BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company…

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: The Earth’s climate does not care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. It doesn’t care whether you’re liberal or conservative. Climate change will affect all Americans no matter what your political beliefs, your religious beliefs, your race, class, creed, et cetera, okay. And in the end, the only way we’re going to deal with this issue is if we come together as a country and have a serious conversation, not about is it real. But what can we do about it.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. These days what should be scaring the daylights out of us, the crisis which could make all the others irrelevant, is global warming. Get this one wrong and it’s over, not just for the USA but for planet Earth. That’s the message delivered by Hurricane Sandy last fall, and by almost all the extreme weather of the past two years.

And it’s the message from the most informed scientists in the world. They’re scared, for real. And they say that unless we slow the release of global emissions from fossil fuels, slow it enough to keep the planet’s temperature from rising by two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the earth’s polar ice sheets will melt away -- with catastrophic consequences.

Time’s running out. Recently not one, but two major scientific reports in the last few weeks have concluded that the rapid increase in fossil fuel emissions makes that increase of two degrees Celsius all but inevitable. This headline in the “National Journal” spells it out: "It's Already Too Late to Stop Climate Change."

So why isn’t this planetary emergency on every politician’s mind? Why are any of us still silent? Those questions prompted me to ask Anthony Leiserowitz to join me at this table. He’s director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and a research scientist at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

He’s a geographer by training, with a specialty in human behavior, the psychology of risk perception and decision making -- an expert on the public’s perception of climate change and whether people are willing to change their behavior to make a difference. He has said, quote, “You almost couldn't design a problem that is a worse fit with our underlying psychology."

Tony Leiserowitz, welcome.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Oh thank you, Bill, it's great to be here.

BILL MOYERS: What did you mean that we almost couldn't design a problem that is a worse fit with our underlying psychology? What did you mean by that?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Well, look, as human beings we are exquisitely attuned to what's happening in our immediately environment and what we can see around us and what literally touches us physically.

If you're walking through the woods and you hear the crack of a stick behind you, your body immediately goes into a fear response, a fight or flight response. Climate change isn't that kind of a problem. It's not an immediate, visceral threat.

And I can say right now, this very day we can look out the window and there's CO2, carbon dioxide, pouring out of tailpipes, pouring out of buildings, pouring out of smokestacks. And yet we can't see it, it's invisible.

The fundamental causes of this global problem are invisible to us. And likewise the impacts are largely invisible to us as well unless you know where to look. So it's a problem that first of all we can't see. And secondly it's a problem that is seemingly faceless. It's not like terrorists who we can imagine who are coming after us trying to kill us and challenge our fundamental values. It’s a problem that we can’t see, that’s going to have long term impacts that aren’t going to just impact us now, but impact us into the future; impact our children and our grandchildren.

BILL MOYERS: But you've seen the stories: 2012 the hottest year on record; 2011 carbon dioxide emissions the highest on record; Arctic sea ice shrank to a record low; the world's largest trees are dying at an alarming rate, I could go on and on. These are signs and signals, are they not?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: They are. And, in fact, 2011 was an all-time record year in the United States, for example. We had 14 individual climate and weather related disasters that each cost this country more than $1 billion. That was an all-time record, blew away previous records. And in 2012 we had events ranging from the summer-like days in January in Chicago with people out on the beach, clearly not a normal occurrence, an unusually warm spring, record setting searing temperatures across much of the lower 48, one of the worst droughts that America has ever experienced, a whole succession of extreme weather events. And I haven't even gotten to Hurricane Sandy yet.


ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: And the real question is at what point do we put on the brakes? So let me just use a simplifying analogy here. In some ways this issue is kind of like we're in a car driving through a very dark night, there’re kids in the back, they're not buckled.

We're fiddling with the radio, we're probably eating something at the same time and we're passing warning signs that are saying, "Curvy road up ahead. Mountain road up ahead. Be careful, there are landslides.” And yet we're going probably 70 miles an hour and our foot is on the accelerator.

So the real question is we are going to hit this patch of really rocky road. It's there up ahead of us. We're not exactly sure how soon we're going to get there, but it's coming. The question is do we start applying the brake?

There's a big difference between entering that stretch of road at ten miles an hour where even if we have an accident it'll be, you know, just bumps and bruises and a little body damage perhaps versus hitting that same stretch of road at 70 miles an hour.

BILL MOYERS: Here's the problem with that as I see it. The global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has warned that even if we doubled our current rate of reducing carbon emissions we would still be facing six degrees of warming, an almost intolerable situation, by the end of this century. Now the driver of that car with her children in the backseat hurtling down the road, not paying attention to the signs, is hardly going to put on the brakes because they heard about a report from the global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: That's right. It is about the warning signs. But here’s one of the real dilemmas, is that we've done a really good job at helping people understand that there is this thing called climate change. Almost all Americans have at least heard of it. But we've in our own work showed that in fact there is no single public. There are multiple publics within the United States. In fact, what we've identified are six Americas.

