[NEWMAN:] It’s my pleasure
to introduce Vandana Singh, who is a professor of physics at Framingham State University. She’s a former particle
physicist currently engaged in transdisciplinarity,
oh that’s much better, see now I can see that I said, that it should’ve been transdisciplinary, I made up a new word,
scholarship of climate change with emphasis on new
conceptualizations in climate pedagogy. She conceptualized and ran
the first interdisciplinary workshop in Massachusets
on teaching climate change for high school science
teachers in the summer of 2017 and was an invited speaker
at the National Academy’s workshop for interdisciplinarity
in STEM in 2016. 2014, she was granted a program award by the American Association
of Colleges and Universities to develop a case study
for undergraduate education for which she traveled to
Alaska to study climate change at the intersection of science, policy, indigenous culture and justice. Professor Singh has been
learning about climate science and teaching it in general
physics college courses for over a decade, so we are
very thrilled to have her here, and please help me welcome to
the stage, Professor Singh. (audience applauding) [SINGH:] Hi everyone,
can you all hear me fine? All right. It’s such an honor to be here. Thank you for inviting me and it’s always such a pleasure to be in the
company of fellow educators. So I’m looking forward to sharing my ideas and also hopefully hearing
yours and having a discussion. First, I have to figure
out how this works, so let me just make sure
(laughs) I do that first. Yeah, okay. All right. So I’m gonna try to answer
one of the questions that one of you posed,
Rajshri posed that I believe. That if you’re not teaching
an Earth science course, how do you put climate science into it, or climate change into it in general? And this is something that I hope my talk will help people understand
at least one way of doing it. So this warning from World Scientists came out only three days ago
in the journal of “BioScience”. And essentially saying this
is one of many warnings that have come out over the years that we have a climate emergency. We have a global emergency and that Planet Earth is
facing a climate crisis that is gonna cause untold
misery to the millions and millions of its inhabitants, its human and other inhabitants. So when I first started
on this journey of where, my background is in particle physics, I used to study quarks, a long time ago, and I love quarks, don’t get me wrong, but when I started on this journey, there were fewer, the warnings
weren’t as loud at that time. It was about 2007, not that long ago, but I started hearing
about the climate crisis and I started wondering if it was really something to be concerned about. A physicist is generally
innocent of Earth science. So I woke up (laughs),
and so this was my journey from someone who pondered the inner mysteries of
sub-subatomic particles to someone who’s trying to learn about the planet on which we stand, and as a result I have
developed total geologist envy. But anyway, so this is
what I thought about then, and I still think now
that if anthropogenic climate change is real and serious, we are ethically obliged to
teach it and communicate it ’cause we are in a very,
very important position as people with a large ripple effect, as people who can influence the future. And that this should be true
no matter what the subject is, whether you’re teaching
literature or political science or chemistry or physics
or biology or whatever. So this was the position that
I took and I told myself, and I’ll tell you how I started and some of the mistakes I made. Hopefully it’ll be illuminating. So this is how I started. I said to myself, well, it
can’t be that difficult, after all the greenhouse effect is like one hop, skip and jump away from where I teach
electromagnetic spectrum in my general physics
course and carbon dioxide, why it’s a warming gas, well you learned the dance
of CO2 from Dr. Archer, I teach that to my students, and that connects with oscillation, so this is a no-brainer,
I just have to do that, and the only thing I
really have to throw in is the evidence that climate change is real and human-caused and the impacts. And what I thought I was doing back then in 2007, 2008 and so on is that I thought I was giving students who would not otherwise have a chance to learn the basics of climate science the tools, the equipment, the knowledge so that they could be
forewarned and forearmed. Until I started collecting, or I started getting
feedback from students, which was something like this. (laughing) So, there were
a variety of responses I’ve collected over the years, and many of them are in
the territory of, well, we’re screwed or this is the
most depressing thing ever. Or like, “Professor, what can we do, “can we stop talking about
it and do something?” Or, “Hey, I’m just one person, “there’s nothing I can do about it.” Or, “It’s not bothering me, “it’s not changing my life,
so why should I care?” Or, “Well, yeah, yeah, well
I’m sort of concerned about it, “but no, I don’t ever
bring it up with anyone.” Or, “Someone’s gonna invent
something and fix this for us.” And then questions like, “Doesn’t it have to do something with the hole in the ozone layer?” And then, “If carbon dioxide is so bad, does that mean that we shouldn’t
be breathing out?” (laughs) And then, “Well, maybe,” and you can tell that this second to last
comment was probably in the spring semester
in February in Boston, “Why can’t we wait until Boston’s “like North Carolina before we fix it?” And then of course, I’ve also heard, although this was only from
one student very recently that, “Well, scientists have to
do what the funders say, “don’t they, so how can we
trust what they’re saying, “if they’re doing it for the money?” So when I started collecting
these misconceptions, it led me to this conclusion
that simply teaching A, just the bare bones of the science, and B, just the science
alone, was insufficient. So I started looking
into interdisciplinarity and partly that’s natural for me because I love all the realms of learning, like throughout the spectrum. And when I had to, when I was forced to choose one thing over the other, then it was tough, because in India, in 10th grade they make
you choose between science, the arts and humanities, and commerce, so I had a tough time doing that. But anyway, so two, interdisciplinarity, when you have two or more disciplines that are combined in an integrative way. Transdisciplinarity, when you don’t assume disciplinary walls in the first place, and you transcend those
walls to create a new model. So what I learned over the
years is that climate change by its very nature is transdisciplinary. And that justice issues are
inextricably entangled with it. And that’s partly because
I work, I’m privileged to work at an institution which is, which serves a lot of
working class Americans and where my students work really, really, really
hard to pay for college, I know that some of you probably teach at similar institutions. And they’re amazing people,
they’re amazing human beings, and they are more
intelligent than they know, and I was really kind
of almost heartbroken at some of their responses
because their lives are so heavy with so
many responsibilities, many times for family, for
parents and so on and so forth, that I was kind of depressing them out of their minds with this stuff. But also it was brought home to me how inextricable justice issues are from the climate issue when
I took a trip to Alaska, but just to get a sense of
where you all are coming from, let me just ask you, if you don’t mind, how many people here are
from STEM backgrounds, if you’d raise your hands? And therefore, how many are
from non-STEM backgrounds? Okay, so we have a really good mix. So I’m hoping that I’m able
to speak to both sides. So here is a picture of me on the beach, that’s the picture on the left, this is the beach in a
town called Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow. It’s the northernmost point in the United States on
the north shore of Alaska. And I was there to actually
come up with a real world, case study based education
tool for the AAC and U, and I chose Arctic
climate change as my topic because as many of us know,
the Arctic is ground zero, or one of the ground
zeros for climate change. So there I am on the beach with the frozen Arctic Ocean behind me, and then the other picture
I’m gonna explain in a moment. So when I was there, I
realized a number of things. I talked to Inupiaq natives,
I talked to scientists, and in fact, much of
the population of Barrow consists of Inupiaq
natives and scientists, and what I learned was
that the rapid vanishing of sea ice and the thinning of sea ice year after year after year was actually becoming a threat to the cultural identity but also to the survival
of the native peoples who had been there for
4,000 or more years. And that the ancestral
memory that was carried by the elders of the tribal peoples actually did not have anything like what was happening today. And many of their traditional occupations, for instance, in winter they rely on subsistence hunting to survive, were being threatened by climate change. At the same time, they’re
dependent on the oil industry for the conveniences of modernity, for living a settled life without the difficulties
of their prior existence. So to me that illustrated two things. One is that the Inupiaq natives had not caused climate change and yet they were having to
deal with the worst impacts. The other thing was that they had insights about how to deal with this, even as they were struggling
through those things. And that part of their dilemma, their dilemma was
