Climate scientist advises thinking locally about climate change

By Rebecca Mennecke

Climate change is a topic that often provokes people to think of polar bears and melting ice caps in Antarctica, but a noted climate change scientist said people need to think about climate change on a personal level to solve the issue of global warming.

Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian, Christian climate scientist, discussed the importance of relating to others and thinking locally when it comes to climate change. © 2019 Rebecca Mennecke

“Are there polar bears in Wisconsin? No,” Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist, said. “The biggest symbols of a changing climate are things that have no relevance at all to our lives.”

Hayhoe presented her speech, titled “Forecasting Our Future: A Conversation About Climate Change and Extreme Weather” to an auditorium filled with about 250 students, faculty and community members on April 10 as a part of the 76th annual The Forum series at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The Forum also hosted climate scientist Jonathan Patz earlier this year.  

The climate change issue, Hayhoe said, must be approached by finding common ground. Specifically, Hayhoe focused on geographic location.

In Wisconsin, temperatures fluctuate. This is unsurprising, Hayhoe said, considering it was snowing outside as she gave her speech.

There are three reasons why Wisconsin has cold weather: it’s spring in the Midwest, natural variability and climate change, she said.

In February, Wisconsin broke heat records, snow records and cold records all in the same month, Hayhoe said.

“Weather is what our brains are built to remember,” Hayhoe said. “We understand weather. We don’t often understand climate.”

In Wisconsin, there has been a decrease in cold days and an increase in hot days, Hayhoe said. She specifically looked at Milwaukee, where there are currently about eight more days per year with temperatures over 90 degrees. By the 2030s, she estimated it will be 16 days. By the end of the century, she said there could be an upwards of 55 days with temperatures over 90 degrees per year.

When it gets warmer, pests don’t die off during the cold temperatures, Hayhoe said. In addition, allergy season lasts two to three weeks longer.

“Climate determines a lot of things we don’t think about,” Hayhoe said.

Climate can affect building codes, how much insulation is needed, what crops are grown where, flood zones and the energy demand, she said.

And, Hayhoe said, climate can affect things that happen far away.  

Increases in global temperature have also caused additional precipitation because of added evaporation, Hayhoe said. She referenced last year when one-third of Bangladesh was underwater.

“The monsoon is normal,” she said. “A third of the country underwater is not normal.”

Despite the scientific evidence, many people deny the science because of the cost of solutions, Hayhoe said.

“If you really and truly have a problem with the basic science of climate change,” Hayhoe said, “then unfortunately you’re also going to have to say that refrigerators don’t actually cool the food, stoves don’t actually heat food, and airplanes don’t fly because they’re based on the same nonlinear fluid dynamics of radiative transfer that we use in our climate models. It’s the same physics.”

So, one of the ways to solve the climate problem is by finding common ground, Hayhoe said.

“We talk about what matters to us, right?” Hayhoe said. “So if we never talk about it, why would we care? If we don’t care, why would we ever do anything to fix it? Talking about it is very important.”

She said in order to have meaningful conversations, it’s important to start by discussing common ground. Then, explain why climate change matters because of the values shared, Hayhoe said.

The most important thing, Hayhoe said, is to discuss solutions.

Some of the recommendations Hayhoe gave included: switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, utilizing single-stream recycling stations, eating local, watching food waste, driving electric cars, investing in solar panels and using a drying rack instead of racking up electricity bills by using the dryer.

Elise Peterman, a first-year biology student, said climate change is something she feels strongly about.

“I’ve always leaned to the side that climate change is happening, and, after this presentation, I know more of the facts,” Peterman said.

She said she liked how Hayhoe discussed how the largest issue is finding a solution to climate change.

Finding a solution to climate change is something individuals must have hope about, Hayhoe said.

“I find hope in people every single day,” Hayhoe said.

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Scientist talks about future hope for climate change

By Hayley Jacobson

Climate change is real and affects us all, but we still have time to reverse it, a noted climate scientist said Wednesday night.

Katharine Hayhoe talks about talking about climate change at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire as part of the 76th annual Forum Series. © 2019 Hayley Jacobson

“Global warming is one symptom… global weirding is more accurate” said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist who holds a doctorate degree in atmospheric science.

Hayhoe gave her speech “Forecasting Our Future: A Conversation About Climate Change and Extreme Weather,” Wednesday in Schofield auditorium on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus, during a blizzard.

Two hundred and fifty people came out to the campus to hear Hayhoe speak.

Hayhoe received a Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois in atmospheric science. Originally she received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto, but went on to gain the masters degree after taking a course in climate science out of curiosity her website states.

