Videos: How we know humans are changing the climate and Why climate change is a clear and present danger

After the 90-minute panel on “The Science of Climate Change” with Dr. Christopher Field and Dr. Michael MacCracken (video and PPTs here), I interviewed them both.

First, here’s Christopher Field, the director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, professor of biology and environmental earth system science at Stanford University, and the Working Group II Co-Chair for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

Second, here’s Michael MacCracken is the chief scientist for Climate Change Programs at the Climate Institute and a co-author and contributing author for various chapters in the IPCC assessment reports.


41 Responses to Videos: How we know humans are changing the climate and Why climate change is a clear and present danger

  1. Nigel Dahlstrom says:

    The IPCC reports are not serious papers. They are informal anecdotes and stories. Thart tarnishes their reputations.

    Enjoy the Blizzard.

    It’s cold out there. God brings the climate and weather,

    [JR: Well argued, if utterly false. Actually, it’s kind of warm everywhere!]

  2. It is really fascinating that the first comment on this really good, and understandable input from Joe is missinpreted and downvalued by Nigel Dahlstrom. (Did he actually watch the videos??)

    Joe, thank you for your great work! Keep on with it, we are millions that not comment on everything but really appreciate that what you do!

    Maybe also should comment one thing about the films – they are good way to get out the knowledge to people that doesn´t read and understand diagrams and scientific papers.
    Could recommend the popular pieces made by Peter Sinclair on
    They are called “Climate Denial Crock of the Week”.

  3. George Ennis says:

    Thanks for the great work you are doing.

    It is indeed a peculiar age we live in. We enjoy standards of living that are the product of centuries of scientific advancement. Yet paradoxically we find ourselves in a world where tens if not hundreds of millions of people are not just illiterate about the basic science of climate change but about science itself. How does one fight such illiteracy or at least prevent it from continuing to poison the well of public discourse as to an appropriate and timely policy response?

    What is worse is the unrelenting personal attacks on the motives of scientists. Again watching, listening and reading your comments is inspiring in terms of the raw grit and determination you show in continuing to battle against the forces of ignorance.

  4. Lore says:


    Keep doing more of these video interviews! I think it’s very important to get the average working scientist’s perspective out to the public. We hear so little in the media from these people, other then in the fast news cycle limelight of controversy.

  5. Russell Swan says:

    There are those who refuse to accept that the world is warming, that there exists no problem. A movement obviously exists to undermine public confidence in the historical record of climate as well as the integrity of the scientists reporting the warming. This effort has been accelerated of late just as global temperatures are nearing record breaking levels. What a coincidence!

    Those who do not follow the science closely, as well as those influenced by ideological barriers, are easily lead by the nose by this effort to confuse. How can the scientists get the message out without seeming alarmist, hoax perpetrating schemers as portrayed by this corporate driven disinformation champaign? Can they effectively utilize the mainstream media which is also portrayed as biased and untrustworthy?

    The dis-informers seem to have all the bases covered and the general public is being effectively manipulated and turned against science. The silence from the scientists and their emissaries is deafening. Is there no way to fight back? How to convince those that a blizzard and regional cold is not evidence against AGW?

    Does there exist a pillar of scientific integrity who could stand up and say to the world “The world is unequivocally warming and human activities are largely the cause” just to set the record straight?

  6. Stefan Min says:

    Thank you, Joe, for these two great videos.

  7. Eve says:

    Thanks, Joe. These are such clear, concise explanations.
    Having lived far from America for the past 17 years, I cant quite
    understand what is going on with all the denial of the climate change
    science. Anyway, fossil fuels are finite and polluting. Coal mining
    is dangerous to miners’ health and lives. Even if were no climate change, wouldnt it be a good idea to develop solar, wind and other alternative technologies? Eve

  8. Leif says:

    How to break the forces of ignorance? How about taking Capitalism to court? Sort of a modern Scopes trial but instead of science against the Church and God we have Science against unchecked capitalism. Truly a formidable foe! The press would have a field day! Mankind has developed capitalism and it has proved to be superior to other economic systems as far as generating money and equity. However it is quite clear in my opinion that the final evolution of capitalism has not been reached. If capitalism is not charged with lifting the well being of all humanity, and facts clearly show it is not, then it is a failed system. If capitalism actively works to discredit peer reviewed science, cloud discussion of environmental degradation, ignore the science of global warming and ocean acidification, to the benefit of capitalism and detriment of humanities long term survival, then clearly we have developed a failed economic system. I currently see no option but to go to court and sue for all the profits produced by capitalism and slap a “cease and diciest” order on the current capitalistic abomination and reconfigure it into something humanity can “LIVE” with.