actually our dilemma too. Do you go with short-term
convenience and comfort and sacrifice your future or do you find some other path? Except that we are insulated from it by the layers that modern
industrial culture offers us. So the justice issue
became apparent to me then. And then more recently,
and if I have time, I’ll talk more about this, but I just wanna mention that I’m, I’ve started to work with
marginalized communities in India where the communities
are being threaten by, not just by climatic changes, but by severe inequality and by so-called development projects. And the picture over
there shows some women, some village women, who have not had a day of formal education who are protecting their local forest. And if I have time, I’ll
talk more about that. But all of this brought home to me that I needed to think about justice and how that entangled with
the whole thing about climate. So I started thinking about what is an effective
pedagogy of climate change. And my definition, over the years, this is where I am right now, it’s always a work-in-progress, but this is my definition that effective pedagogy
of climate change firstly must equip the student with
a fundamental understanding of basic science impact and evidence and one essential aspect
of it is the complex nonlinear nature of the climatic system. And also a way to look
at proposed solutions and future predictions and
understand different scenarios. So in other words, a scientific
technological dimension. But I also consider an
effective pedagogy to be one where the student can understand societal and ethical implications
of climate change, in other words, climate justice, but also the intersections with economic, cultural, human rights,
sociological issues, and to critically examine
proposed climate solutions from a climate justice perspective. And this is the
transdisciplinary dimension. This would also be a pedagogy that enables a student to see the
climate crisis as a symptom of a social scientific
framework or paradigm. A framework, a mental model, a way of thinking about the world. And therefore, to
understand and articulate the need for new social
scientific frameworks. So this is the epistemological dimension. And ultimately the bottom line, which was the original motivation with which I started introducing the topic of climate
change and physics courses was a psychosocial dimension that I wanted my students
to go out in the world and say we are going to make change and we are going to make
change the right way. And so these are for me, the keystones of an effective pedagogy. So what are the challenges? Well, there are so many of them. And this is only one way
of slicing the challenges, but I’m just gonna mention a few things. The things that my
approach tries to embrace. A lot of it has to do with the fact that students don’t come in
with open blank slate minds. They come in with stuff they’ve heard. They’ve come in with what’s
in the cultural atmosphere. And there are a lot of
misconceptions out there, even among those who
accept the reliability of climate change evidence. There are a lot of
misconceptions out there, as this is something that I myself had to learn, sometimes the hard way. So the things that I wanna
talk about today particularly have to do with transdisciplinarity, really interdisciplinarity at this stage, but if we have time,
I wanna talk about how to transcend the disciplinary barriers. But also as you can tell
from the student responses that I showed you earlier, there’s psychological barriers. Students sometimes react
with apathy or denial, although I have rarely
over the last few years had anyone outright deny the validity of the evidence on climate change. So we have to deal with that. And especially those
of you who have to work with much younger students
than an undergraduate, really really have to think
about the psychological impact of what they’re learning. So I’m gonna be talking
a little bit about that and some ways I’ve found
to get through that. And then as I said, I’m gonna
mention a few other things about the epistemology and so on. And I think that many of you may have come across this result that from a paper in
science a few years ago that 75% of science teachers in the US teach at least an hour
about global warming, but that there is varied, we’re asking teachers to, we’re actually being really unfair to
teachers in one sense, asking them to teach something as complex and challenging as climate change without giving them the
adequate preparation. And that’s partly because nobody actually knows how to do this stuff. Climate pedagogy is a
really really new field. So when I come to you on this podium, I’m doing so with the utmost humility, because I’m trying to find a way as many of us are trying to find ways, and I hope that we are all gonna
share our best ideas today. But in any case, there’s
a few points I wanna make that will make this slide
more clear later, I think. So this is something I came across. This came up only, I read it yesterday, but it happened just two days ago, that apparently the Italians are the first in the world to make sustainability and climate change mandatory subjects and they’re gonna incorporate
the UN’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development and even math and physics courses will be taught from the
perspective of sustainability. Now I don’t know how they’re gonna do it, but this is exactly the kind of thing I have been thinking about
for the past 10 years. That how do I, as a physicist, and as someone teaching physics, how do I incorporate the
essentials of climate change? And it’s tough. This is a tough job. So here’s how I’ve been thinking about it is that yes, we are ethically
obliged to teach this stuff because it is an issue
of intergenerational and other kinds of justice, but it’s difficult, we’re
not prepared for it. We have siloed education systems where the disciplines
don’t talk to each other. And in this education system, it’s very difficult to
have this sort of approach. Plus, this stuff is depressing as hell. And yet we have to tell the truth. That’s part of our obligation. And yet, is it ethical to
put such a huge burden, so you’re giving the younger
generation a ruined planet, and then you’re giving them a hell of a depression about it. So we have to find our
way through all of these. So this is such a fraught topic that the, we have to employ the best practices we have to teach this stuff. And so what I’ve been doing, before I got into teaching climate, I was looking at different
kinds of pedagogies and developing for the physics classroom and I was already interested
in interdisciplinarity. So these are some of the
things that have inspired me. And I’m not gonna go into
details about a lot of them, but it’s really really important to have a cultural atmosphere in the classroom that’s based on trust. And one of the, I’m not an
expert on some of these things but I’ve read enough about them that I have experimented with
them and played with them and use them in the
classroom to good effect. The things that I have worked most with are the growth mindset, how many people know
about the mindset stuff? Okay, great, great. This is so worth learning about. It’s transforming education everywhere. The research that Carol Dweck, who’s an education psychologist
from Stanford University, what she’s done is really remarkable. And then Ken Bain, who
is famous for a book called “What the Best College Teachers Do” compiled a bunch of best
practices for over 15 years and created something, a model, which he calls a natural
critical learning environment, which has 15 key elements, and
I only noted a few of them. And if we have time, I’ll get into details as to how I implement all this. So I guess what I’m trying
to emphasize with this slide is that whatever your best practices are for creating a classroom culture where students feel psychologically safe so that they can be emotionally and intellectually challenged, that’s absolutely essential if we want to teach climate change well. So here’s what I’ve kind
of outlined here is that, and this is kind of the path I took with a few stumbles along the way, that the first thing I
did was to figure out where climate change intersects
with my course topic. And it was very clear to me where it did from the beginning, at
least the basics of it, and then I realize that wasn’t enough, so I need to extend the ideas. And I’ll show you a table in a moment that I lay out as to how
I integrate these topics. And then I try to look
for what was missing. Based on my conceptualization of an effective pedagogy,
what was missing? And clearly, the scientific technological dimension is there, but the others aren’t. So I had to find a way to integrate those. So here is an example. I’m sorry this slide is
not too terribly clear, but I’m happy to share information with people over email
if you’re interested. So here it is that I laid
down a list of physics topics that I teach in a general physics course, and I looked at the topics that I can extend to climate change. And I don’t teach all of
the climate change topics listed here in all my physics classes. In fact, there’s some physics classes like for instance, I teach a course called Physics, Nature, and Society, which is an interdisciplinary
physics course for non-science majors. So because we have an
interdisciplinary mix here, I’m mostly gonna speak about that class. And in fact, I think I’ve had the greatest successes with that class. So this is, so I take some key topics, and that’s one of the things I had to struggle with, by the way. Is that what are the key essentials of climate signs that
