fact as science gets." Alley says the media often plays "a false balance" pitting mainstream science against people who argue that humans can't change the climate. He says that if the science is wrong it's more likely that things will be worse. "We don't see any way that simply cranking up CO2 turns the world into Eden. But we see slight chances that CO2 could really break a lot of things that we care very deeply about." 

"We don't see any way that simply cranking up CO2 turns the world into Eden. But we see slight chances that CO2 could really break a lot of things that we care very deeply about."

Richard Alley
Credit Penn State University website

  

When it comes to television and other ways of making science accessible, Alley says scientists should try to make their work engaging. He says not every scientist needs to be on PBS. But Alley says much of science is publicly funded, and people should know about it. 

Evans asked Alley, a registered Republican, if "Republican climate scientist" is small club. Alley says there are likely more Independents and Democrats than registered Republicans in the climate science field. But Alley says he is not unique. The professor says he won't tell anyone how he voted in any given election, but acknowledges that he is a registered Republican because it is public record. 

Alley says there are many different ways that climate change can be addressed. "We can think about building an energy system that will power everyone on the planet, almost forever." Alley says economic incentives such as a carbon tax could provide a disincentive to produce carbon. He says if such a tax were offset with a cut in the income tax it could also help improve the economy. 

"We can think about building an energy system that will power everyone on the planet, almost forever."

When asked how close we are to a tipping point. Alley responds "cross fingers." He says it's hard to know exactly when a major event will happen. Alley says the uncertainties in climate science are mostly on the bad side.