BILL MOYERS: Six Americas?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Six different Americas that each respond to this issue in very different ways and need different kinds of information about climate change to become more engaged with it. So the first group that we've identified is a group we call the alarmed. It's about 16 percent of the public. These are people who think it's happening, that it's human caused, that it's a serious and urgent problem and they're really eager to get on with the solutions.

But they don't know what those solutions are. They don't know what they can do individually and they don't know what we can do collectively as a society to deal with it. We haven't done a very good job of explaining what we can do. Then comes a group that we call the concerned. This is about 29 percent of the public. These are people that think okay, it's happening, it's human caused, it's serious, but they tend to think of it as distant.

Distant in time, that the impacts won't be felt for a generation or more and distant in space, that this is about polar bears or maybe small island countries, not the United States, not my state, not my community, not my friends and family or the people and places that I care about. So they believe this is a serious problem, but they don't see it as a priority.

Then comes a group, about a quarter of the public that we call the cautious. These are people who are kind of still on the fence, they're trying to make up their mind. Is it happening, is it not? Is it human, is it natural? Is it a serious risk or is it kind of overblown? So they're paying attention but really just haven't made up their mind about it yet. They need to be just engaged in some of the basic facts of climate change.

Then comes a group, about eight percent of the public that we call the disengaged. They've heard of global warming, but they don't know anything about it. They say over and over, "I don't know anything about the causes, I don't know anything about the consequences. I don't know anything about the potential solutions." So for them it's really just basic awareness that they need to be engaged on. Two last groups, one is we call the doubtful, it's about 13 percent of the public. These are people who say, "Well, I don't think it's happening, but if it is, it's natural, nothing humans had anything to do with and therefore nothing we can do anything about."

So they don't pay that much attention, but they're predisposed to say not a problem. And then last but not least, eight percent of Americans are what call the dismissive. And these are people who are firmly convinced it's not happening, it's not human caused, it's not a serious problem and many are what we would lovingly call conspiracy theorists. They say it's a hoax. It's scientists making up data, it's a UN plot to take away American sovereignty and so on.

Now, that's only eight percent. But they're a very well mobilized, organized and loud eight percent. And they've tended to dominate the public square, okay. So here you have these six totally different audiences that need completely different types of information and engagement to deal with this issue. So one of the first tasks, and you know this as a communicator as well as I do, one of the first rules of effective communication is, “know thy audience.”

If you don't know who your audience is it's kind of like playing darts in a crowded room with the lights off. You might hit the target sometimes, but most times you're going to miss. And unfortunately too often you're going to do collateral damage. You're actually going to hit somebody by mistake and cause a backlash.

So you know this is why if we were to do a true engagement campaign in this country we would need to recognize that there are very different Americans who need to be engaged in very different ways who have different values and who trust different messengers.

BILL MOYERS: Assume that I'm a skeptic. Not only a skeptic but a Tea Party Republican who goes to church every Sunday where my beloved pastor tells me that, reassures me that God created the earth 6,000 years ago and that if God wants to end the earth God will on God's terms, that this is out of our control. If you were sitting across from a good, disciplined believer like that, what argument would you make to me?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Well, the first thing I would do is I would listen, I would really listen. Because I'd want to know really what are the depths of, not just their concerns about this issue, but what are their aspirations? What do they want for their children? What do they want for their grandchildren? What kind of community do they want to live in? What are the values that really animate and motivate them?

And I would try to find some way to then meet them where they are first. So let’s just take the religious side. There are wonderful activities going on by all of the world's major religions right now including the evangelical churches to say this is a moral and religious issue, okay.

From our worldview, from our standpoint, this is crucial both because we were commanded by God in Genesis to till and tend the garden, to care for his creation which when he created he kept telling us, "It is good." Okay, it is our responsibility they would say to take care of his creation, and that the kinds of things that we are currently doing to the planet are essentially violating that promise.

But moreover, we're also seeing the theme of social justice, that we've been commanded, they would say, to take care of the least of these: the poor, the sick, the powerless both in our own country and around the world. And many churches, in fact, have invested enormous resources, I mean, sending their young people abroad to do great works to try to help people who desperately need that help.

Their argument would be how can we in good conscience ignore a problem that's just going to push millions of more people around the world into those exact same kinds of circumstances we're trying to help them with, okay. So all I'm saying is that the faith community itself is not monolithic, it isn't homogenous. And it too is trying, currently, struggling to make sense of this new issue and what is the role of religious faith in answering it.

BILL MOYERS: What do you say to the secularist?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: I say let's engage on the science. Let me hear what your arguments are and then let's respond to them. And I would ask in turn that you listen to what the scientific community has to say. It's perfectly fine to have a great conversation with many people about the science itself because the science is so robust at this point. I mean, we have basically known for over 20 years now that, and it actually boils down, for all the complexity of the science it's really quite simple.

