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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