June 2, 2020

"Politicians have to make decisions that balance action and rhetoric"

The critical word comes from the Latin criticus, "able to discern." And in this sense Bjorn Stevens is the perfect critic. This scientist, director of the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, is able to separate, decide and judge without mercy and with solid arguments, politicians, scientists and society alike. We met him in Madrid, shortly before a conference he will give at the BBVA Foundation and, without giving us time to sit down, he starts alone.

“The first question I receive from everyone – this German researcher affirms – is what I expect from the climate change conference, but it seems strange to me that someone expects that we will somehow solve a big problem with this meeting. I did not come with any expectations. It would be great if the meeting were seen as a turning point, but I'm not sure that this will be achieved, ”he says.

About to ask what the second question is then, we choose to pull the thread and try to find out to what extent politicians and scientists are separated. «I think science is very clear that something needs to be done to reduce CO2 emissions. Politicians seem to agree in principle, but cannot translate it into action. This only creates a kind of social anxiety because people see the disconnect between action and rhetoric. In the end, politicians have to make decisions that balance both. And I don't think science is about convincing politicians to do something. Science tries to understand how the world works and to explain it to people, it is the job of society to decide what they want to do with that information. It is not the job of a scientist to convince anyone to do something.

What does society do?

Stevens clearly distinguishes in three groups the responsibility of climate change and actions aimed at a solution. The role of scientists is clear, that of politicians, should but: what about society? How can our actions impact to reduce climate change?

“It seems like a real struggle because informed people live in this somewhat contradictory state: we have the feeling that we are damaging the earth and all we can think about is how to stop that, what we can do individually, what we can do locally and that is everything. It is an answer, but a very frustrating one because in reality we are not given the right options, so for me the solution is to require our politicians and our societies to give us better options. A wonderful example in Europe is the frequency with which it is cheaper to fly between two nearby cities or take the train. Often, the train could be more convenient, but we fly because it is cheaper. And then they tell us not to travel by plane, that pollutes … Is it a joke? We need to create a situation in which people can make better decisions (…) This is a great opportunity for Europe because it opens up a large part of the world economy to innovation and use our advantages, solar, wind, energy geothermal … to make things better and thus be more successful as a society and as a business economy. Spain, for example, should be agitating Europe selling solar energy, Denmark the same with wind power ».

In addition, Steven presented a scientific study that talks about the lack of more accurate simulations to know exactly what we are facing in 5.10 or 30 years.

“We have been working with the same type of models for the last 40 years and have proved unable to do so with the kind of clarity we need. Now, with the advances in computer science, there is a possibility of achieving it and having a much clearer vision of the future. And this is important because some people start to speculate on what that means. And everything is possible, from the global catastrophe to, well, it's not that bad. And we would like to reduce that range of possibilities to help us plan more effectively. Sometimes people don't know how fond of some of our projections. Scientists have made a great contribution in pointing to the increase in CO2, but we are so caught up in this first question that we are forgetting the second: when will the consequences come and what will they be? We should not settle for our inability to look in more detail at the future. I think we have been a bit complacent, in this regard. If we had supercomputers we could get to work now and soon we would have more precise answers about our future and that of the planet ».

. (tagsToTranslate) Environment (t) Society

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