It's real, okay, climate change is real. It is mostly human caused this time. There have been climate changes over many millions of years in the past that had nothing to do with human beings. This time it's mostly being caused by our activities. Third, it's going to be bad. In fact, it's bad now and it's going to get worse.

Fourth, there's hope, that there are lots of solutions already on the table that are in fact already being implemented in this country, communities all across this country as well as around the world. There's an enormous amount of work that we can do right now with things that we have in hand.

And then last but not least, what we also know is that many Americans don't understand this one last crucial fact, and that is that the vast majority of the experts, the people who study this day in, day out for a living agree that it's happening, that it's human caused and that's going to be serious.

BILL MOYERS: How, then, do you reconcile the religious and secularist imperatives?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Well, it really actually boils down to this fundamental question of what is the proper relationship between human beings and the natural world, okay? That is really at the heart of it, what our challenge is in this century. Are we going to live in a world where we believe that we have mastery, domination over this planet, where it is basically a stockpile of resources for us to use and to use as quickly and rapidly as possible to give us all the things that we like?

Or do we have deeper responsibilities to the life of this planet? Because in fact species, ecosystems are not just inert warehouses of resources. They have evolved along with human beings. Our own evolution itself is inseparable from the climate system, the biophysical world and the other species that we ride on this rock with.

What is our responsibility to them? And I think one of the most interesting things that comes out of science that challenges some of our long held cultural beliefs that somehow human beings are fundamentally different than the natural world is the recognition that at root, when you look at the DNA, we are kin, okay? You and I share a lot of genetic material with a tree, other animals, with fish, and so on.

We are literally relatives, okay. That is an idea that we haven't even really begun to process as a complete culture. What does that really mean when you understand that we are inseparable in that way? We are descendants of the same lines of other animals and plants on this planet. Does that change the way you perceive your relationship with the rest of the world?

BILL MOYERS: So why isn't the message getting through?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Well, one, the volume has been really low, okay. So that's one side, and we've done media analysis as an example. The media plays an enormously important agenda setting role in this. Because, again this is an invisible problem to most of us. The only way we know about this is because of what we've learned through the media. As a normal American I don't know a climate scientist, I don't read the peer review literature. I only know about this issue because of what, excuse me, you, the media, tell me about it.

And so when the media doesn't report it it's literally out of sight and out of mind. And we've seen that this issue gets just a tiny proportion of the news haul. Of all the stories that the media focuses on every year climate change is miniscule. And in fact, even the environment as a category never gets above say 1 or at most 2 percent of total news coverage.

But it's not just the amount of media coverage. It's also the fact that there's been a very active disinformation campaign that's been going on for many years, it's very well documented, that was primarily, certainly originally and still to this day, driven by fossil fuel company interests who are the world's most profitable companies. I mean, they're very happy, thank you very much, with the status quo, okay?

BILL MOYERS: So what are they saying in this disinformation campaign?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Well, historically this has been the key strategy all along and in fact it's a strategy that was lifted explicitly directly out of the tobacco wars.

Which is make people think that the science is still unsettled. And if my perception is that the experts are still arguing over whether the problem exists, as a layperson my tendency is to say, "Well, you know, I'll let them figure it out. And you know, I'll take this as, much more seriously once they've reached their conclusion." Okay, so that has been the primary message. That has been the primary strategy of that disinformation campaign is to get people to believe that the experts do not agree.

BILL MOYERS: There's something else that has come through and I saw it, we all saw it I think, throughout the campaign last year, the argument that we can't do anything about climate change that the experts are urging us to do and keep our economy growing. What's the argument to respond to that?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Well, I'll tell you, that it's a myth. It's a false choice. It's a zero sum game. You either can grow the economy or you can protect the environment, okay. So I changed the question, and I've been doing this now for several years. I said, okay, here's the question: do you believe that protecting the environment harms the economy and costs jobs, has no impact on the economy or jobs, or actually grows the economy and improves jobs?

Okay, and what do we find? An overwhelming majority of America, now, I'm talking like two thirds of Americans, say that it either has no impact or it actually improves the economy. In fact, that's the most frequently chosen answer is that most Americans don't see this as an inherent contradiction.

BILL MOYERS: What you're saying is that a big powerful industry controls or affects the outcomes of perception in this country disproportionately to what most people think?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: That's right. And in part they're able to do that because this issue is a low level issue, because we don't talk about it and because there is no what we call issue public on the other side.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Okay, so an issue public is basically an organized social movement that demands change, okay. And we're very familiar with this term. It's the pro or anti-immigration movement or the pro-gun control or the anti-gun control movement--

BILL MOYERS: The Civil Rights movement--

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: The Civil Rights movement.

