Q&A with Andrew Guzman, author of Overheated
Q. Though most scientists now agree that climate change is a reality, the political debate continues. Why do you think this is?
A. The debate on the science of climate change is one of the great public relations successes of our time. Well-organized and well-heeled interest groups that benefit from continuing to emit greenhouse gases without limit have conducted an organized and intentional campaign to persuade the public that there is no threat here. It seems, however, that this campaign is finally failing in the face of overwhelming evidence and opinion that makes the reality of climate change irrefutable. It is essential that the debate move on to the far more important questions of how climate change will affect us and what we can and should do about it.
Q. What will the greatest human costs be from a 2° Celsius increase in average global temperature?
A. The costs will be large and varied and the greatest cost is perhaps the one that affects you and your family. But one constant across a large share of the problems that will emerge is water. Rising seas will flood some land and make other territory less valuable for agriculture as salt leeches into the soil. Melting glaciers, meanwhile, will increase flooding during rainy seasons and drought during dry seasons; a reality that will bring water crises to perhaps half of the world's population. At the same time, changing precipitation patterns will toy with our established pattern of habitation and agriculture. In short, humans need water everyday and for everything we do, and climate change will disrupt virtually all of our existing water systems.
Q. How active of a role should the Unites States play in mitigating climate change, both domestically and abroad?
A. The United States is the essential climate change country. It is the world’s second largest emitted of climate change and it is impossible to imagine a workable solution without American cooperation and, more importantly, leadership. We have been foot-draggers on the topic so far, but it is critical that we recognize the threat and take on a leadership role internationally. China, Europe, India, and Brazil can plausibly build a global coalition sufficient to make a real difference in how the planet warms.