Hayhoe now lives in Texas where she works at Texas Tech University as the director of the Climate Science Center. She also teaches in the department of political science.

Hayhoe’s current work is focusing on establishing a scientific basis for assessing regional to local scale impact of climate change on human systems and natural environment, according to her website.

While people do tend to remember certain weather events, “We don’t often understand climate” said Hayhoe.

She went on to talk about how one cold day, week or even year does not disprove the vast amount of damage already done by climate change. In fact, it only strengthens the argument that it is, in fact, happening, Hayhoe said.

Some specific solutions Hayhoe talked about were clean energy sources, what other countries are currently doing to reduce their carbon footprints, and how communities can work together to create a working goal they can reasonably achieve.

The greatest thing one could do, Hayhoe said as her overall point, is talk to others about climate change.

After the speech, one audience member had his own ideas on what Hayhoe discussed.

“It was impressive how comprehensive it was” said Orion Allgaier, an environmental health major at UW Eau Claire, about Hayhoe’s presentation.

Allgaier attended the forum both out of interest and respect for Hayhoe, and for extra credit in his environmental science class. The speech inspired him, he said.

“… under the new administration it could be done. Eau Claire county is already hoping to be carbon neutral by 2025,” Allgaier said

Hayhoe ended her presentation by stating what the individual could do to help reverse climate change. She gave examples of different types of recycling, and how to connect to others in the community on a basic level to help them understand as well.

The 76th annual The Forum: We Bring the World to You series concluded immediately following Hayhoe’s speech with a public meet and greet for those who wanted to speak with her. This is the end of the forum year. The Forum series will resume next academic year.

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Scientist advocates for effective conversation about climate

By Adam Pearson

Discovering ways climate change effects someone personally and then finding a sense of hope is what is needed to effectively talk about climate change, an atmospheric scientist believes.

“We need hope because without it we will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.”

Katharine Hayhoe spoke at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire’s Schofield Auditorium on April 10th as part of its Forum Series. The speech, entitled “Climate Change, Extreme Weather, and You,” was delivered to a diverse crowd of 250 people who paid to see Hayhoe speak. To interact with the audience, Hayhoe used an app which audience members could access on their phones to ask and answer questions throughout the speech.

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist, speaks at Schofield Auditorium on the UW-Eau Claire campus.
© 2019 Adam Pearson.

Hayhoe, a scientist, speaker and political science professor at Texas Tech University, focused on the effects of climate change on both a local and global level, as well as how to get the people of Wisconsin engaged in the climate change discussion by “connecting the dots” to their own personal values.

“Connect the dots directly to what it means for us here,” Hayhoe said, “Not in the Arctic, not in the Antarctic, but here in Wisconsin.”

Hayhoe acknowledges that the people of Eau Claire are aware of climate change, citing data that shows 59% of Eau Claire adults believe that climate change is real – 2% more than the national average. Where the problem lies, according to Hayhoe, is where Eau Claire, as well as the rest of the country, are in the dark.

“Almost everyone thinks it’s happening,” said Hayhoe before revealing more data showing that very little people believe it will affect them personally. However, Hayhoe believes Wisconsinites are already feeling the effects of climate change; citing the recent flooding, stronger droughts in the south, and a Wisconsin town that broke heat records, cold records, and snow records all in the same month this past March – and Hayhoe suggests it isn’t just a bad streak of weather. By 2030, Hayhoe’s data suggests that Wisconsin summers will feel like Illinois summers.

Hayhoe believes that just seeing what is happening now and knowing what could happen in the future is not what will hit home with people; instead, more effective conversations is the answer.

To have an effective conversation about climate change that will make people care, Hayhoe believes you must start with three steps:

  • Find shared values.

“Do not start the conversation with something that you completely disagree with them on,” Hayhoe said, “You want to begin the conversation with something that you most agree with.”

  • Explain why these values matter to us – connect the dots.
  • Lastly, but most importantly, talk about solutions.

“That is the real problem. Nobody thinks there are any positive solutions,” Hayhoe said.

According to Hayhoe, following these three steps with get people engaged in the climate change discussion while simultaneously forcing them to connect the dots between climate change and the things they care about the most. And that, Hayhoe believes, is what will help the most.

After the speech, audience members seemed to be pleased with Hayhoe’s speech. Todd Wellnitz liked the modern approach with the use of the app, also adding that he is “glad she is at the forefront” of climate change. Larry Metznbauer, a self-proclaimed “70-year-old activist,” has heard Hayhoe speak before but returns because they “share the same motivations.” Metznbauer also said that it is nice to see younger people getting involved because he worries about his kids and grandkids.