everyone should know, so that they have an understanding that is inoculated against misconceptions and fake news and all of that. And so that was, that’s a question that I’m going to come to in a moment, but to continue with what I do, in order to integrate the
other aspects of climate change that I think are necessary
for an effective pedagogy, I actually have a climate week. So where we take a big picture,
view of what’s happening. I connect climate concepts via three, what I call meta-concepts,
kind of overarching concepts which give you a kind
of conceptual structure on which I can kind of hang the ideas, and then I introduce complex systems, I connect that to climate change, we look at evidence and impacts, we look at climate justice, we look at what needs to be done, what are the barriers. And we start an interdisciplinary project. And sometimes we start this
earlier in the semester. Although I say it’s optional here, I found that even a simple
interdisciplinary project is better to do it than not. And I’ll tell you about some of the very basic ones I’ve done as well as more ambitious
ones that I’ve done. So in any case, this is, so here’s what I want students to do. I want them, this is,
these are our takeaways that we want them to know, and this is very popular, this has been circulating for a while, that climate change is real, it’s very serious, and it’s usually, the third bullet point is usually it’s us. But I like to say it’s some of us because it’s a justice issue. So that’s how I put it. I put the parentheses there. It’s happening now. And I use to say way back
when I started in 2007 as an innocent physicist, my
last bullet point used to be, we can change it, we can
prevent climate change. And I’m so sorry to say
that every year since then, and I’m not even sure that we can prevent catastrophic climate change. And but any case, this is what I want them to walk away with, and so what I do is I start with the first
thing that if you go back here, I start the semester with a
contextualizing discussion, and so this is what I do. I firstly, climate change
is in the syllabus. And taking aspiration from
Ken Bain’s best practices, what he calls the promising syllabus, I pose a question, and it’s a
question about climate change, and it’s posed in a way
that my hope is that it’s something interesting to the student, a question that is
relevant to their lives, like how may climate change affect you. And what, if anything,
can you do about it? And I have a picture usually
and I have a paragraph describing some things about it. And I send that invitation
to students before class. And then we discuss it on the first day. And I try to get a sense of the baseline, what are they, what do they
know about climate change, what are they thinking about it, feeling about it, and so on and so forth. And then probably about
a week or so later, we go to the planetarium. My university’s very lucky that
we have our own planetarium, and we look at three images of Earth. We have a beautiful planetarium program called the “Layered Earth”
where you can actually rotate the sphere and so on,
it’s all satellite data. So the first one is the
big one, the planet Earth. And I ask them to identify key large, excuse me, large features of the planet as though they were aliens
visiting from elsewhere. And so they come to the obvious things, they see clouds, they see the oceans, they see the land, they
see greenery and so on, and we can rotate this so that
they can get a sense of it. So this is their way, or my way, rather, of helping them recognize
what Earth scientists consider the key subsystems of our planet. And anyone can do that. You don’t have to be an
Earth scientist to do this. Then the next thing we do is
we look at the globe at night. And when we look at the globe at night, we see lights, bright, dazzling
lights in many many places. Western Europe, the US is ablaze. Lots of bright lights in India, lots of bright lights in
certain regions in China. Lots of darkness in other places. And I ask students to hypothesize what could be going on here? Why is it that some places are
lit bright and others aren’t? And by this time, we’ve already talked about what our hypothesis is, and how in order to study science
or any scholarly endeavor, we must be bold enough to hypothesize without fear of being wrong, so the students are usually comfortable by this time, most of them. So the typical hypothesis comes up that it’s got to be population. Where there’s more population density, you have brighter lights. And then we, I show them a map of population data overlaid on the globe. And they see that while their hypothesis seems to be born out for
some places around the globe, it’s not born out in others. There are regions of high
population density in Africa, large large regions that are
completely dark at night. So that’s when we start
talking about inequality. And since students by
this time have some sense that somehow turning on the lights contributes to climate change, these three pictures immediately bring up all of the different dimensions of the climatic conversation, including the conversation on justice. So this kind of primes
them to think about justice integrated with all of the others. So then when I get to
climate science itself, what are the essentials of
climate science that are, if you’re not an Earth scientist, not teaching a climate science course, what is it that you need
to convey to students? And how might you do it? So I had to struggle with this,
what are the key processes and concepts, and I’m still learning. So, and I’m learning
from climate scientists. It’s wonderful. But I’ll tell you where I am right now. And then of course the
question of how to connect and how to integrate and
one key problem you have if you’re not teaching
a climate science course is how do you avoid the piecemeal effect? If you have little chunks scattered throughout the semester, well students are gonna forget, students are going to not
connect them together. And what we want is
holistic understanding. So how are we gonna do that? Here are the climate science concepts that I introduce starting
with these key questions. Is climate change really happening? How do we know that it’s
not just a natural process? What’s the evidence that
there’s a human fingerprint? What factors effect the Earth’s climate and what can we do and how can we evaluate all these solutions that keep coming up? So this is what I do. I use this picture as, which I came with over
the years, actually, in order to put everything about climate that I’m going to teach on one slide, or almost everything,
it’s not quite everything. And I use this picture as an anchor. So what I do is I, these, students have this as a
handout, but I also project it. Every time we do anything
to do with climate, I put this picture up there. If students have to present
something to the class, they have to do it in the
context of this picture. This picture tells them
that although we are only able to do let’s say, a
little bit of interaction between this and this and this system or that and that and that system, there is actually a big picture out there. And they can fit in
whatever they’re learning through this conceptual structure. If I have time, I’ll get
more into details of this, but I’m mindful of the
time limitation here. So let’s see if we can get to that. But you can see here that I do not for instance use the term
Anthropocene or anthroposphere without disambiguating it. So typically one of the things we know is that modern civilization’s
impact on climate is now on geological scales. And so that circle at the bottom is often labeled the anthroposphere. But I put it in quotes
because not everyone is responsible for climate change. And so what I do is I put
marginalized human groups kind of within the biosphere here, and when I say marginalized, I mean people with less power
who have not contributed substantially to climate change, and that includes the global poor, the people of color in many places, it includes indigenous people, and it includes the young who have not lived long enough to contribute substantially
to the problem. So right there, front and center, in this system, climate
justice is integrated with what we’re doing here. The other thing that I wanna point out is that this big circle
represents the Earth, but it also represents
planetary boundaries. And I’m gonna talk briefly
about that as well. And the idea is that it
represents the limit where, and I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Stockholm University’s
Stockholm Resilience Institute, their website, and the courses they offer free online
are really really great. I also want to put in a comment about David Archer’s courses, because when I really started getting into learning climate science, I learned from his courses, I learned from his online course, I did all the homework and all the exams, it’s worth it, they’re awesome, all the modules he was showing, they’ll deepen your
understanding of the science, so let me put in a plug for that. But anyway, so all of the key concepts that I think are important so far, anyway, at this stage of development of my concept are in here on this slide. So if we have time, I’ll go
into more details about these, but I’m gonna kind of
quickly brush through them and get to, so that I can finish my talk and so that we can have a discussion, which is what I’m really
looking forward to. But from all the things
that I’ve studied so far, it seems that key to
understanding the climate is the issue of balance or steady state, if you wanna be more technical, and not steady state. So either some things
are in dynamic balance, or they are kind of, in going towards some other, they’re not. And then the idea of planetary
