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.
“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.