Anna Lacey interviews Professor Diana Liverman, University of Oxford
Part of the show Naked Science Questions and Answers
Chris - Every single year in Cambridge they have a series of lectures called the Darwin lectures and this year they're on survival. The final talk in the series this year was by Professor Diana Liverman from Oxford University and she talked to Naked Scientist Anna Lacey about why ignoring climate change won't make the problem go away.
Diana - Climate change is a very serious threat to the survival of certain ecosystems and certain cultures. The reason it's a threat is that we now know that climate change is already occurring and we know that it's likely to occur more rapidly and more discontinuously than we think it's going to. It's also going to have serious effects on people in low lying coastal areas and for ecosystems that are going to have to change because of higher temperatures.
Anna - We've been hearing about things like this for years now and still we leave our televisions on standby and still we drive a mile down the road to the shops. How are you going to make people care about this?
Diana - That's a very good question. I think our challenge is to get over climate fatigue. People keep hearing about it and what we've got to say is that we now know something new and it really is very serious. In terms of what we've got to do about it, I do think that there's a lot that individuals need to do, but I actually think the government could do a lot more to help individuals respond. A lot of us might want to do things such as insulate our houses and buy cars with higher mileage per gallon, but we can't afford it or we would do better if there were some regulations or incentives to help us respond.
Anna - What about changing technology and new technologies like wind farms?
Diana - Technology is going to be a very important part of solving the climate change problem. The most obvious set are those concerned with efficiency and conservation. I drove here in a Toyota Prius.
Anna - Are these the type of car that have both electric and petrol?
Diana - Yes and they get pretty good fuel efficiency, but it's actually not their fuel efficiency, it's that they've got the lowest carbon dioxide emissions on the road. If the government puts in incentives then that's going to drive technological innovation and we'll get to a lower carbon future much faster.
Anna - But do you think that governments actually believe in changing climate, aside from all the things they say in parliament?
Diana - The British government I think believes in the problem but it's just that the decisions they've got to make, they don't seem to have the courage to make them at the moment. There's been a lot of things that have been done in the UK but it's not enough. We've got to get our emissions down by 60% is we're going to stabilise the climate. At this point, we're barely at about 13 or 14%.
Anna - But how on earth are we going to make up that massive gap?
Diana - I don't think it's enormously difficult but people need a little bit of financial help and a little bit of convincing in order to make those changes. So what we need is wise government to help push us in that direction.
Anna - And until the government actually sit up and really make a change, what can people do to help with climate change?
Diana - I would turn down your thermostat a couple of degrees, I'd switch all your appliances off standby and get on your bicycle.