    “Never go to sea in a boat you would not be proud to have as your coffin.”

  9. Robert says:

    OMG Nigels Nonsense! One doesn’t have to go very far to find a classic case of the man from OSS! >[ Ostrich* Syndrome Society] First, it’s always fun to go to Dictionary Dot Com to refresh our understanding of this hilarious iconic bird!
    1. a large, two-toed, swift-footed flightless bird, Struthio camelus, indigenous to Africa and Arabia, domesticated for its plumage: the largest of living birds.
    2. a person who attempts to ignore unpleasant facts or situations.

    Nigel shows his blatant bias by making the preposterous statement that the IPCC reports are not serious papers! This shows he has no concept of the meaning of the word ‘serious’. But let’s take him serious for just a moment before we look deeper into his nonsense, motives and purpose! The link below will easily dispel any thought that the works of the IPCC is nothing less then a vast effort to communicate the Global Warming Issue to the whole world … ah no … only to that portion of the world that is willing to listen and think! So enough time wasted on Nigels Nonsense, as we should not waste our valued time in letting his spin work. Taking him serious is a fool’s errand as Joe certainly knows. It’s my thought that he allows this blurb to see the light of day, to make us aware of how some people will try any spin probably from a deep rooted bias that is best labeled by the word ‘incredulous’. He finds joy in being the clown in the room by trying to create a ruckus without putting any honest effort into presenting any original work! If he were an honest broker he would first read the vast IPCC reports that defies his premise at first glance! Click on the below link for any who wish to delve further into his folly!

  10. Robert says:

    Lief, it is my thought that capitalism isn’t the criminal as much as it is corruption by the ‘men’* bent on politicizing the problem. The ‘MEN’ must be the Fossil Fuel Industry, tied to the fossil fueled power industry and throw in the vast nuclear industry pumping their donations to our highly esteemed elected government officials. Thank the Supreme Court for the devaluation of ballot box by allowing the unlimited slush-funding of our dear congressmen! It’s my hope that capitalism can see the prize market of clean energy. China isn’t missing that bet!

  11. mike roddy says:

    I agree with the commenters- concise and basically irrefutable videos (unless you want to read the latest batch of comments on Dot Earth about the public’s “loss of confidence” in IPCC).

    Leif, I like the idea of legal action as well. The public interest plaintiffs could even focus on recovering health and pollution effects as well as global warming damages, since all CO2 emitting activities (including fracting for gas) degrade air and water quality. In this scenario, coal would be the first to go, and industrial logging in the US would find itself under siege as well. There could be a favorable verdict from a Federal Court, and even if the Supremes overturn it the path would be established. This succeeded with tobacco, and it took them many years of trial and error before the proper briefs were prepared.

    Where are the awake attorneys on this?

  12. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Nigel’s post brings to mind the phrase Nattering Nabobs of Negativism from a long ago political campaign. There seem to be a lot more ignorant bloggers out there than scientists. I have to wonder how much of the anti-science campaign is funded by the ExxonMobils of the world? Do some bloggers get paid for posting denialist dribble? Or do they have anti-science blogging parties?

  13. Jeff Huggins says:

    Several Thoughts

    Great work, Joe. Videos of real people are very helpful. Keep ’em coming.

    Second, I’ll take this opportunity to pose the question to Stanford, again. Christopher Field, from Stanford, tells us — very responsibly, sincerely, and intelligently — that global warming is real and is mainly caused by human activity. Yet, there is a Prof. at Stanford who has been on the Board of Directors of ExxonMobil for over a decade. In my view, Stanford should ask itself whether it is merely an expensive piece of real estate from which people can do anything, no matter how unwise, or whether modern universities (including itself) have a greater responsibility to society to convey genuine wisdom and fact. I’ve posed the question more completely in another thread, so I won’t go into detail again here.