BILL MOYERS: --the Suffragette movement, women's rights, you've got to be organized.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Absolutely. You've got to be organized. And what we see, remember that 16 percent I identified as the alarmed? Again people who are very concerned and think this is an urgent problem, but they feel relatively isolated and alone. They say, "I feel this way, some of my friends and family feel this strongly." But they have no sense that they're part of over 40 million Americans that feel just as strongly as they do.

They've never been properly organized, mobilized and directed to demand change. And I mean, that's what the political system ultimately responds to. If you basically have a vacuum of people who are demanding change, and I don't mean that truly. I mean, there are of course many great organizations that have been advocating for change for a long time. But it hasn't been a broad based citizens movement demanding change. In that situation a relatively small but well-funded and vocal community that says no can absolutely win the day.

BILL MOYERS: Our conversation will continue in a moment, but first this is pledge time on Public Television and we’re taking a short break so you can show your support for the programming you see right here on this station.

[BEGIN SOFT FEED CONTENT] BILL MOYERS: For those of you still with us here’s a visual take on some of the factors contributing to climate change. Take a look at this portrait of photographic artist Chris Jordan whose work helps us understand the scope of our consumerism and consumption.

CHRIS JORDAN: Our consumption looks like something from a distance, and then, when you get up close, it looks like something very different. From a distance it looks like all these nice, shiny things that we get to own. And these great lifestyles that we get to live. When you zoom in close, and you learn about the toxic metals, and the world-wide pollution, the details look different than it looked when you stood back at a distance. My name is Chris Jordan, and I used to be a photographer and now I'm some kind of digital photographic artist.

This is called Plastic Bags 2007. This is 60,000 plastic bags, which is five seconds worth of plastic bag usage in the United States. That’s five seconds worth of plastic bags.

All of my work is meant to evoke a whole bunch of different layers of discord between the attraction and repulsion that we feel toward our consumer habits and our consumer lives. It’s like there's this tremendous power in our culture that has a dark side to it that has surfaced lately. And that's kind of what I'm working with.

I find myself walking these lines. Like I might be an artist, but I also might be an activist. And I'm trying to be both in a way that honors both and doesn't stray too far into either.

There's this contrast between the beauty in the images and the underlying grotesqueness of the subjects. And it's something that I put there intentionally. Because I was using beauty as a seduction, to draw the viewer in to sit through the piece long enough that the underlying message might seep in.

I couldn't really show the scale of American mass consumption -- I could only hint at it. I would always have to say, "And this photograph only represents a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the actual quantity of things that-- that we use or we discard." And, as it came time for me to think about creating a new series it occurred to me, what if I could show the actual quantities of the things that we consume? One of the dilemmas I faced is there's nowhere where there are massive piles of the actual detritus of our entire country's consumption. And so the only way I could possibly depict those things was to create digital images that put together lots and lots of little photographs.

This one is called "Toothpicks". We have 100 million trees in the United States that are cut every year for mail order catalogues. Each toothpick in this image is one tree cut just to make mail order catalogues in one month. Eight million toothpicks.

Our minds are just not wired to be able to really comprehend and make meaning of and feel numbers that are that huge. And if the only way we're getting all of this information about these profoundly important phenomenon that are going on in our society is through statistics, then we aren't going to feel what we need to feel in order to make the radical changes we need to make. This one is called "Plastic Bottles" and it depicts two million plastic bottles – the number that we use in the United States every five minutes. This is the equivalent of eight entire football fields. Five minutes worth of plastic bottles.


ANNOUNCER: We now continue with Moyers & Company

BILL MOYERS: As you know twice in the last 20 years the country's tried to take, the government's tried to take a big step forward, under the Clinton administration and then under the first year of the Obama administration. And each time the Senate killed it.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Yeah. But the key thing there is that each time both the Clinton administration and the Obama administration tried to do this it was essentially a top-down, inside the beltway strategy. We are going after and trying to cajole and convince and persuade the members of the Senate and the House to pass this legislation without first engaging the broad public and building a citizens movement, a issue public as I talked about before that was actually demanding change. Because in the end politicians care about their job.

And if they don't feel like there's a political price to pay for opposing action on climate change or alternatively a political opportunity to be had by being a leader on this issue, it's very easy for them to say, "You know what? I've got a lot of other things here on my plate to deal with. I've got lots of lobbyists coming into my office as well as people back home saying, 'Do this, do that, do this.' And it's not climate change." So until they feel that they have to act many of them probably won't. And in fact, almost you couldn't find a worse problem that fits with our current political institutions, okay. Because this is a long term problem, okay. Our government is run on two-year cycles, four-year cycles or six-year cycles. Our businesses are essentially run on three-month cycles, what is the next shareholder report going to tell you, okay?

Those time frames of decision making lead to decisions that are profitable or best in the short run but do not adequately address these long term creeping problems that turn out to be much worse when they are allowed to fester. We have this tendency because of this short term myopic focus to put those kinds of problems on the back burner until they become so big it requires much more wrenching change to try to deal with them.

