One of the reasons Norway is famous is because a Norwegian committee awards the Nobel Peace Prize every year in December. Because John is incredible, our family got to attend a free Nobel Peace Prize concert as a family a week ago on a Sunday night (December 9th), the day before the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded officially in Oslo. Then John and I got to attend a free Nobel Peace Prize forum on climate change on Tuesday, December 11th. The forum featured a keynote speech by Al Gore (!!) and a panel discussion with several climate experts including Katherine Hayhoe (another climate idol of mine!) who is the Director of Climate Science Center at Texas Tech (and a climate communicator who has connected with many evangelical/conservative communities to get them on board with acting on climate change in the US).
Both were fantastic though I have to say the forum which took place at noon while the kids were at school was my favorite. But let’s start with the concert. In past years, the Nobel Peace Prize committee has hosted a huge concert with famous artists. This year however, because of budget concerns, they hosted a much smaller concert outside Oslo City hall at 6pm and invited anyone interested to come for free (provided they signed up for a ticket in advance.) So, thanks to John we signed up. Whenever Ada goes to any performance, she likes to get as close as she can to the stage so she can see and dance. So, we ended up following her to the gate right next to a person filming the concert for the NRK, Norway’s version of NPR. When the woman filming noticed Ada right behind her before the concert started, she told us she would ask security if we could go through the gates to the VIP area so Ada could see even better. Security said yes (without even talking to us) and we got to watch the concert within 200 feet of the booth where the Nobel Peace Prize winners, Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad were seated. Here is a pic of the winners next to the concert stage:
That blue booth with spotlights on the right is where they were seated:
Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad were awarded the peace prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. So, interspersed between songs, we got to watch a few short clips explaining more about their work (which made for a sobering experience especially when I had to explain to Maddie why they got the prize!) Here’s a pic of Ada on John’s shoulders still trying to get the best view of one of those clips:
And here is Ada dancing:
A few days later, John and I go to hear Al Gore speak about climate change during a keynote, see the panel of climate experts, and then watch Al Gore give an interview for NRK. Here is a picture of Al Gore giving his interview:
Other panelists included Katherine Hayhoe, the Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, Dr. Thina Margrethe Saltvedt, the Head of the Sustainable Finance Division of Nordea Bank in Norway, and Professor Ricarda Winkelmann of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Al Gore spoke first explaining the basics of climate change. I took copious notes since climate change is one of my passions (and apologies for the length of this post!)
Right now we are releasing 110 million metric tons heat trapping gases (mostly CO2) every day into our relatively thin atmosphere (Carl Sagan compared the atmosphere’s thickness as a varnish on a desktop globe when you compare the height of our atmosphere to the size of the earth.) Here is a picture of me in front of one metric ton the Nobel Peace Prize committee placed in front of the building where the talk took place.
Gore explained that the greenhouse gases we have released so far trap as much heat as would be released by 500,000 Hiroshima sized atomic bombs exploding every day. A lot of this heat has been warming up our oceans causing stronger hurricanes and typhoons and has been disrupting the water cycle, causing rain bombs instead of typical rain showers and extreme droughts leading to more wildfires (and increasing California’s wildfire season by 105 days). Of course, all of this is already disrupting agriculture. Right now because of all this heat, a few places in the world like the Middle East and North Africa are already starting to experience heat indices that are close to exceeding the boundaries where humans can live (i.e., be outside for more than 2 hours without dying.)
Al Gore then explained that these weather conditions have caused us to experience more refugees today than immediately after World War II. For example, the crisis in Syria began because Syrians experienced the worst drought in 900 years (caused by climate change) where 80% of their goats died and 60% of their farms failed. Honduras was ranked as the country most vulnerable to climate change because of changes in the water cycle. Because of an extreme drought there caused by climate change, that caravan of migrants is coming to the US because they haven’t had a harvest in more than a year and have to find a way to feed their children.
Gore stated that after three years of stabilized greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, this year saw a 2.7% increase in emissions. This is in part because right now the governments of the world continue to subsidize fossil fuels 38 times more than renewables worldwide. We also continue to cut down forests at a rate of a football field a second contributing to climate change and unfortunately the new President of Brazil views the Amazon as an agricultural resource to be cut down instead of an important way to reduce climate change.