    Third, I agree with Mike Roddy (Comment 11) about the need for legal action. Major scientific and environmental organizations should start the lawsuits NOW — naming ExxonMobil and etc., including individual executives and Board members — so that those processes are started and those people are “on notice”. It will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to even begin to “adapt” single areas — e.g., the San Francisco Bay Area alone — to the changes in sea level and etc. brought about by climate change, if we don’t address the climate problem responsibly. Those costs should naturally and justly be paid for by PRESENT decision-makers in those organizations and by the organizations themselves. So, start filing the lawsuits, and start keeping track of damages and costs. Citizens groups should do the same.

    Finally, I’d like to offer to do a simple — but I hope very good — guest post here on CP, if that sort of thing is allowable. Of course, I’d submit it for your consideration, Joe. It would identify and briefly discuss a key part of the overall matter that does not get the attention that it cries out for and that will be necessary to help larger chunks of the public “get it”. So Joe, would you be willing to consider a short guest post, by me, that I could submit in a week or so?

    Be Well,


  14. Robert says:

    Bill (12),

    Oh how quickly the puppet learns the dance! Rest assured there are Mobil fat cats, sitting at their work computers with nothing better to do then sell the company [gas] line! It is nothing short of a miracle that we have a Joe who can give us this platform for truth!

  15. herwig says:

    Certainly off topic.
    What I do not understand is the incredible belief in the free market.
    The market will solve all our problems because renewable energy will become cheaper than ff-energy. This is not true because the free market is as much a utopy as marxism is. The big companies of this world, state-regulated or not, will allways dominate the market and will use any possible trick to make us, simple consumers, to pay the highest possible price for what we want to consume whether it be energy, food or whatever you can think of.
    Joe, I appreciate your comments on climate change but I also believe that it does’nt change anything. I really hope I’m wrong.

    A simple European.

  16. Anonymous says:


    As much as we appreciate the videos that you mention, is it possible to provide links to transcripts and/or articles as well? The percentage of people who are deaf or hearing-impaired is growing as the population ages and very few videos are closed-captioned.

  17. Eric says:

    [vocalization from the silent appreciative millions]

    thanks JR, great work

  18. espiritwater says:

    George Ennis says:

    “It is indeed a peculiar age we live in. We enjoy standards of living that are the product of centuries of scientific advancement. Yet paradoxically we find ourselves in a world where tens if not hundreds of millions of people are not just illiterate about the basic science of climate change but about science itself. How does one fight such illiteracy or at least prevent it from continuing to poison the well of public discourse as to an appropriate and timely policy response?

    What is worse is the unrelenting personal attacks on the motives of scientists. Again watching, listening and reading your comments is inspiring in terms of the raw grit and determination you show in continuing to battle against the forces of ignorance.”
    Ignorance is not confined to poverty and the uneducated!

  19. Prokaryote says:

    Very good videos. Short and in layman terms. Keep it coming!

    Suggestion: Videos with climate scientist commenting climate science studys, charts and anomalies.

  20. Richard Brenne says:

    Joe – Great videos, asking and answering the basic questions is key and must be done countless times and in countless ways. Right now I’d say you’re doing this better than anyone.

    Nigel (#1) writes,

    “The IPCC reports are not serious papers. They are informal anecdotes and stories. That tarnishes their reputations.”

    The IPCC Reports are thorough reviews of the known and agreed-upon science pertaining to climate change. As Dr. Field said, they’re the most complete and impressive review of science ever done. Also, I’d say that no collection of volunteers I know of have given more expertise and spent more time on anything so scientifically rigorous only to be relentlessly attacked for their service to humankind.

    Nigel continues: “Enjoy the Blizzard.”

    I would! I’d be skiing down the Capitol steps now if I were there (unfortunately I’m on the other coast in Portland, Oregon where we haven’t had a single day or night below 35 degrees since well back into December).

    The IPCC Reports and all other most credible scientists agree that more burning of fossil fuels means more CO2 in the atmosphere that means more global warming that means more evaporation off the oceans that means more water vapor in the atmosphere and more heat means more energy that is released in more dramatic precipitation events, and where it’s cold enough to snow those events can and will often come as snow.

