Segments in this Video

Introduction: Can Humans Adapt to Climate Change?: A Debate (02:28)


The dangers of climate change are visible, and humanity may soon pass the tipping point. Moderator John Donvan introduces the debate.

Debate "Housekeeping" (02:03)

Donvan frames the debate, instructs the audience to vote, and introduces panel members.

Opening Statements For: Matthew Kahn (04:06)

University of Southern California Provost Economics Professor of Economics and Spatial Sciences, Kahn celebrates the "Paul Revere" effect in relation to climate scientists. Humans have strong incentives to adapt to challenges. Kahn cites three reasons why he is optimistic about the future.

Opening Statements Against: Michele Wucker (04:23)

Economic policy expert and Gray Rhino & Company Founder, Wucker states that humans are worse than we would like to think at recognizing and acting on threats, but we are not condemned to ignore threats like climate change. We need to invest in research and development, and clean tech.

Opening Statements For: Bjorn Lomborg (04:18)

President of Copenhagen Consensus Center and author, Lomborg agrees we need to cut carbon emissions, but the debate is on adapting, not mitigating. Humans are an adaptive species; we have already adapted to various environments and negative effects of climate change.

Opening Statements Against: Kaveh Madani (04:36)

United Nations University Research Program Head and Former Deputy Head of Iran’s Department of Environment, Madani models complex systems and states that uncertainty is huge; we need to manage uncertainty while valuing ethics. Civilizations have disappeared because people were unable to adapt.

Adaptation vs. Mitigation (08:51)

Donvan summarizes opening statements. Kahn argues that mitigation is a "free rider" issue and discusses carbon tax. Wucker counters that we already pay for fossil fuels twice. Panelists argue subsidies and GDP percentages; our models are wrong.

Complex Systems (07:02)

Bjorn states that societies are resilient. Wucker counters that humans tend to be overconfident about or ignore overwhelming circumstances; mitigation needs to occur for adaptation to work. Panelists argue rebuilding infrastructure, GDP loss, and models.

Modeling and Uncertainty (07:30)

Kahn defends his study. Madani states that we do not know how to talk about something the world has not yet experienced; people can suffer differently. Wucker views mitigation as investment. Panelists discuss Tesla.

Q/A: Making Financial Decisions in Uncertainty (02:54)

Wucker believes mitigation will result in a bigger return on investment; adaptation often stops with what you do. Lomborg counters that most of the money spent on mitigation will have little impact far into the future; adaptation helps people now.

Q/A: Defining Success (02:36)

Kahn cites an example of death reduction during heatwaves with the increase of air conditioning. Madani states that economists believe GDP is the benchmark of success, but people are now discussing whether this is the right model for setting development goals.

Q/A: Nuclear Power (02:32)

Madani states that nuclear can be a promising source of energy, but it runs the risk of abuse. Lomborg believes nuclear is fundamentally not dangerous, but it is costly.

Q/A: Mitigation/Adaptation by Location (03:09)

There has been a dramatic increase of people moving into the urban fire interface, so we need better zoning and building codes. We need to recognize what people in India want help with and work to improve finances.

Q/A: Making Poor People Richer (06:20)

Free trade, education, good food, and energy access influences wealth; industry can move people toward a middle-class income. Rich countries should use innovation to help poorer countries obtain energy access; poorer countries do not have the same adaptation resources as wealthier nations.

Concluding Statement For: Kahn (02:22)

Greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise because of energy demand in the developing world; we must pivot our attention to adaptation. California and India can adapt to climate change.

Concluding Statement Against: Wucker (02:15)

Developing countries are those most at risk from climate change; they will also benefit the most from mitigation measures. The choices we make about risk tell the world who we are.

Concluding Statement For: Lomborg (02:17)

We can, should, and will adapt to climate change. Spending more money on cutting carbon emissions is an ineffective measure.

Concluding Statement Against: Madani (02:23)

Mitigation and adaptation is necessary. We must create better ways of designing and implementing policies. Climate change is only one of the byproducts of unsustainable development.

Time to Vote (02:26)

Donvan thanks panelists and instructs the audience to vote. Panelists reflect on each other's arguments.

Audience Vote Results (01:30)

Pre-Debate - For: 61% - Against: 23% - Undecided: 16% Post-Debate - For: 50% - Against: 42% - Undecided: 8%

Credits: Can Humans Adapt to Climate Change?: A Debate (00:10)

Credits: Can Humans Adapt to Climate Change?: A Debate

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Can Humans Adapt to Climate Change?: A Debate

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Rising temperatures, melting glaciers, massive floods—the dangers of climate change are "no longer over the horizon" and humanity may soon pass the "point of no return." These are the phrases that Secretary-General António Guterres of the United Nations used in a 2019 speech to describe what he called an "utterly inadequate" international response to global warming. Despite the calls of scientists, environmental advocates, and many world leaders to alter how we extract and consume resources, the global community has taken few concrete steps in the intervening years to address the issue. If climate change continues at its present pace, it will test and challenge humanity's capacity for adaptation and survival. Can humans adapt to climate change?

Length: 77 minutes

Item#: BVL281710

Copyright date: ©2022

Closed Captioned

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