Fortunately, Gore explained that solutions are available and hope is around the corner. In the US today, the two fastest growing jobs are solar installers and wind service technicians. Although the US plans to withdraw from the Paris Treaty in 2020, we have regional leaders like California which plans to be carbon neutral by 2045 and Indiana whose largest utility recently determined that the way to provide the cheapest electricity to their customers was to build wind and solar and shut down their coal power plants.
Al Gore ended his talk by stating that the politics can change quickly (like with gay marriage) and he believes political will is a renewable resource. I certainly hope he’s right especially since my favorite organization, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, is supporting an incredible BIPARTISAN bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives that would put a price on carbon and return ALL the revenue from that price to individuals so we not only stop climate change but people can afford the increase in their gas and utility bills. PLEASE learn more and support this bill by clicking here.
(I’m also so excited that so many Republicans in the United States are interested in supporting renewables and fighting climate change and that one of the cosponsors of the bill is Delaware’s own Senator Chris Coons and Arizona’s Republican Senator Jeff Flake!)
Also, here is a great short clip explaining what the bill will do:
After Al Gore spoke, we watched a new documentary by Neil Halloran about climate change called Degrees of Uncertainty. This documentary did an amazing job of explaining how climate scientists can make conclusions about the past climate and predictions about future climate, even though every measurement we make has some uncertainty. It’s not yet available for the public but you can see the trailer here:
We then listened to several panelists talk including my favorite, Katherine Hayhoe who unlike Al Gore appeals more to conservatives. Katherine Hayhoe listed several myths about climate change. Here is a pic of Katherine Hayhone on the left in the pink jacket:
The first myth is that climate change is distant in both time and space. Today the majority of Americans believe in climate change but they believe that climate change is something that won’t affect them personally. Unfortunately, I whole-heartedly agree with this statement. One of my cousins lives in Florida and had to flee Hurricane Irma, another lives in California and his vineyard was almost scorched by the wildfires there. In Delaware, we were almost hit by Hurricane Sandy and in the spring and early summer, I am paranoid my kids are going to get lyme disease because climate change is causing tick populations to explode.
Myth number two is that people think that only environmentalist’s care about climate change. Katherine connects with Christians by explaining how the first people to suffer from climate change are the poor and women and children which is hardly fair since the wealthy are those that are responsible for this problem. It also turns out that one of the most cost effective ways to address climate change is to invest in women and children since educated girls tend to have less children. This solution is something Al Gore didn’t mention in his talk and I think can get ignored by many in the climate community (which tends to be science/tech focused.)
The most dangerous myth Katherine stated is that climate change won’t affect us personally but actions to address climate change will threaten our way of life by making us return to the stone ages. I was surprised by this statement because honestly every solution to climate change I’ve heard of makes our lives better. Not using fossil fuels create more jobs (there are more jobs in solar and wind per unit of energy produced than any fossil fuel.) Our air and water will be cleaner, we will have more forests, and eat healthier food, we will walk more and drive less and thus have closer knit communities. If we address climate change as proposed in the bill mentioned above, the average family won’t even lose money (e.g., unlike in France, the increase in the price of gas for example, will be returned to them in the form of a monthly dividend check.) The list of benefits to addressing climate change really goes on and on (especially if you address it in a revenue neutral way like the bill described above).
After Katherine Hayhoe spoke, Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN talked about the link between food and climate change. He described how climate change is starting to reduce the gains we’ve made on hunger that have been occurring since the 90’s. In 1990, 1 billion people were malnourished but that number went down to less than 800 million in 2014. Unfortunately, in large part because of climate change, that number has climbed to 821 million in 2018. De Silva then mentioned how any food insecurity is inextricably linked to war and conflict (e.g., Syria). This is perhaps one reason the Noble Peace Prize committee chose to host a keynote on climate change!
Finally, Da Silva mentioned how climate change is is causing our food to be less nutritious but one way to adapt to climate change is to diversify what we eat (beyond corn soy and wheat which is an astounding 80% of what we eat worldwide) which made me hopeful that if we tackle this problem effectively, we will be healthier for it.
There were a few other panelists but I believe this blog post has become more of an essay than a short blog. So, I’ll stop there and ask those of you reading this in the states to call or write your representative and ask them to support this bill!