    Nigel continues: “It’s cold out there.”

    Nowhere near record cold. Since January 1,2000 the U.S. has had over twice as many daily heat records as cold records, and global warming means this ratio will increase over time, quite possibly to 20 to 1 by 2050 and 50 to 1 by 2100. I think any educated person visiting this site will take a bet with you or anyone else that there will be more heat records than cold records in 2010 or any other year or decade in the future you care to pick. If Earth were cooling, we’d see more cold than heat records.

    Nigel concludes: “God brings the climate and weather.”

    Nature does bring climate and weather. But species can have an impact on weather, in fact oxygen-emitting life forms transformed the atmosphere to include oxygen billions of years ago.

    The carbon cycle that has developed is very delicate. Over hundreds of millions of years much carbon has been sequestered in the Earth’s crust and one species – ours – has removed this and burnt much of it in just a few hundred years, or often one-millionth the amount of time it has been there. We’ve emitted half of this CO2 within the last few decades.

    Our global and national economies are built on this burning of fossil fuels, which allows our lifestyles to be what they are. This has also come with exploiting and oppressing a high percentage of the world’s people to obtain their resources and cheap labor, so that a billion of the world’s poorest people are malnourished (think Haiti before the earthquake times over a hundred).

    All of this adds up to the equivalency of addiction to any drug or alcohol, an example George W. Bush invoked in a State of the Union speech.

    So in terms of a theology you might appreciate, we’ve been behaving destructively like addicts, and our addiction has had a price, and one of the prices is climate change. I would hope that if you were an alcoholic you would not say, “God brings addiction and there’s nothing I can do about it” but instead, as AA and others state, “With God’s help and my own determination, focus and discipline I can and will heal my addiction.”

    And since we’re all in this together, this is what I hope and pray we can agree to do together, Nigel.

  21. Greg says:


    Thank you. Video interviews are a wonderful successful communication tool for the audience that needs to hear you. May I suggest an interview at a scientist’s home with him/her and family in background. Add the kids and the spouse to the interview and ask them about dad/mom’s motivations and passion for his/her work and personal views on climate change. Makes “scientists” real. Shows their standards of living and their humanity as well.



  22. espiritwater says:

    Nigel Dahlstrom says:
    February 6, 2010 at 8:36 am
    “The IPCC reports are not serious papers. They are informal anecdotes and stories. Thart tarnishes their reputations. Enjoy the Blizzard.It’s cold out there. God brings the climate and weather”,

    Yep, God created nature but He also gave us free will; we can obey natural laws or ignore them. If you want to jump off a cliff, thereby killing yourself by ignoring the law of gravity, that’s your choice. But you WILL reap what you’ve sown!

    Likewise, if mankind thinks he can continue to rape and plunder the earth, heat up the planet, disregard the welfare of other living creatures and get by with it, he’s sadly mistaken! He will reap Hell and High water!

    In the end, Mother Nature takes all. We have to submit to Her! We DO reap what we sow and mankind has a whole lot of reaping coming his way.

  23. h20_nh says:

    Great stuff.

    It’s not worth responding to the Nigel’s of the world! With that said the great middle where folks are confused, but will listen and are somewhat rationale, are an important target audience.

  24. Leif says:

    Robert, #10: “…capitalism isn’t the criminal as much as it is corruption by the ‘men’* bent on politicizing the problem.” Me thinks that we are already in a gray area as the Supreme Court has now bestowed “individual rights” with respect to campaign donations and messaging. Perhaps much more, as the Lawyers have not had a chance to explore the boundaries should any exist. In my opinion it is Corporations with a license to kill and not the individual CEO, Director, or what ever. (Think tobacco, coal mining, Bhopal, Love Canal, auto industry resistance to seat-belts, etc.) And condoned by Capitalism. More recently corporate stone-walling on the science of AGW. Corporations, now being individuals have a right to spend money, a large portion of which was earned by being allowed to use the air, water, and earth as a free dump for countless tons of waste that society will be obliged to mitigate if we expect to survive. The science is clear if the time line is not, which should be immaterial anyway. Economics tells us that a “stitch in time saves nine.” Do you truly feel that without Corporate and Capitalistic support of money that the education and awareness of the masses would be this difficult? You need look no further than Europe to see your answer. As an individual, I would be fined if I threw a candy rapper out the car window, Corporations get to make billions of dollars. Capitalism being amoral, cares not wether we live or die, there concern is next quarters P&L statement. Deaths mean nothing if it does not cost the Corporations money and you know it. So society must reboot the capitalistic system in a manner that works for HUMANITY in total, long term. Sustainability! Price carbon, sue the bastards, cut off their heads like the old days. Being a pacifist I prefer the first two, but hay, this is the sustainability of humanity we are talking about. What is it worth to you? I would prefer that capitalism see the light and address the future with rational thinking and shared enthusiasm. The golden rule and all that.

