Where in the world are you?
Wellington, New Zealand
What do you do in the world?
I am a scientist. I do research on the climate system, and teach at a university. I am also a husband, a father, a brother, an uncle and I spend a good part of my time with family, and doing things around our home.
In one sentence, what is climate change?
Climate change is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced.
How does climate change affect your life?
It shapes my thinking, in my daily life, in my work, and in my communications with the public and with policy makers.
What do you feel you can do about it?
I can make changes in my daily life, to drive less and cycle or use public transport more, reduce energy use in my home, reuse, and recycle. I have recently started offsetting my air travel using the Ekos carbon offsetting service. I also communicate with my elected representatives in Government asking for more ambition in terms of policy to reduce emissions and to facilitate the transition away from fossil fuels. Finally, I teach students about the realities of climate change and communicate with the public at large as much as I can, through the traditional media, via social media, and by speaking at public meetings.
Do you feel there is more you could do? If so, what is stopping you from doing those things?
Always! My lifestyle could have a lower carbon footprint than it does, but the way our society is set up, this is not easy. I am pushing for political changes to make it easier for all of us to generate electricity renewably, to travel via electric vehicles, etc. We do not yet have solar panels on our roof at home, nor do we yet drive an electric vehicle, and these are mostly cost issues. They are both on the agenda, though!
What's your favourite Sunday afternoon activity?
Pottering around in the garden, or walking on the beach.
Extra for experts: Do you remember how you first became active in climate change?
Was there something specific that triggered you to act? How old were you then? How old are you now?
My research has gradually drifted in the direction of climate change over the years, from thinking about shorter-term weather variations. I did some early work on climate change for NZ in 1990, but it was when I became involved as a contributor to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) process in the late 1990s that I really started to realise the urgency of the issue - and that was nearly 20 years ago! I was around 40 then, and I'm 59 now.
Free space: write anything you like, nothing at all, or ask us a question
Climate change is unlike any issue any of us has faced before. Human civilisations have developed over the past several thousand years, during a period when the sea level has remained static and the climate hasn't really changed systematically on the global scale. So we have become used to the idea that we can live right by the coast and we can grow our food where we've always grown it. But those certainties are now gone, and it's hard work to really take that on board and respond to it. Plus, climate change affects all peoples and countries of the world, and effective action involves all countries - something that has never happened to us before. Finding ways to get us all talking and agreeing is almost as big a challenge as climate change itself!
It is clear to me that climate change will transform our lives over the rest of this century and beyond. I worry for the next generation and the one after that - the worst-case future is bleak indeed, with widespread hunger and water shortages, forced migration, conflict, and many deaths. Like Syria and the Mediterranean migrant crisis times 1000, almost everywhere. Because of the way greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) build up in the atmosphere, we now have very little time to act to avoid that future – but avoid it we can. We have had 10,000 years of climate stability. Our actions in this century and the last will shape the climate system for the 10,000 years to come. Let us make the future as benign as we can by working as hard as we can over the next 10-20 years to really put a stop to the greenhouse gas emissions we now know are driving climate change.
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