boundaries or limits, because when you have balance, when you have a situation of steady state, then that implies that certain parameters, if they are changed in some way, can perhaps push you to a non-steady state where you are going towards another state that may or may not be conducive to the existence of human civilization. So the boundaries are suggested by the idea of balance,
but also complexity, and I’ll talk more about that in a moment. So here are the concepts of balance and imbalance here that come in. And so if you have, if you understand what this concept means, well actually you really understand it through two key processes, one is the greenhouse effect, of course, which I had started teaching way back when I first started this, and then when I realize
that students were wondering whether breathing out was
contributing to climate change, that I really really really had to learn and teach the carbon cycle. And so the carbon cycle
is really key to that. And the important thing to remember is that a steady state or
balance or a non-steady state can be due to natural causes. Because if you look at
the Earth’s deep history, Earth’s climate has changed naturally and dramatically on its own
without any human assistance. And so what I’m calling
balance and imbalance is in a way tuned to the human condition. What would be good for us? Certain steady states
would be good for us, certain steady states would not. So take that as a caveat there. It is a misconception
that the natural systems are always balanced, but
that’s not always true. So it’s important for
students to realize that. But we know now that modern
industrial civilization is unambiguously the cause
of the current imbalance and atmospheric CO2
levels, in other words, CO2 levels are rising, they are not, So Dr. Archer’s kitchen sink example, the water level is rising,
not staying steady, leading to a global
heating and climate change. So I talk about, I’m gonna
just run through these slides because I think that you don’t need to see these in that much detail. So the greenhouse
effect, greenhouse gases, and I show this graph so
I have a few iconic graphs that are really really
rich with information, and this shows us, for instance, that from about 800,000
years ago to the present day, which was, this was actually
this is an older graph, but I like it because of the scale. This was made in 2008
when carbon dioxide levels were less than 400 parts per million. And you can see the ups and downs from pre-history where the ups and downs represent the glacial
and interglacial cycles where only a change from
200 to 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide lead to the difference between the Northern Hemisphere being mostly covered by glacial and the kind of climate we have today. And then we have basically blown it for the next glacial era,
as far as I can tell, because we’re, that spike starts out from about the 1880s when people started burning fossil fuels on a
mass scale for the first time, start of the industrial revolution. And then there are a
couple of scenarios here. And then there’s more
detail, short scale graphs, I show the global temperature rise, and I talk about how the
one degree Celsius rise compared to pre-industrial
times is actually significant. So I spend some time talking
about why this is important even though day to night temperatures vary much more than this. And I talk about the carbon cycle, which I’m not going to really go into, except to emphasize one of the
things that Dr. Archer said, which was that essentially
what we’re doing is the carbon cycle is roughly three scales, and the short scales are
basically shown over here, and then what we’re doing
is we’re adding fossil fuels to the atmosphere,
we’re digging out carbon in the form of coal and oil, which is sequestered from the, away from the short term carbon cycle, and we’re burning it, and we’re putting new sources of carbon in the atmosphere. So it’s exactly like the bathtub analogy that you’re opening the faucet more and you’re blocking the drain because you’re undermining carbon sinks, like cutting down tropical rainforests. So the water level is rising,
CO2 is rising, and so on. So one of the things I wanted to mention is that even within these
scientific meta-concepts, as I call them, the issue of
justice is always entangled. So for instance, we can
ask who’s responsible for upsetting the cycle? And if we look at that, by country, currently China, US,
India, Brazil, Europe. Historically, we know US, Western Europe. But if you look per capita,
US, Australia, Canada are among the top three. And then income level
is really interesting, because the richest 10% of people produce 50% of the planet’s individual consumption based fossil fuel emissions. This is from an Oxfam report. And the term climate apartheid
is one that is worth, that everyone should know about because that refers to this, I read about an article from
United Nations University that climate apartheid refers to the fact that the rich will most likely, at least in the short term, get away with, or at least protect themselves from the effects of climate change which they caused, by this statistic, while everyone else goes to hell. And in fact, we know that the super rich are already constructing
luxury climate bunkers to protect them and they’ve even got, they even getting security ready because they expect the
violence of the masses as the world goes to hell. So this is a pretty dire scenario, and of course by organization, there are only 100 companies responsible for most, almost 3/4 of the
greenhouse gas emissions. So here, too, we can bring
in the justice issue. Now here’s the thing, I
mentioned that balance in a sense implies a boundary beyond which you go into
imbalance or non-steady state. So the work from Stockholm
Resilience Center at Stockholm University, I
encourage you to look it up, they’ve done a fabulous job. Their research reveals
nine planetary boundaries within which they say is the safe operating zone for human civilization. That if our economics, if our way of life violates enough of these boundaries, then we cannot survive as a
civilization on this planet. And among the boundaries, of course are climate
change, biosphere integrity, ocean acidification,
and a few other things. So taking this idea of boundaries and applying it specifically
to carbon dioxide emissions, we know that in 2009, world governments in the Copenhagen Accord basically said that we need to stay
below two degrees Celsius. And later on, the Paris Agreement, and it was actually the
small island nations and the African nations
who said, are you nuts? Two degrees Celsius is too much. And they got everyone to push down to an aspirational 1.5 degrees C. So the interesting thing is that in 2011, a paper came out in nature, which basically where somebody calculated the probabilistic calculation on how much carbon dioxide
one was allowed to emit in order to get to two degrees C. And they came up with a number, and it turns out that the governments and corporations of the world already have in their reserves about five times. So if you burned their reserves, you’d get five times
the so-called safe limit of carbon dioxide emissions, which is actually not safe. In fact, the IPCC special
report from last year talks about 1.5 degrees C being, so they’re basically
saying two C is not safe, and 1.5 gives us a difficult but far less catastrophic world, avoiding major irreversible
damage to the biosphere. And what they’re saying is emissions need to be cut nearly 50%
by 2030 and zero by 2050. And this would mean unprecedented
far reaching changes in all aspects of society. So as the writer, Margaret Atwood said, “It’s not just climate change,
it’s everything change.” And so that’s what we’re
talking about here. And yet, look at what’s happening. Talk about breaking
boundaries, just look at that. Global emissions went up 2.7%. And there is a global justice argument that countries like India have made, Brazil has made, at the UN, that developing countries,
especially those who were suppressed by colonialism need to emit CO2 because they need to be as prosperous as
the other countries, and so it’s the rich countries that should cut their emissions. And that argument has some logic to it. The rich country should
in fact take the lead because of their historical culpability. However, this assumes a few things. It assumes that there’s only one part to only one kind of development, and it also assumes that
all that burning of CO2 that’s going on in the
developing countries is happening to uplift
people out of poverty. Well, if you go back to
where my parents stay and look at the number of
malls that have come up on one street all with air conditioning and expensive product, then you’ll see that they’re not actually
thinking about the villagers in the back country out there. So there’s some ways to
mess with that argument. So just to sound the dire note,
as though I haven’t already, we are headed for a four to
six degrees C temperature rise by 2100 if it’s business as usual. And remember we’re
already at a one degree, and we are being warned that
1.5 is as far as we can go, but this is where we are headed. So how do we understand all this stuff? How do we understand, how did this happen? Like how is it that there
weren’t more warning bells? And actually there were. Scientists have been yelling
about this for decades, but why is it that it’s somehow didn’t, where is the ripple effect, what happened? So to understand the historic moment, but also to understand
how this can come about so quickly, like how is this
change happen so quickly, we really need to understand