  25. Richard Brenne says:

    espiritwater (#23) – Beautifully (and more succinctly than me) said!

    h2O_nh (#24) – While I agree with you that the greater number (I hope) of undecided and more open-minded people is where most of the emphasis needs to go, a high percentage of them might also be religious and open to expressions of spirituality.

    I would never give up on the Nigels of the world, though time, energy and resources in communicating might be better spent elsewhere as you indicate.

    A few metaphors: It’s like fighting a total war (for the survival of future if not current generations) and you have to fight it on all fronts, including for the hearts and minds of the Nigels of the world. When they refuse to be open-minded and just want to oppose science and all mitigations and adaptations regarding climate change, then you need to know what you’re up against and ignore or oppose them, which ever is most appropriate.

    In terms of education we need to behave like water trying to find the cracks in the dam of ignorance and obstruction, so you’re trying all approaches all the time to see which work best.

    Lastly, it’s like sales. You never know who you’re going to sell. You have hunches about who’s open-minded and try selling them, but they often turn out to be close-minded at some level and someone like Nigel surprises you and becomes a convert.

    Thanks to you both, and all. Anyone reading Climate Progress is at least interested in the issue, and I’ve seen people have Saul to Paul-like conversions and go from great deniers to great communicators of climate change – Stu Ostro at the Weather Channel and Stephen Bennett at Scripps are incredibly honest about their conversions in this way.

  26. Leif says:

    Richard: The Nigels of the world who might prefer the “Creation Care” argument are largely the product of the teachings of their respective churches. It is the responsibility of the respected Churches to become knowledgeable about threats to their flock. For the most part the churches have failed miserably on this front, more often than not blindly siding with Capitalism on most issues thru-out the course of modern history. Only recently have a few of the Evangelical Church embraced “Creation Care” as a banner. Those folks have been asked to leave. An oversight that I do not believe the Churches and its hierarchy will ever recover from.

  27. espiritwater says:

    Leif, I don’t go to church; I meditate. Therefore, not everyone fits into your category. Furthermore, it is not the responsibility of the churches to become knowledgeable about outside threats. It’s to teach about spiritual matters. (Separation of church and politics).

  28. Robert says:

    Hi Lief,
    I may be gettin in over my head but i think we’re talkin about shades of gray here. Good Governance is the only thing that will make Capitalism work. Corporate corruption is alive & well and the k street politics continue to engineer that corruption! Regulated Corporate America is the only hope of free enterprise while lazafaire business [business without law] will quickly wipe out the middle class! The law must led or we loose! Business is neither good nor bad in its honorable purpose. Corporate greed overruling ethics is bad! Legal action to remove corruption is appropriate when [if] possible! But when the law is corrupted ‘we gots’ big trouble!

    To change the subject, Petrol Paid Pailin didn’t even wince when see alluded to carbon free energy! Spin Sarah … ‘she’s ah learnin’! I never thought i could say, “Come on China, show us the way!” Over their when you corrupt you die!

  29. Adding to some points in #29, the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen has frequently argued that capitalism cannot even exist, much less thrive, in a climate that does not substantially promote and enforce honesty.

    I would add that as long ago as 1776 Adam Smith, in his classic The Wealth of Nations essentially argued that it is no more possible to have a free market in the absence of regulation than it is possible to have a free society in the absence of law. (The phrasing here is mine, but the idea is clearly present in Smith.)