BILL MOYERS: So if the president asks you to suggest what he should say, to send him a draft of what he should say about climate change what would you urge him to do?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: I would ask him to do two things. One is to say I have consulted with the nation's leading climate scientists including the National Academy of Sciences which exists to guide the nation on science and science policy. And they all tell me, all of them tell me that this is real, that it's human caused, it's a serious problem but that we have the solutions in hand to do it. So, one, I would want him to carry that message.

But the second thing I would like to hear him say is that this issue has to stop being a partisan issue. The climate -- the earth's climate does not care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. It doesn't care whether you're liberal or conservative. Sandy did not only destroy the homes of Democrats and not Republicans.

The terrible drought that has gripped the Great Plains and our nation's bread basket has not only gone after liberal farmers and ranchers, it's gone after all of us. The point is that climate change will affect all Americans no matter what your political beliefs, your religious beliefs, your race, class, creed, et cetera, okay. And in the end the only way we're going to deal with this issue is if we come together as a county and have a serious conversation not about is it real, but what can we do about it, okay. And I think that the effort to try to de-politicize this issue so it doesn't just become this knee-jerk-- identity politics: I'm a Democrat, therefore I believe in climate change, I'm a Republican, therefore I think climate change is a hoax. This is crazy, okay. I mean, again the climate system doesn't care.

BILL MOYERS: But the realists in politics will say that that's unrealistic, in fact former Republican congressman Sherwood Boehlert has said that the best way for this to happen is if a Republican comes up with a proposed solution. If Obama does it, it won't happen. But if some Republicans start the conversation and make the first proposal, that's the only way we're going to have not only the conversation you're calling for, but action on change.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: And I totally agree with that.

BILL MOYERS: So why can't we get the Republican Party to see what you have been talking about?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: I think basically the Republican Party has reached the conclusion themselves that they are appealing to the dismissive wing of their own base. I mean, it's actually quite remarkable when you look back over the history of this. I mean, remember the figure in the US Senate who repeatedly put forward the nation's best and most sophisticated answers to the climate challenge for many years was Senator John McCain.

The nominee of the Republican Party was the premier architect of responding to climate change. How far things have changed in the past four years where we ended up in the primaries of-- the Republican primaries of 2012 and we found that all of them, with the one exception of John Huntsman, were calling into question the basic reality of the problem itself. Were basically saying in some cases saying that it was a hoax, okay. This is a remarkable turn for the party itself.

And you know -- and what we're seeing of course right now is that in the aftermath of the loss of 2012 -- Republicans are beginning to look inward and they're trying to say, "Where have we gone wrong? Where are our new opportunities to engage the public?" Immigration is one of those issues that they're beginning to say, "Maybe it's time to change our position." Climate change could be another of those.

Because it's one of the ways that they can appeal back to the middle. Our own work, we found that Independents are much more like Democrats on their beliefs about climate change than they are Republicans. So if Republicans want a way back, this is one of the ways that they could do it. And there's actually a historical precedent.

We used to have a huge acid rain problem in this country. We created essentially a cap and trade system where we capped the amount of sulfur dioxide being emitted from these smokestacks, brought that cap down over years and allowed companies to sell their emission rights between each other. So a company that was really good at reducing their emissions could sell that remaining block to another company that needed more time.

It was one of the most successful programs in American history. It was put on the table and passed by a Republican president, the first George Bush, Bush Sr. And it solved the problem or it largely solved the problem at a cost far below what even the best estimates at the time were. We know that these kind of policies can work. It was a Republican idea, okay.

And so the irony of it is that the Republican Party has walked away from even one of their best ideas, one of their best proven ideas that really worked. So the question is how can we bring Republicans back to the table and say, "That's ours, we own that. This is our contribution to solving the problem. And in fact, we think our principles and our solutions are better than yours."

BILL MOYERS: So I'm Speaker of the House John Boehner and I ask you to come see me and I say I want to do what you're suggesting. Give me the sound bites a real conservative can use.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: I think there are a couple things. One is they need to look at the threat, okay. So as an example could we think in a different way about climate change as a threat to our freedoms, okay? Climate change itself is a threat to our freedoms.

BILL MOYERS: To our freedoms?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Sure. If you're a rancher or a farmer in the Great Plains today, your freedom is enormously constrained by the fact that you're in the midst of a two-year severe drought, okay. You don't get to choose what you're going to plant. You don't get to choose what cows you're going to slaughter. In fact, we've just seen in Texas in the past year two million head of cow, cattle are no longer in Texas, they had to move them out because they couldn't provide the food and forage and water for them because of that drought. That's not freedom, okay. You are literally not able to do the thing that you were raised and that you believe in as part of your culture because the climate has changed.

BILL MOYERS: You got me on that one. What's another one?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Another side though is the opportunity side. First of all, political opportunity which is perhaps the language that most touches them directly, and that is that they've now lost two national elections, okay. And that hurts. I'm sure it hurts. They need to find a new way back to the middle of this country, okay.