one key essential feature of a climate is its complexity. So I always do a little
unit on complex systems, which really is not something that is limited to a scientist, because complexity is
everywhere as we’ll see. So complex systems are basically those that consist of many interacting parts in which the interactions
are strong and non-trivial and can even change the
nature of the parts. They’re just as important
as the parts themselves. And so this is the Aristotelian dictum that the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts. I will talk about a historical
hypothesis that I have as to why we don’t think
like this normally, but let’s talk about what
complex systems are first. So complex system science is so new that people are still arguing about what a complex system exactly is. We kind of know it when we see it, we agree on its general features, but there’s no clear
definition quite as yet. However, look at these examples. These are all real world systems. This is the everyday world we live in. Human social networks, the global financial system, ecosystems. Ecosystem biologists were among the first complex systems of scientists,
so hats off to them. So the global climate
system is certainly complex. You can consider the atmosphere, all of those subsystems as parts, but they interact in
highly nonlinear ways, so we’ll talk about that. So here are some things we
know about complex systems. That they tend to share
certain common properties. They often have feedback loops,
I’m gonna talk about one, Dr. Archer mentioned a couple, where a feedback loop can
be what is called positive, not in the sense of good,
but in the sense of additive, but perhaps we should use
the term destabilizing ’cause that’s what they can be. And also stabilizing feedback loops, which can interact with each other. So feedback loops exist
also in simple systems, but in complex systems
there are many of them and they can interact
with each other typically. And their behavior is not linear. They can undergo sudden changes,
surprises, tipping points, certain small effects can
accelerate very quickly. So here’s one, the most famous
one of the climate system. So one of the things we know is that shiny surfaces are reflective. So the sun shines on a
piece of white paper, and the heat and light are
reflected without absorption. Which is why people in dessert
countries tend to wear white, which is why if you
wear black on a hot day, you feel really hot. So in the North Pole, we don’t have land, we have ocean, we have the Arctic Ocean, and that’s covered by frozen seawater, which is the sea ice of the Arctic. That’s different from Antarctica where if ice melts, there’s
more ice underneath it, two miles of ice, right. But on the North Pole, if the ice melts, it may be from centimeters
to a few meters thick. If it melts, then underneath
it, it reveals dark water. Water being dark can actually absorb the sun’s heat and light. And so through enhancing
the greenhouse effect, it can retain some of the sun’s energy in the Earth’s system. And in fact, that’s exactly what happens. And this is one reason
why the Arctic is warming at twice the global rate, because of this destabilizing
feedback loop, as you can see. So you warm the Earth and the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels,
that causes ice to melt, that causes more absorption
of the sun’s radiation, which enhances the greenhouse effect, which makes the Earth warmer, which makes more ice melt, and
I could go on and on and on. So this is a vicious cycle in other words, in everyday language, yes. So this is only one
destabilizing feedback loop, but there are many others
in the climate system, and what these sort of positive in the sense of destabilizing, not good feedback loops can do is that they can accelerate
and amplify climate change. And when you have many many
interacting destabilizing feedback loops or even
one that’s strong enough, then you can actually take the system towards tipping its state
to an entirely new state. And that’s essentially what is happening. And tipping points, well,
there’s also something called a tipping element,
but I won’t go into that. Tipping points are points
beyond which the climate system undergoes a drastic
systemic large scale change which is usually irreversible
at least on human timescales. So here’s another example
I’m going to give you. Oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. In 2013, December, the
Russians started the first drilling rig in the Arctic. There’s been exploratory
drilling in the American Arctic, like off the course of
Alaska for some time, but no actual drilling has started yet. And the idea here is
that as the Arctic melts, the reserves of oil and natural gas on the Arctic seabed are
getting easier to get to. And many of them are in relatively shallow regions of the Arctic. So what the fossil fuel
companies are saying is, whoa, the Arctic is melting, so we can get to all that oil and gas, we can extract more oil and gas. And I hope you can see what this is. So the more you melt the Arctic, the easier it is to get to those oil and gas reserves on the seabed, the easier it is to extract
them, and then burn them, and then that causes more Arctic melt and that is another
destabilizing feedback loop, which interacts with
the ice-albedo feedback. So the Arctic drilling hasn’t
started in enormous earnest, but I know that from a
geopolitical perspective, the Arctic is being looked
upon with, shall I say, avarice from a lot of
countries and corporations, and to put it in context, we
know that what fossil fuel companies and governments
already have in reserve is enough to fry us five times over. And they’re looking for new
sources of fossil fuels. And that’s only gonna make things worse. So it’s through the complex, through understanding feedback loops and interacting feedback loops that students understand
that you cannot just wait for Boston to get as
warm as North Carolina and then fix the climate. It’s like we don’t have that
much control over it anyway, but the point is that when you have enough destabilizing feedback
loops set into the system, they are set in the system. And the system has some inertia, it’s gonna go, it’s like if you
have bad brakes on your car, you might brake, but you’re
gonna keep going for a while. And we’re not even braking it. And by the way, I had an
interesting conversation with a student once where I
taught the complex students, the complex systems bit to my students and they were supposed to do
a project on climate change and everyone was depressed and this was before I became
more interdisciplinary. And one student was like
just crazily chipper. And she was generally
a very cheerful person, but I wondered, and I said, “Why are you so cheerful
about this stuff?” She said, “Well professor,
you know how you said “that human social systems
are complex systems?” So I said, “Yeah,” and I said, “I’m not a sociologist but I do know “to that extent that that’s the case.” And she said, “Well, if climate systems “can have tipping points,
maybe we don’t have “to kinda wait for
everyone to get onboard. “Maybe we just need a
few small key changes “that can change the system as a whole. “In other words, some kind
of sociological tipping point “that tips us towards a more responsible, “a more humane, a more just society.” I’m paraphrasing a little
bit of what she said, but essentially that’s what she said. That was one of those moments when you go, boy, do I learn stuff from
my students all the time. So I wasn’t expecting that. So anyway. We always come back to this picture. We always come back to this and say, okay, so can you describe the carbon cycle through this picture? Can you describe the greenhouse effect? Can you describe what’s happening? Is that circle at the
bottom getting fatter and kind of pushing us
across the boundary? And if so, in what way? Can you describe the justice issues? So you see how this picture
becomes a kind of anchor that so far at least I have a sense that it avoids that piecemeal, death trap of trying
to teach climate change in a course that is not
about climate change per se. So it works as an anchor. But then to go back to the
point I made in my slide of student reactions and misconceptions, we are dealing with young people who already have at least for my students, a lot to bear, a lot of responsibilities, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen an uptick, just
anecdotally on the amount of anxiety and depressing
anyway among students, I don’t know if you’ve noticed that. We are teaching students
that are very very different from the ones that were around
20, 30 years ago, I think. That’s just my anecdotal sense. But actually it’s not entirely
anecdotal because we know from a Cigna study, I think
it was earlier this year, that there’s an epidemic
of social isolation among Americans, particularly
among the elderly, which is not that surprising, but also among young people. So stuff is going on
societally and sociologically that we need to pay attention to. So we have to give our students means to deal with the psychological
weight of all this stuff. And in fact, climate scientist Steve Running came up with this. He said that this stuff is so depressing. In fact, think about it. That learning about the possible end of human civilization as we know it, the biosphere as we know it, is such a devastating emotional trauma that our reaction to it must be, surely must be analogous to the way we react to any grief or loss. And we already have a
guide that’s something called a Kubler Ross grief and loss scale, which I don’t know if you’ve come across, I had to go way outside my comfort zone to develop all this stuff. But when we grieve, let’s