  30. Dan B says:

    Richard, Jeff, Leif, Robert, espiritwater, h2o, and all previous posters;

    I’m a non-believer who’s actively worked for the past six years with local and national progressive religious leaders. They are disgusted by Sarah Palin and her mindset.

    I believe they can sway public opinion, especially a public that’s heard noting but horrifying news about global warming.

    Progressive religious leaders know how to say the words that will give ordinary people courage, the courage to take the first step into the 21st Century Clean – Green Energy Economy.

  31. Richard Brenne says:

    Great work, Dan B (#30)!

    I completely support all open-minded people of all belief systems and work with them also.

    I produced and moderated an all-day symposium titled “Climate, Change” that was hosted by the Presbyterian Church and about half my panelists were ordained folk from many denominations and the other half were equally devout atheist and agnostic scientists and policy folk. Because of the setting and sponsor I’d been asked to begin with a prayer and I worked to make it inclusive, and also hopefully humorous and light:

    “God, may we hear you speak through each of us here today.”

    Then for the non-believers:

    “Nobody In Particular, may we hear our highest sense of right spoken through each of us here today.”


    “Oh, and by the way, God, may those of us who believe in You hear You speak even through the non-believers, and thus really play with their heads.”

  32. Leif says:

    28, 29, 30, 31, 32: Great posts all. It is seven A.M. and I am just starting my first cup of tea. So many good points and apologize for not attempting all.
    #30: …”argued that capitalism cannot even exist, much less thrive, in a climate that does not substantially promote and enforce honesty.” I believe that the west is looking at the dying twitches of capitalism as we speak. Did anyone notice the economy the last couple of years? Capitalism has become so effective at gaming the system I contend that it is eating it’s own innards. The rule of law for the most part appears to be concentrating on dermatology.

    An atheist myself, whatever I say about the Church, and my supposed short comings there of, can be taken for what it is worth.

    espiritwater, #28: “Furthermore, it is not the responsibility of the churches to become knowledgeable about outside threats. It’s to teach about spiritual matters.” As much as I agree with you on most postings, I believe you might be sleepy on this point.

    The Lord’s Prayer:

    And lead us not into temptation
    But deliver us from evil…

    Clearly a charge to assess worldly responsibilities in my book. Standing by as Capitalism expends significant energy and money promoting Capitalistic goals at the expense of humanities long term survival?
    Surely “Creation Care” qualifies.

  33. Wit's End says:

    Here is a graph that is either very encouraging (since temps will definitely continue to break record highs, thus convincing Americans that there is solid evidence of climate change) or really discouraging (since Americans can’t tell the difference between local weather and climate)!

  34. espiritwater says:

    The Lord’s prayer– “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”.

    (Prayer addressed to God, not “pastors”).

  35. espiritwater says:

    As much as we all agree and feel passionately about environmental issues, I guess it’s only natural we won’t agree on everything.

  36. espiritwater says:

    Robert says:
    “Come on China, show us the way!” Over their when you corrupt you die!
    I’ve been thinking along the same lines. What’s worse, a communist country that’s doing what it’s supposed to do (zooming ahead with clean energy) or a predominately facist country pretending to be democratic which is screwing future generations out of a viable future?

  37. espiritwater says:

    Leif, I do agree on one point: It does seem a lot of churches are “influencing” their congregation on politics and unfortunately, its often toward the direction of republicans, who pretend to be religious.

    My mom, for example: I keep trying to tell her about GW and most times, she understands and agrees. However, her “pastor” keeps saying the opposite! It’s a shame so many people believe whatever the pastors say just because he preaches about the Bible.

    IMO, I do think there should be a separation between church and politics. However, it doesn’t always work out that way.

  38. Leif says:

    I am not in any way arguing against the separation of Church and State. And fully agree that it does not always work that way. I like to think that concern for a livable planet would transcend both and should approach spiritual.

  39. Leif says:

    espiritwater, #35: Are not “pastors” not supposed to be the voice of God for those that are denied direct contact? It all gets confusing to me. Especially when confronted with child molesting priests.

  40. Leif says:

    espiritwater: I apologize for the brain slip above, erase second “not.” It is all confusing enough without typos.