Following Hayhoe’s speech, a reception was offered immediately following a 20 minute segment in which Hayhoe allowed audience members to ask questions. One of the questions regarded the burning of fossil fuels.

“We need to figure out how to ween ourselves off those fuels, giving ourselves energy, helping people who don’t have energy get energy because they need it too, in a way that is sustainable, that is clean, and can keep us going long term.”

Hayhoe closed her speech with a quote from another scientist, Jane Goodall.

“It is only when our clever brain, and our human heart, work together in harmony,” Hayhoe said, “That we can achieve our full potential.”

For more information on Katharine Hayhoe, visit her website. Also, visit the Forum’s website to ensure you don’t miss the next event!

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What is one solution to climate change? Talk about it

By Ta’Leah Van Sistine

When it comes to climate change, an atmospheric scientist said many people do not think it will affect them personally.

Atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe says it is not the first time she has given a talk about climate change when it has been icy or snowy out. The snow fell on Wednesday night during her presentation in the Schofield Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus. © 2019 Ta’Leah Van Sistine

“We often don’t think the impacts matter to us,” Katharine Hayhoe, the atmospheric scientist, said.

However, even more people, Hayhoe said, do not ever talk about climate change at all.

Hayhoe spoke in Schofield Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus on Wednesday night as a part of the 2019 Forum season. Her presentation was titled “Forecasting our Future: A Conversation about Climate Change and Extreme Weather.” There were 250 audience members in attendance while Hayhoe discussed why climate change matters, how it can impact people and how people can have conversations about it.

Hayhoe said she too has been challenged when discussing climate change with others.

“The toughest conversations I’ve had are with people I know a lot better,” Hayhoe said, referencing a difficult conversation she had with her uncle.

In three steps, Hayhoe said, people can talk to others about climate change.

The first step of the conversation, Hayhoe said, does not necessarily have to be about climate change.

“Do not start the conversation with something you most disagree on,” Hayhoe said.

She advised that people first discuss something they have in common, whether this is the place where they live or a similar pastime activity, such as hiking.

For the second step, Hayhoe said the people having the conversation should explain to each other that they know climate change is real.

Then Hayhoe said, more importantly for the third step, the individuals should “connect the dots” by relating to what climate change means for them in the places they live and discuss solutions.

Hayhoe also conducted polls with the audience throughout her presentation and one of them asked what people first think of when it comes to climate change. Hayhoe referenced the most popular answers to the question, as the results displayed for everyone to see.

“The biggest things we think about are the things that don’t impact our lives,” Hayhoe said. “(Polar bears and glaciers)–things that are not in Wisconsin.”

In terms of Wisconsin, Hayhoe included several examples of how the state is being impacted by climate change.

“Especially in Wisconsin, we’re seeing less cold days and more hot ones,” Hayhoe said.

It is not just Wisconsin though, Hayhoe said. She shared the statistic that there has been an increase in flooding around the world.

She cited possible solutions to climate change like reducing food waste and said that such a proposition is one of the most effective things we can do. She also mentioned Wisconsin again, by recognizing the energy efficient companies in the state that are, in turn, creating local jobs.

Towards the end of her presentation, Hayhoe mentioned one additional element as being the most crucial in terms of solutions.

“The most important thing we need is hope,” Hayhoe said.

Greyson Morrow, a retired helicopter pilot and audience member at Hayhoe’s presentation, said keeping a positive faith through others is important.

He referenced Hayhoe’s own status as an Evangelical Christian and how she said faith is a great place to begin a conversation about climate change.

“Religion should give you courage to speak,” Morrow said. “It shouldn’t scare you away.”

Morrow said he traveled from Ironwood, Michigan to see Hayhoe speak and said that she is a brave woman. He said he has hope in younger generations to be brave as well.

“(Younger generations) have to be fierce,” Morrow said.

Relating to how she personally witnesses this prospering hope, Hayhoe said it is a constant occurrence.

“I find hope in people every single day,” Hayhoe said.

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Hope is the key to fighting public apathy on climate change

By Peter Martin

People aren’t apathetic to climate change because they are unaware of it, but because they are wary of the action that must be taken to combat it, a prominent climate scientist said Wednesday night.

“We don’t believe that the impacts matter, but we believe that the situations do pose a threat,” said Katharine Hayhoe, director at Texas Tech University’s Climate Change Center, who holds a doctorate in atmospheric science. 