say a personal loss, someone close to us passes away, we go through stages where
we kind of try to pretend it’s not happening or we get upset that they left us or we try to see that maybe it was their
time or something like that. And we generally shy away from grieving, from the depressed state. And we get stuck in these stages. And it’s only when we accept the truth of what’s happened that
we can be free of grief. So Steve Running, climate scientist, made this proposal that maybe
there’s something like that, that they have five
stages of climate grief. And then others added a sixth stage, which is doing the work where you are free enough
that you can roll up your sleeves and say, all right, it’s bad, but what the hell, I’m going to do this, because I have to,
there’s no other choice. So what I do is I make this transparent to students after the first few times that we’ve really gotten
to climate science and looked at the evidence
and impact and so on. I’d ask them how they’re feeling about it. Now that’s not what we are used
to doing in a science class. But we can’t do what we’re used to doing anymore, it’s my opinion. So I asked them how
they’re feeling about it, they’d share their feelings, and recently I’ve had,
a psychologist colleague has been coming into my class and doing a study on
the effective response to learning about climate change. So we make it clear, and I tell students that what they’re feeling, everything they’re feeling is valid, is what they’re feeling. And that there’s actually a way to get through all of these stages. But I also ask them to be critical. I say that this is a hypothesis. Are there other stages
of feelings or whatever? Is there something that we can
improve on this hypothesis? So they become kind of
fellow investigators of their own individual emotional reaction as well as that of the community
of the classroom as well. And we wanna talk about,
and I tell them also that it’s totally okay to know that you’re gonna have to cycle through these stages many many times. It happened with me. I share my story of how there was a time I couldn’t bear to look at
anymore climate science stuff. I just could not stand to look at it. And then I had an experience
which helped me get through it. And part of it is we
tend to avoid grieving. And we have to grieve. We have to grieve for
the world we’ve lost. We have to grieve for the species that are going to be extinct. One million species under
danger of extinction according to a new UN
report on biodiversity loss. We have to grieve the
future we won’t have, that our children won’t have. And if we don’t do that, if we are not bold enough to do that, then we won’t get through these stages. But you can’t grieve something
of this magnitude alone. You have to do it in community. Which is why the community
aspect of the classroom is so important when you go through this, when you do this kind of climate pedagogy. So I talk to them about this, and one of the things that I’ve done about three times is that
I’ve had environmental poet, one of my colleagues
come into the classroom and this is where the humanities can make a huge difference
to dealing with this stuff. We really really need the humanities, not only to communicate the
climate science and the dangers because scientists can’t do it alone and scientists typically
are terrible communicators. But we also need the humanities for us to work through this stuff. So this is really really important. And students who were science majors who didn’t think of themselves as poets, who kind of looked down
on poetry as a means to think through their emotions, were utterly stunned at what they produced and how it helps them feel free to roll up their sleeves and say, okay, I’m ready to get to work. So one quick thing I wanna talk about, I’m already out of my
personal timeframe here, but I’m gonna try to
talk about this quickly, is that we have to try to help students and ourselves understand how the heck did we get to this point. And how do we think through this place? So I start with defining a paradigm early in the semester,
which is a framework or a set of assumptions for
thinking about the world. Many of them consist of default, unconscious, unexamined assumptions. And most familiar scientific paradigms, and so for instance, the famous one, the transition from
geocentrism to heliocentrism, was a huge paradigm shift. This is something that Thomas Kuhn wrote about in his famous book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. And the term paradigm shift
has been misused so much that it’s a buzzword with almost no actual substance anymore, but it really does have a deep meaning. Which if you read Kuhn’s work, it really is, is really interesting. And so what I try to do was to talk about what I call the Newtonian paradigm. Now this is not my
conceptualization necessarily, but I’m bringing different
threads together, and different people have talked
about it in a similar way. So basically the Newtonian paradigm has to do with how science
and history changed when Newton’s laws came into the world. Newton’s laws of motion,
Newton’s law of gravitation and of course that has
a pre-history to it. It is not at all unconnected
with the colonizing imperative. So there’s a lot of history
here that’s entangled. What I’m doing is I’m
drawing an oversimplification of history but in the sense, with the hope that it’s a
useful oversimplification as Steve Shapin who is a
sociologist and historian of science at Harvard puts it in his book, “The Scientific Revolution”, that sometimes
oversimplifications can be useful if they’re honest oversimplifications. So I’m trying to do that. So what Newton came up with was a controllable mechanistic universe. So if I toss this bottle into the air, then with just a little bit of information about the initial conditions, I can predict exactly where it will be for every point in its
journey for every time. And so there is a kind
of control, a precision, a predictability, about
this view of Newton. And the trap we fall into is assuming that the entire universe
works that way as we’ll see. So one analog for thinking about the Newtonian paradigm is the clock. In fact it’s also called
the clockwork universe. This was a philosophical idea that came up thanks to Descartes and
other people later on. That the universe was
controlled by natural law so you could think about
it as a clockwork machine. So all God had to do was to wind up the clockwork and then let it tick. And this is a very powerful
and important idea, not least because it gives
us the notion of democracy that Thomas Jefferson refers to the inalienable rights of men, referring particularly to
the natural laws and so on. So it has a long long shadow, all of this. So in any case, this
clockwork universe, however, where everything is
predictable, controllable, where you can, if you
understand the parts of a clock, take it apart, look at
the springs and gears, you’ve understood the clock. It’s a reductionist system. You can reduce any system to its parts. Understand the parts,
you understand the whole. A very powerful idea, it’s
carried science very far, but there were protests. So here’s the poet William Blake with his painting of Newton, looking at one part of the universe while the rest lies
undiscovered around him. And in fact, he said, “And God us keep, “from single vision and Newton’s sleep.” So this is the Newtonian
paradigm, the clockwork universe. And it seems to me that this is something we’re deeply affected by even today. The atomism of it consisting of separate and distinct, well-defined units. The determinism of it,
we can control this, we can control that. The fact that we are
separate from what we, or that we think we are
separate from what we observe. But we know from my own field
of physics that the universe is not, says the universe, excuse me, I’m not Newtonian, and this is, the two deep plot over there is something that is in
actually a few textbooks, you can see that Newtonian physics occupies a small little box over there and is superseded by
more accurate theories. What I’ve done is to
extend, make a Z-axis, extending it out, and to
declare that Newtonian physics can only really wrap its head around or is most useful for simple systems, even at our scale. And when you get to complex systems, then although they’re deterministic, you lose the kind of Newtonian
predictability that we have. So I’m not gonna go into details, because I’m gonna go
out of time really soon, but I’ve like, we’ve,
I’ve had this discussion where we talk about how if you
were immersed in a paradigm and you don’t know that you
are immersed in a paradigm, you suffer from what you
might call paradigm blindness, that you just take the default, you don’t question the
unquestioned assumptions. And so I’m not gonna talk in
too much detail about that, except that in part, the
reason why we do not see a way out oftentimes of the mess we’re in is because we do not know how to think outside the Newtonian box. That’s my hypothesis. And that’s why the
problem of climate change is also a problem of the imagination. So always, always, climate
justice wraps around the meta-concepts and it’s also something that we study in its, of its own accord. I typically take a case
study of some kind, and if I have time, I’ll talk about that. But I already mentioned this. And what is interesting
is that often we look at these groups as victims and in a sense, they are certainly the
unintended recipients of the mess that has been created, but also what we overlook sometimes is that they may have the real solutions. And in part, it’s because they may have alternative epistemologies. If our epistemology arises from this box, well if you think about it, complex systems, if you
