Getting Serious About Climate Change – Charles David Keeling Annual Lecture (Transcript)

This is the full transcript of the 2014 Charles David Keeling lecture delivered by Professor David Victor, an internationally recognized leader in research on energy and climate change policy. 




Introducing Speaker: Welcome to this Charles David Keeling lecture. This is my first and so I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you. The past few days have been ones where climate has been very much in the news. About a week ago the US released its third National Climate Assessment and the very strong message from that Climate Assessment was that climate change is not no longer something that’s just in the future, its impacts are upon us already. Now it is a very sobering message and one that I can assure you the scientific community was concerned to hear.

We’ve also in the last few days received media attention from around the world concerning the Keeling Curve that was Charles David Keeling’s research program to measure CO2 continuously and that has been carried on since he stopped running the program by his son Ralph Keeling who you’re going to hear introduce David Victor and Ralph’s Keeling research group reported May 1st that April 2014 was the first month in human history in which the concentration of greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, not greenhouse gases in general — in the atmosphere stayed above 400 parts per million for the entire month. So that also was quite a sobering reflection for the entire community.

The choice of David Victor as tonight’s Keeling lecture is also especially timely because discussion of climate change has moved beyond just the detection of it, the attribution of it but spurred by the knowledge that it is already happening has moved into the issue of adaptation and how we’re all going to deal with this in the present day.

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And that really brings climate change to society and so it’s very important for us to start broadening our discussions beyond the scientific community into the social science community. We’re going to require help from economists to help us understand the implications of decisions that we have to make, the practical decisions about how to adapt to climate change. Where do we draw the line between protecting assets and maybe having to abandon some of our assets? How do we adapt what we’re going to face to our personal values, messages that people should make prudent decisions after important floods or wildfires about the implications of that for where they live, municipalities discussing how to share water rights for dwindling water resources.

These are the kinds of questions that lead us into the real world and into the politics of climate change and the social science. And those are questions that David Victor has been considering for many years. He is an author of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and in fact he was telling me just a few minutes ago that the whole first couple of weeks of class and he’s teaching four classes this term, he was commuting to Berlin where the conference of the parties was doing the summary for policymakers. So we would go for a couple days come back and teach for a couple days and then go back to Berlin. That’s the kind of dedication that all of the members of the IPCC assessment have shown.

So he has been upfront row observer of the political gridlock that has waxed and waned over the past decade and he’s going to share some thoughts with us about that.

And now to tell you – just I’ve told you a little bit about what his field is but to tell you a little bit more about David himself, I’d like to welcome Ralph Keeling, son of Charles David Keeling,  and the steward of the CO2 measurements that were started some 50 — how many years ago – 56 years ago. Ralph?

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Ralph Keeling

So thank you Margaret and the Keeling lecture we have each year we invite a prominent member of the global change, climate change community to give a talk that somehow reflects in an appropriate way the legacy of my father’s work. His work was of course confined to the science of global warming and particularly of CO2. But the legacy includes topics that relate to impacts and what the society should do about it.

And that this year I’m pleased that we can bring someone in who reflects more human dimension of the problem having to do with the politics and the negotiation, having to do with trying to make progress towards treaties to reduce greenhouse gases.

So it gives me great pleasure to welcome David Victor. He is a professor of international relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies here at UCSD, sometimes known as IRPS. He is also director the laboratory of international law and regulation at the program.

Here is a little bit of background. He received a BA at Harvard and I’ve learned that we crossed paths a bit at Harvard, although I think we just narrowly missed getting to know each other because we were TA in the same course in different years. He moved on to get a PhD in political science from MIT. Before coming to UCSD he was a professor at Stanford Law School where he also served as director of the program on energy and sustainable development.

One measure of his impact is the large role he plays in an advisory capacity and I could go on at length here but just a couple prominent ones. He is currently a member of the Advisory Council of Electric Power Research Institute and has been on the Board of Directors there since 2013. Interesting one here – he is the chairman of the Community Engagement Panel established earlier this year to deal with communication and outreach having to do with decommissioning of San Onofre power plant. So obviously a delicate and interesting process undergoing – going on there.

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