Harvard University professor discusses climate change solutions during Maverick Speakers Series

Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University science history professor, details the history of climate change science Tuesday at Texas Hall as part of the Maverick Speakers Series. Oreskes encouraged the audience to focus on solutions in future climate change discussions in order to help solve the problem and raise awareness.

Climate change is the cause of market failure, and governments along with businesses need to find solutions.

That was the message Naomi Oreskes, science history professor and the affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, sent during Tuesday’s Maverick Speakers Series.

During her speech, she addressed arguments that science wasn’t settled on climate change even though scientific research history showed scientists had determined the potential effects of climate change in the 1960s.

In 1965, research showing the effects humans had on climate change already made it to former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s desk.

However, the inability to estimate how quickly the effects of climate change would occur kept action from taking place, Oreskes said.

The question of whether climate change is happening and what's causing it is like asking if hats are real, she said, referencing comedian John Oliver.

Oreskes said historically, addressing environmental issues with government intervention was a one-sided affair. Some of the most significant environmental protections were made under Republican administrations.

However, at the end of the Cold War and with the death of the Soviet Union, those who were against the communists shifted their attention to the "extreme" environmentalists, Oreskes said.

This put scientists at odds with those political beliefs as politicians advocated for inaction fearing a slippery slope back to communism regarding a solution.

The Cold War politicians went with the smoking lobby tactic, which prevented government regulations on smoking for many years and adopted them into the climate change issue, Oreskes said.

However, The U.S. Government has been successful in taking environmental action in regards to tobacco, acid rain and holes in the ozone, Oreskes said.

“They were all governmental interventions in the marketplace. And they all worked,” she said. “We did not bring down global capitalism.”

Going forward, Oreskes encouraged the audience to focus on solutions and finding commonality with those who deny climate change.

She also encouraged the business community to participate in finding a solution such as renewable energy, which is a growing industry that is cheaper to produce than fossil fuels.

“The whole point of governance is to balance competing interests, competing interpretations of freedom,” she said.

Arne Winguth, earth and environmental science chair, said the speech was wonderful and hopes those in attendance understood the issue better and can better explain the challenges the world faces with climate change.

Jacqueline Carney, UTA alumna and Citizens Climate Lobby volunteer, said it's great the university is able to bring speakers like Oreskes as it really helps alumni maintain a relationship with the university.

The next Maverick Speakers Series will host Jack Hanna, zookeeper and animal conservationist, on Feb. 5, 2019.

@KyleRCotton

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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