look at indigenous cultures and there are many many
different indigenous cultures around the world, they’re not monoliths, but one of the key common
features I’ve found in my initial investigations is that they seem to
have a, they seem to take complexity as a given,
as a starting point. Whereas we come to it from
reductionism to complexity, they start from complexity,
and they have some really really important things to offer. Epistemologically as well as practically. So I’m just gonna talk about, I’m just gonna show a couple of slides, more than a couple, but very quickly. For instance, look at indigenous people. They are only 5% of
the world’s population, but they manage about 80% of
the planet’s biodiversity, including an enormous amount of carbon. Wherever you have indigenous
people with legal rights to their land, that’s where
the forest are the healthiest, they have the thickest
tree cover and so on. And yet, it’s the indigenous people who are our first climate refugees. So this picture is from Louisiana where there’s a first climate refugees in the US are being displaced. The other picture is from Alaska where a barrier island
village of Shishmaref is being relocated because
it’s falling into the sea. So one of the things
I always always teach, and in fact I have students do this, they research climate movements. This is one way to
really inspire students, because once they get into that blue funk, and we work through the psychology, they get through that a little bit, but then they want to know what to do. And I wanna quote Bill McKibben who used to say that, “Well, you know, “here’s what you can
do to fix the climate,” and he used to point to various actions you could take at home and so on, and now he basically says, “You wanna do something about climate? “Join a movement or start a movement.” Because it’s in collective action that perhaps we can
change the infrastructure and have the systemic kind
of changes that we want. So I have students investigate and report to the class on climate movements, and that gets them pretty excited. So I’m just gonna end with
a couple of slides here. This is from Extinction
Rebellion rallies recently. This is from way back when
the Standing Rock Sioux were defending their lands. The pipeline was built, you may have heard that it’s spilled some 300,000 gallons of oils just a few weeks ago. And I wanna show a picture
of an indigenous elder in the Amazon which is on
fire, along with the Congo, along with forest in Spain,
along with California, and how these people are the
ones who are being murdered. Indigenous and environmental activists are murdered at like unbelievable rates. And yet they keep persisting, and they are protecting us, all of us. So I have, we talk about a developing, I’m trying to develop a justice framework for evaluating solutions, I won’t talk about that right now. But just lastly, two
things I wanna end with. One is that the projects
are really really important, and the more ripple effect
they have, the better. So if you have something where let’s say you have an
art class and you do join and you display that to your community. Think about it. Is it a sufficient ripple effect? If it works, if people are excited by it, do something to expand it. Maybe put it, make it viral, talk to the next school district, have them do it, you see what I’m saying? So we can’t think in our
little institutional boxes or classroom boxes anymore. So ripple effects are
really really important. And so that’s why on
the handout that I have, there is a little tool that
I’m experimenting with. I don’t yet know whether
this is gonna work or not, but I would love your feedback if you feel like trying it
at the back of the sheet where we stop thinking
about individual solutions and try to go to larger scale solutions. And I’ve had, I’m not gonna
talk too much about results, except that I’m still working, this is still a work-in-progress, but they’re many many promising signs, and if you have time for the questions I can talk about that. I’m still in the process of
developing this framework and what I’m going to
end with is basically indigenous people, a tribe
in India, in eastern India, which is being threatened
by a mining company, and they actually won, they went all the way to the
Supreme Court and they won. And one of the things that they, people were surprised that they did not want their forest razed down and displaced to somewhere else, and that they had turned
down promises of cars and roads, and television and all of that. Essentially they said, we
don’t wanna live like you, you all look so miserable. your cities are horrible,
we don’t like that. And in fact, that’s what
this particular leader, Lado Sikaka said that, “Why
should I give up my hills? “I get everything I want from,” and to them, the hills are sacred, and everything is clean,
everything is free, they actually don’t, they’re not poor by their own standards. They don’t have very much, but they have everything they need. They’re independent off the modern industrial system for the most part. And so one of the things they’re doing is they’re saying, well, we
don’t wanna live like you guys, but we also don’t wanna be
isolated from the world. So they’ve been having
community discussions, when they are not being
harassed by state officials and corporate officials
and had false charges leveled against them and so on, they are having community discussions about what is well being. What does well being mean for us? I think that’s a deep, deep question that’s at the heart of the climate crisis, because we don’t think about
what well being really means. And what is real happiness? And in fact, one of the things he says is that if they are
displaced to the cities, their identities will be lost. And he talks about lost
from his perspective. Whereas we, if we are not aware of all the intricacies
and so on, we might think, oh, these are the
people, they are so poor, we should uplift them
and put them in cities and give them lots of cars
and television and so on. But he’s saying we are
gonna lose something. So what I wanna ask, because
the climate conundrum is often put in the language of, hey, we are going to lose stuff. If we have to do something about climate, we have to lose, we can’t use this, we can’t do that, we can’t do that. But the question I want to ask is, what have we already lost? What have we already lost by choosing the path that we took? And in other words, what is it that we have to gain
if we change our path? And so what I feel is that the project for healing the climate
is also the project for real human happiness
on this biosphere, and I quote from the same warning
that I showed you earlier, that the kind of
transformative change we need is also a change towards
greater well being for all of us and ultimately the question
is about what is well being because after all, there
is no Planet B, thank you. (audience applauding) [AUDIENCE:] I just want to make
one quick comment and raise this one question. When David Archer spoke,
one of his former colleagues here was Raymond Pierrehumbert, and in his book, he mentions
about the rate of deforesting and the Stefan-Boltzmann law, but he mentions that the
Stefan-Boltzmann law, you have the Planck’s constant, you have the speed of light
in Boltzmann constant, which brings together all
these different paradigms and that would serve a
model of what we had to do according to Pierrehumbert. But my question is, I
think, is there one way we can really look seriously at this climate change issue
from this perspective? We start with linearities,
but we have to understand how the nonlinearities
arise, climate degradation, and maybe how they inject these climate tipping points into the system. And I might challenge a
little bit your slides where you talk about
(mumbles) quantum mechanics, I don’t think that’s really the issue. I think it’s determinism
versus irreversibility. Going to the Boltzmann
and Prigogine paradigm where we have irreversibility
which engenders this. To me, that’s a bigger issue. And I think if you look
at these transitions between determinism, irreversibility, whether you have quantum
mechanics or classical mechanics, it’s going to be a much more better way of looking at this issue. What do you think of that alternative? [SINGH:] I think I might have to ask
you to repeat some of that because I couldn’t hear that very well. But could you just repeat
your question about, what you were saying about the, so I got what you said about Stefan-Boltzmann law, nonlinearity. [AUDIENCE:] The idea is not
quantum mechanics versus classical mechanics, but determinism versus irreversibility. Irreversibility, we teach the students about the chemical change and the laws that are governing the equations
are irreversible in time. How do we go from the
time-reversal invariance to the irreversibility
which is indicative. And I think that’s the key
issue that might possibly bring in these climate tipping points into play rather than sticking with the reversibility paradigms of either classical
physics or quantum physics. [SINGH:] That’s right,
thank you for repeating that. That’s actually a great observation. And in fact, we know that, and I know this as a particle
physicist by training that the microscopic laws
of the subatomic realm are actually for the most
part time reversible. And yet we have, in the
everyday bulk microscopic world, we have irreversibility,
we have the second law of thermodynamics, we
have the arrow of time. So I think the, when I refer to irreversibility of, and tipping points, where that comes from is the fact that the carbon cycle has that very long, the cycle that Dr.