Now, there’s an active debate happening within the Republican Party right now between, “perhaps our problem is that we weren't pure enough,” okay-- I mean, we hear those voices on the right who were saying, you know, Mitt Romney was really just a liberal in disguise, that we didn't make a stark enough choice, and that what we need is purification, we need to become true, you know, even take this party farther to the right versus those that are in the middle that are saying there is no pathway to political success unless you can reach this new America that is quickly emerging: Hispanics, minorities, young people, women who voted in record numbers not just in 2008 but in 2012.

And if we ever want to be able to succeed at the national level again we have to find a way to appeal back to these new voters who are not responding to these far right messages, okay. So there's enormous political opportunity. We'll see where the Republican Party decides to move.

BILL MOYERS: And that brings me to a survey you took part in, you and your colleagues at Yale took part in with the Gallup group globally, the worldwide group that studies public opinion.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Yeah, this is the Gallup World Poll. It's the first every scientific quality survey conducted in 130-plus countries around the world. It's a remarkable scientific achievement. And one of the things that it taught us right from the very beginning that to be honest surprised me, four out of ten people on planet Earth have never heard of climate change.

BILL MOYERS: Forty percent?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Forty percent. And in fact, when you look in particular countries, even countries that are kind of poster child countries for climate change like Bangladesh, it rises to two-thirds of people have never heard of climate change. In some countries it's 75 percent have never heard of climate change.

Now, this doesn't mean however that they're not observing acutely the change that are happening in their local systems. They are. What they lack is the concept of climate chance to make sense of the observations, the changes they're seeing in local temperature and precipitation patterns and so on, as well as the understanding of here's what this means going forward.

How do we use this new information to change the decisions we're making now, the kind of crops we plant, the kinds of cities we build, where we site a hospital, you know, do we build next to the coast? I mean, these societies are making enormous, you know, decades long investments, infrastructure investments, and often doing so without thinking about climate change as part of that decision making process. So globally we see that there's an enormous need even for the building of basic awareness of the problem.

BILL MOYERS: There was a destructive typhoon in the Philippines recently as you know that killed over a thousand people, caused massive damage and left over a million people displaced. And as fate would have it at that very time delegates from around the world were meeting in Doha for the climate change conference. And the representative from the Philippines, while there hearing about this typhoon back in his home made this very impassioned plea.

YEB SANO: There is massive and widespread devastation back at home. Hundreds of thousands of people have been rendered homeless, and the ordeal is far from over. Madame Chair, we have never had a typhoon like Bopha, which just wreaked havoc in a part of the country which has never seen a storm like this in half a century. And I am making an urgent appeal, not as a negotiator, not as a leader of my delegation, but as a Filipino. I appeal to the whole world. I appeal to the leaders from all over the world to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. I appeal to ministers. The outcome of our work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded of us by seven billion people. I appeal to all – please, no more delays, no more excuses. Please let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around. And let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to do so. To find the courage to take responsibility for the future we want. I ask of all of us here, if not us then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?

BILL MOYERS: Were you there?


BILL MOYERS: Was anyone really listening to him?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Absolutely, people were listening to them. But what I think is particularly important about what he said is the world needs to open its eyes.

These events are no longer abstractions. They're no longer talking about what's going to happen in 2050 or in 2100. Again this pervasive sense up to now has been that climate change is distant, distant in time, and distant in space. And what we're now beginning to see is that it's not so distant. It's not just future generations. It's us and it's our own children. I have a nine-year-old son. He's going to be my age in the year 2050. I don't want him to live in the world that we're currently hurtling towards.

BILL MOYERS: Describe that world for me as you can see it.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Currently we are scheduled, unless we change direction to go through the two-degree mark. And in fact, we're heading on towards three, four degrees and perhaps even six degrees centigrade warmer than in the past. As you go things get much, much worse. And in fact, let me just use a simple analogy.

Because people often will say, "Wow, you know, four, five degrees, that doesn't sound like very much. I mean, I see the temperature change more from night to day." But it's the wrong way to think about it. I mean, think about when you get sick and you get a fever, okay. Your body is usually at, you know, 98.7 degrees.

If your temperature rises by one degree you feel a little off, but you can still go to work. You're fine. It rises by two degrees and you're now feeling sick, in fact you're probably going to take the day off because you definitely don't feel good. And in fact, you're getting everything from hot flashes to cold chills, okay.

At three you're starting to get really sick. And at four degrees and five degrees your brain is actually slipping into a coma, okay, you're close to death. I think there's an analogy here of that little difference in global average temperature just like that little difference in global body temperature can have huge implications as you keep going. And so unfortunately the world after two and especially after three degrees starts getting much more frightening, and that's exactly what the scientists keep telling us. But will we pay attention to those warning signs?