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist with a doctorate in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, speaks to an Eau Claire community audience at Schofield Auditorium. © 2019 Peter Martin

Hayhoe presented on climate change and what she considers the most important steps in combating it at 7:30 p.m. in the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire’s Schofield Auditorium. Her speech was part of the university’s 76th annual Forum Series. Around 250 of the auditorium’s 600 seats were filled. After the speech, attendees were invited to a reception at the Dulany Inn in the campus’s Davies Center.

In addition to her roles as a climate scientist and as director at Texas Tech University’s Climate Science Center, Hayhoe is the CEO and founder of ATMOS Research, an organization focused on providing accurate and pertinent information on climate change to clients in non-profit, governmental and industrial fields.

Her speech tonight brings together her work and her background to focus on the present of what is being done and what can be done to effectively communicate and connect with others facing the difficulties of climate change.

Hayhoe tells the story of her interactions with Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). While he was chair of climate change at the Senate Environmental Committee, Inhofe said “[he] thought [climate change] must be true until [he] found out what it cost.”

Inhofe’s reaction to climate change isn’t an uncommon one, Hayhoe said. Using an interactive web poll, she surveyed the audience to see what they feared action against climate change might mean to them—loss of jobs, damage to the economy and loss of personal freedom were among the serious responses.

To talk about climate change, without provoking that reaction and without provoking an argument, Hayhoe developed a three-step process to talk about climate change.

Her first step is talking about what you agree about, rather than what you disagree about.

For the second step, Hayhoe said to “explain why it matters based on what we share,” and bring the topic of climate change into shared passions and hobbies.

But to her, the third step is the most important step. “Talk about solutions,” Hayhoe said. “Talk about what we’re doing ourselves.”

There are many ways that individuals can reduce their omissions. Hayhoe suggests eating locally, taking advantage of Wisconsin’s plentiful farmer’s markets, eating lower down the food chain and reducing your food waste. She also suggests larger investments, like investing in solar panels or switching to an electric powered vehicle.

When Hayhoe herself purchased an electric car in Texas, it became a center of neighborhood conversation.

“People would see it charging in our driveway as they drove home for the night, and they would get out of their cars and ask what it was,” Hayhoe said, continuing to joke that people would ask if her car had a steering wheel or a gas pedal and some would ask other questions—like where they could get their own.

The electric car followed the third step in more ways than one. It was a personal way to reduce her carbon footprint, but it also created conversations about solutions.

Conversations about solutions, whether those solutions are on personal or community levels, are the most important part of talking about climate change, Hayhoe said. People are wary that solutions to climate change will pose a threat to them but talking about those solutions provides hope that it won’t.

The audience reactions to her speech were mixed. Some came out with a neutral perspective.

“It reinforces what I already believed, but adds a new conversationalist element to it,” said Maddie Loeffler, a University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire student in attendance.

Other members of the audience were more conflicted.

“I’m more hopeful after this forum,” said Stephen Ruthy, another University student, “but I believe that the general future is still bleak because of other studies and information that I’ve read.”

That new hopefulness is the crux of Hayhoe’s fight against climate change.

“When we think about climate change, the most important thing we need is hope… without hope, climate change will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom,” Hayhoe closed her speech with a reminder to stay positive, even in face of the grim truths of climate change.

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Fixing climate change means learning to talk about it

By Anna Sveiven

Uncommon snow fall and icy conditions on an April day set the scene for a speech about global warming from an atmospheric scientist.

“Climate change effects where we live,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a political science professor at Texas Tech University.

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and political science professor at Texas Tech University, addresses climate change during her remarks before an audience of Eau Claire residents and university students. © 2019 Anna Sveiven

Hayhoe covered the topic of global warming through her presentation “Climate Change, Extreme Weather and You,” as part of the university’s 76th Annual Forum Series.

Taking place in Schofield Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire campus Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m to an audience of nearly 250 Eau Claire residents and university students.

In her speech, Hayhoe covered examples of climate change, why climate change matters, and how people can talk about climate change.

Hayhoe gave examples of climate change. Relevant to her Wisconsin audience, she addressed colder winters, hotter summers, and heavier rainfall than broadening her examples to a larger scale of droughts, forest fires, and flooding

In her speech, Hayhoe talked about risks that come along with climate change and breaks the risks into three ideas. Exposure, vulnerability, and weather and climate events.

Exposure to disasters are increasing because the population is increasing, and infrastructure is increasing as well, Hayhoe said.

Vulnerability is increasing because the people are less prepared for disasters.

Disasters are impacting people because they are focusing on the short term, weather, versus the long term, climate, Hayhoe said.

Hayhoe explained why climate change matters not just to the population, but to Eau Claire residents.

Her first of three examples were that the average conditions around the world are changing.