Archer was talking about, the stabilizing feedback
loop of the climate, the weathering silicate cycle, it has timescale of hundreds
of thousands of years. And so that’s what I meant, that on human timescales,
that’s irreversible. So a large fraction of the
CO2 we put in the atmosphere is going to stay around
for a significant fraction, it’s going to stay around
for 100,000 years or more. But what you’ve raised is actually, intrigues me as someone
trained in theoretical physics, and in fact, that is an enigma. How do we go from reversible, the reversible basic equations of the microscopic realm
to irreversibility? And that’s a huge and fascinating theoretical research question. How do we, is it, is there a
way to go from those questions to the second law of thermodynamics? [AUDIENCE:] There absolutely is.
[SINGH:] That’s statistical– [AUDIENCE:] We call it
separation of timescale, we have all these timescale
merging, reversible processes, but when we inject the
timescale separation, we’re able to get reversible, irreversible equations
complies with the set of law. The other things that we,
the fact that you have this irreversibility of time. Just seems to me that climate change is somehow connected with
this (speaks faintly) going from reversible dynamics
to irreversible dynamics. [SINGH:] Well, of course we have,
you’re right, statistical mechanics gives us the way to connect those things, but I don’t think we understand very conceptually how
that happens very well. And I think you may be right that the, if you’re saying that the climate issue is a general increase in
entropy, well of course it is. But how else it might connect, I think the jury’s still out on that. But that’s a very interesting question, thank you for raising that. [AUDIENCE:] Hello. Just a question. Is there anything you
would explicitly advice against showing or
exposing to your students at a middle or high school level? [SINGH:] I’m sure that people in the
middle and high school level are actually best qualified
to talk about that because you know your students, but I would guess that, that’s really tough. In fact, one of the places I lean on for climate information is, particularly in this psychosocial realm, is the Yale climate communication project. And if you sign on with them, they’ll send you an email
with research on the climate, about climate change in
the US and the world. I know on their site, they have an article about how to speak to the
young about climate change. Now that is more aligned along the lines of the talk you have to have with them about sex and drugs and alcohol, but you also have to have a talk with them about climate change. And how we talk to them about
it is obviously very crucial. I would, it has to be in the context of your relationship with them, and it has to be, you have
to give them the tools and this is true for
college students as well, to actually take their
knowledge and learning and do something with it. And to know that there are other people around the world doing something with it. So that’s what I would encourage. [AUDIENCE:] Thank you. First of all, your,
sorry, I’m really sick, your presentation was phenomenal, and I’ve taught climate change before from an interdisciplinary model, and if it’s at all possible for you to share your slides with us, because you had so many fantastic images that beat some of the
stuff I managed to find, that would be really lovely and helpful. And then my question is, one of the things that
I didn’t see come up in your presentation but I found it was something that I’d focused on, I’d like your feedback, and if it, any additional resources maybe or contextualizing what I ended
up sharing with my students, the impact of food and
diet on climate change. Is it something that your
students are interested in? Is it something that you
explore in your classroom? And is it like a solution that you look to because what we eat is drastically, like we’re deforesting,
we have deforestation because we’re trying to raise cattle. And as countries become more wealthy, they’re increasing their meat consumption, particularly of things like beef. And that you have this double problem of cows that produce methane, which we just learned about. So any feedback on that as
part of this complex system? [SINGH:] Yeah, well, I’m happy to share, so I’ll talk to Mathew about that. But yeah, I think that’s
really really important. And in fact, that comes up
when we talk about solutions. I haven’t had time to put
some of our discussions. What I try to encourage the students to do is to take whatever
aspect of the solutions, discussion they have, for instance, and do a project on it that
they can present to everyone. There are a lot of unknowns
about a lot of climatic effects, very difficult to get our heads
around some of the details, ’cause there’s such
lack of information too. Like for instance how
much carbon soil store, there’ve been wildly oscillating figures on that for a while. But in any case, the point as we know that food choices are a huge
part of the whole thing. So in fact, what might,
I haven’t done this, but you’re giving me an idea, too, is that with me, that picture of the Earth with its subsystems, that one could discuss
it in that context, too. And in fact, that’s what I’m trying to do with my solutions framework, is that you look at a solution or a proposed solution
and see is it exacerbating or is it kind of calming
down the carbon cycle? Is it, what is the long term impact of this so-called solution? And so that would fit right in because that’s certainly a
very very important thing. The thing that I don’t want students to do is to think that all they have to do is change their own food choices. Because it has to be a
mass collective thing. So we do discuss a little bit, like I have often students in my class who are vegetarian and vegan who, and we talk about whaling in Alaska, and then we talk about
how indigenous people have a relationship with animals that’s different from our relationship with factory farms and things like that. So it in fact goes for a very rich and personal discussion. And I should just mention quickly, the other way to make climate
change real and personal is to talk about health,
its impact on health. And one of my classes did
a project on that in fact, for our town, for our city. Yeah, go ahead. [AUDIENCE:] I’ve been teaching
environmental biology for a long while and now the past three semesters, I’m getting more and more students who are climate deniers. [SINGH:] Really? [AUDIENCE:] And it’s,
when you have a student that is a climate denier, that you could have a real problem with trying to convince
the rest of the class. So my question here is, is anybody having the same problem? Or is it just like, it’s
been just three semesters. Before that, all the students were okay. Any projects were fine. So I’m just asking a question
about how do we address this climate deniers that come to biology and environmental class. [SINGH:] I’ve had that early on,
that problem. It’s a lot to do with the relationships that you have with your students. That’s the only way I’ve found where if, and I used to have to
tell my students lately, I’m in Massachusetts, close to Boston, but you all know about
the Heartland Institute’s publication that was sent out, right, disinformation campaign and all of that? I know Don’s gonna talk about ways that we can counter those things as well. But just very briefly, it
really is in the relationship. When I have a student who’s a denier, I tell them, I totally respect your right to believe whatever you want to believe. I’m gonna treat you just the
same as any other student. I show that I care about them
just as much as anyone else. But of course, they have to write the scientifically valid
answers in tests and exams. And what I’ve found is
that they get softened, they get more open, they get more softened by the end of the semester to the idea that maybe there’s
something to this stuff. So I wish I had something
more powerful to tell you, but I think it’s really
in the relationship. [AUDIENCE:] I would first like to
echo a fellow teacher’s sentiment that thank you very much
for a very informative and inspiring talk.
(audience applauding) And at the same time, it had
very practical suggestions. But harping on what he said, I was anyway planning, let
me play the devil’s advocate. Supposing there’s a student or somebody, we are very anthromorphic, we try to see everything with human beings as the most important. Now one thing you said that
there are natural imbalances just as there are human-made imbalances in this complex systems. Now, what do you mean by natural? When you say before human beings, there were other living species and they were changing the Earth, and before that, we can go back and do, now supposing for example,
we are what we are because the dinosaurs disappeared. They were reigning the world once. So what if some student says this is the natural trajectory
of Planet A, our planet, and we are not supposed to
be here as a species forever. I mean, I’m just throwing it at you. So if that is, then let
nature take its course and let this go to its
ultimate extinction. Like the dinosaurs were
extinct because apparently there was asteroid and the climate change and they couldn’t adjust, so then mammals became predominant and we are the result. So if that can happen, I’m just
throwing it out as an idea. [SINGH:] Well, that’s a perfectly valid philosophical position to take, but I don’t, I personally don’t buy it. But I encourage students to have, to defend their positions. Can you defend that? And if you can, fine. But there are people who– [AUDIENCE:] Use it for a debate
or something. [SINGH:] Right, exactly, exactly. And always in a mutually
respectful atmosphere. [NEWMAN:] Well, thank you so much. Everyone, again, a round of
applause for Professor Singh. (audience applauding)
[SINGH:] Thank you.