BILL MOYERS: What do you think?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: I think we are entirely capable of responding to those warning signs, absolutely. When this country and when this planet puts their minds to do something, they absolutely can do this. And in fact, I often go back to a great old quote by Henry Ford who said, "Those who think they can and those who think they can't are both right."

This is within our power. We have waited however a long time to really engage this issue and to get started. And unfortunately, and this is actually a core American value, it goes back to the founding of this country and it goes back to Benjamin Franklin, one of the leading lights of that time, who said - and every American knows this - "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

A little action now is going to forestall much greater-- the need for much greater action later. And that's exactly the nature of this problem, is that if we delay-- if we wait until we've reached three and four degrees, it's too late. At that point the climate system is locked. It's a massive system. The heat is already in earth's system, it's absorbed in the oceans, it's being absorbed by the ice systems.

It's in the atmosphere, there is no magic vacuum cleaner that's going to suddenly pull the CO2 out and bring our temperatures back to what we consider normal. So that's why it's so imperative that we begin taking these actions now to forestall the worst effects that are going to happen decades to come.

BILL MOYERS: So what ounce of prevention could be taken in 2013 that would make you think we might be on the right path?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: It's not like we haven't already gotten started. California has done tremendous work already to take action on climate change.

If it was a country it would be one of the leading countries in the world. There are mayors all over this country that are doing tremendous things, companies that are changing their systems and getting the CO2 and its emissions out of their processes because they find it actually makes them more efficient and profitable in the process, citizens all over this country that are doing what they can individually and are starting to engage the political system to demand change.

We're not starting from ground zero, okay. But what we haven't had is the ability to come together as a country and clarify the choice that's in front of us and to really help the broad set of country, those six different Americans I was talking about, engage with this issue and recognize that we as a country and as a planet are facing a fundamental threat, a fundamental challenge to the way of life that we have now and the kind of life that we want to hand on to our children.

Until we start with that conversation it's very hard for me to see how we ultimately lead to the national policies that are going to be required, much less the international policies that are also going to be required. So I think whereas in the past we've treated this as an issue, that we learned about from climate science and that has basically been a few set of political leaders that have tried to impose solutions on this country, on our states, at the world from the top-down, what we have not down is build the bottom up to meet them halfway.

And until we have that bottom-up demand for this issue because it's going to affect every one of us, it absolutely is going to affect us either directly or indirectly through economics, through disease, through foreign challenges in faraway places, the world is now one planet. We are all interconnected in fundamental ways. And so these issues are raising the most deep questions about what it means to be a human being, and what is the right relationship that we have-- and again not just to the planet but to our fellow human beings. Because our choices now are going to have collectively huge implications for the lives of our fellow travelers within the human family on this planet as well.

BILL MOYERS: How did you come to this, to this depth of commitment and passion about this issue?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Well, it really actually comes down to a key moment actually, an epiphany in my own life. When I graduated from undergraduate school I went and lived in Aspen, Colorado for four years where I worked at the Aspen Global Change Institute.

And I remember there was one day where I went up to my favorite place which is up above this old ghost town called Independence, Colorado. And I was sitting on a mountainside and I noticed all of a sudden, these little wildflowers, these white wildflowers. And they grew in the tundra, these little tundra zones on the tops of these mountains.

And I suddenly realized that these patches of tundra on top of these mountains were the remnants of tundra that used to cover all of the West when the ice sheets retreated 10,000 years ago. And this is where they were left, this was the remaining fragments of that ecosystem. And that they just like islands in the South Pacific that are going to be inundated because of seal level rise, these ecosystems were going to be literally pushed right off the mountaintops because of warming temperatures and climate change.

And I just realized looking around that the forest I was looking at and the animals and the fish and so on, that I had resonated with were also deeply at risk because of the changing climate.

And then I kept looking down the valley and I saw Aspen twinkling down below. And beyond that there was Glenwood Springs and beyond that there was Las Vegas and beyond that there was Los Angeles. And if you could see those there would be these huge clouds of CO2 pouring out of them. And so for me it was really about suddenly the bringing together of my analytical understanding of this issue as an abstract scientific problem with my lived experience in this particular landscape which I love deeply to this day.

And unfortunately now I go back to Colorado and I see the impact, I see what's happened with for instance Pine Bark Beetles that have devastated entire forests of that state and then just this past summer the record setting wildfires that have happened in Colorado.

And I think every American has a place whether it's Colorado or the ocean or the farm or the ranch or the city that they love dearly. And if they can see it they will see how each of these places is uniquely at risk and how the places and the people that we care about are at risk because of this issue.

BILL MOYERS: Tony Leiserowitz, thank you very much for sharing this ideas a new time with us.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Oh my pleasure Bill, great to be with you.

BILL MOYERS: That’s it for this week. I’ll see you again next week and until then I urge you to show your support for this public television station. Thank you.