Examples of conditions changing are that growing seasons have gotten longer allergy seasons, and invasive species have become more prominent.

From Hayhoe’s research, she has learned that allergy seasons have become two to three weeks longer than average.

As for invasive species, there are shorter periods of colder weather, which keeps the invasive species controlled, leaving a longer time for these species to wreak havoc, Hayhoe said.

Her second example was that in the future there will be fewer cold days but more hot days. By around the year 2095 there will be about 90 more days that have a temperature above 90 degrees, Hayhoe said.

Her final example addressed that droughts are stronger, forest fires are burning greater and rainfall is heavier. But the same amount of forest fires are occurring, but they are burning longer and wider.

The point that Hayhoe emphasizes is to start a conversation. She has set out three steps to start the conversation.

Her three steps are bonding, explaining, and talk about solutions.

When bonding with a person, find shared values. Where people live, hobbies people are interest in, and faith are a few of the examples Hayhoe gave.

When explaining, explain why the issue matters. Hayhoe explained to the audience why climate changed mattered to her and why it should matter to them.

When talking about solutions, inspire the people you are communicating with. Small changes can have large impacts, Hayhoe said.

These small changes can be eating locally, recycling, and changing lightbulbs. Larger changes can be driving an electric vehicle or getting solar panels.

Audience member and Eau Claire resident Lissa Greer’s thoughts on Hayhoe’s forum were that it was accessible, inspirational, and very informative.

“It made me realize there is a lot of work to do,” said Greer.

Hayhoe left her audience with the idea of hope. Hope through ones faith, education or the people around them

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Talking about climate change will help fix it

By Erin Liebeck

Climate change is a threat multiplier, said an atmospheric scientist who believes that climate change will continue to affect the planet if something isn’t done about it soon.

“The number one thing we need to do is talk about it (climate change),” said Katharine Hayhoe. “Talking about it is really important.”

On Wednesday evening, Hayhoe spoke in front of a crowd of 250 people at Schofield Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus. She spoke as part of the university’s 76th Forum Series. Here, she focused on what individuals can do to stop the vicious cycle of the changing climate.

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist, spoke about climate change as part of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Forum Series. © 2019 Erin Liebeck

In addition to being an atmospheric scientist, Hayhoe is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, according to Hayhoe’s website.

Hayhoe’s work in climate science has earned her numerous honors. She was named one of Fortune magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders in 2017. As well as earning the 2018 YWCA Woman of Excellence in Science award and the eighth Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication.

During her speech, Hayhoe said that she believes that nearly everyone cares about the changing climate, they just don’t realize it. Hayhoe stresses that individuals need to connect the dots about why climate change matters.

“Many people believe that in order to fix climate change, we need to go back to the stone age,” said Hayhoe. “This is absolutely not true.”

Hayhoe said that many individuals believe that the solutions to climate change pose a threat to society. She added that they think the solutions are too pricey and will destroy the economy.

However, Hayhoe said affordable solutions, such as reducing food waste, can help fight against climate change.

During her speech, Hayhoe also stressed the importance of the conversation of climate change. She said that nearly 59 percent of people in Eau Claire believe that climate change is caused by human activity, yet a majority of individuals say they never talk about it.

Fear is not going to motivate individuals, Hayhoe said while talking about how to get individuals to make a change for a better climate. The world needs to have hope and a vision of a better future.

“Without hope, our self-fulfilling prophecy is doom,” said Hayhoe.

 She explained how climate change not only affects individuals currently living, but how it will affect future children, animals, plants and nature.

Across the globe efforts have been made to stop climate change. China has been investing in clean energy and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide they are emitting into the atmosphere. Hayhoe added that China has also shut down all their coal plants around Beijing.

Hayhoe also said that in Texas, the Dallas/Fort-Worth International Airport became North America’s first carbon neutral airport.

Organizations, such as Apple Inc. are now powered by 100 percent renewable energy and Walmart plans to be powered by 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, Hayhoe said while talking about organizations that are taking a stand against climate change.

Audience member Carin Keyes said the forum helped her realize that solutions for global warming can be positive and affordable.

To Keyes, Hayhoe’s work is astounding.

“She is influential on all levels of her work,” Keyes said.

Hayhoe’s work in climate change has helped individuals and organizations evaluate the potential impacts of climate change, according to Hayhoe’s website.

She explains that change is happening, it is just not happening fast enough.

“We often picture this problem as a boulder on the bottom of a hill,” Hayhoe said. “But in reality, that boulder is already at the top of the hill. And it has millions of hands on it, pushing it down. It just isn’t going fast enough.”

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