Encore: Ending the Silence on Climate Change

March 15, 2013

Remember climate change? The issue barely comes up with any substance in our current political dialogue. But bringing climate change back into our national conversation is as much a communications challenge as it is a scientific one.

This week, in an encore broadcast, scientist Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, joins Bill to describe his efforts to galvanize communities over what’s arguably the greatest single threat facing humanity. Leiserowitz, who specializes in the psychology of risk perception, knows better than anyone if people are willing to change their behavior to make a difference.

“[A] pervasive sense up to now has been that climate change is distant — distant in time, and distant in space,” Leiserowitz tells Bill. “And what we’re now beginning to see is that it’s not so distant. I have a nine-year-old son — he’s going to be my age in the year 2050. I don’t want him to live in the world that we’re currently hurtling towards.”

The show also includes a short video portrait of photographic artist Chris Jordan, whose work helps us understand the scope of American consumerism and consumption.

Interview Producer: Candace White. Editor: Rob Kuhns. Associate Producer: Julia Conley.

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  • Laure Olson

    Nero fiddled while Rome burns. Multiply that by an infinite number.

  • Jeff Burritt


  • Anonymous

    It’s taken so many years for this story to get out there. It has been going on for a long long time. The fossil fuel family offices are killing us.

  • Anonymous

    John Boehner cannot do that. He is made and paid by the largest fortunes in this country who got that money from fossil fuels. And, everything that surrounds it. The Reps would have to somehow shake the money interests they must serve. Can’t happen under the current campaign finance regime.

  • Bianca Nevernever

    Edgar Cayce predicted long ago that Atlanta,GA and Denver, CO will become seacoast cities. When I first read this prediction I thought he might be a little off. Now I can see it happening.
    Sadly, the powers that are in control don’t seem to care.

  • Anonymous

    You might enjoy reading this blog, SPECIAL REPORT: Global Warming Inside Out for a more balanced perspective including the metaphysics and Earth’s cyclical processes.

  • Francesca Hampton

    I think nature herself will get us talking about it more and more. I think it may be too late, however, to avoid it – now its just trying to head off the worst that we c an still do. Though human beings are remarkably innovative when they have to be. I am still hopeful. (A de-carbonizing machine on every city roof?) I know there are many ideas out there – on the local and private levels they are starting to be put into effect.)

  • aj

    I built my first passive solar house over 30 years ago ($50 a year to heat 2000 sq.ft.)… we’ve been very aware but corporate money, the media and politics have obliterated the reality for their benefit.

  • Anonymous

    This was the only episode I’d missed since Bill came back out of retirement — and I missed it on purpose, as I knew it would depress me even further vis-a-vis climate change. So I’m glad for the chance to watch it at last. My depression on this issue has to do with our prime minister, Stephen Harper, whose pet project is the Alberta tarsands, and who can hardly wait for more of the arctic ice to melt so he can turn the Arctic into one big oil field. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Green Party, with one lone Member of Parliament, there is no party in Canada with the guts to raise the issue of shutting down the biggest pigsty on the planet (my apologies to that noble animal, the pig), the pigsty that provides the US with the filthiest, most toxic sludge currently being burnt in American trucks and automobiles and war machines.

    Last night, I missed — for the second time — a broadcast of that documentary “Earth: The Owners’ Manual”, but I did manage to catch the last 20 minutes of it, which announced that China is investing more in alternative energy research than any other country on earth. The Chinese are exploring all options, including “clean coal”, which sounds like alchemy to me. But if the Chinese are willing to invest so much in it, I’m open to being convinced that there can be such a thing as clean coal. (Last night, I ordered the film from PBS Shop.)

    What Leiserowitz says about mobilizing people from the ground up makes sense to me, since in the US far more has been done on the community level than will ever get done on the federal level. I.e., surprisingly, the US is the Number Two country when it comes to investing in global warming research and solutions — and that is certainly no thanks to Congress, that most dysfunctional institution in the country, so dysfunctional, in fact, that if Americans want anything at all to get done, they have to do it themselves, on the local level. And that is indeed where things are getting done on climate change. Texas, of all places, has many acres of wind farm supported exclusively by farmers, who are raking in profits from it. Who says America has lost its can-do spirit?

  • Melody Reed

    but they are leveling mountains to get coal, that’s just not a sustainable alternative, and it is not clean

  • Kathy Lique

    It’s not up to John Boehner…it’s up to us. Each of us waking up to face this and realize that if WE don’t do it, our children will suffer enormously, and may not survive.

  • Dianne Radmore
  • William Wilson

    Working for the common good would turn the lobbies out and our government would function to solve global warming as it leads the world. Reversing citizens united and taking money out of politics is key but we can hold the right wing accountable for pushing global warming with KeystoneXL and the President with Southern leg. The corruption is massive and our children are already starting to pay for the lies of the industry that many or most in government accept.

  • Nirmala Pandan

    A brilliant masterpiece of Bill Moyers! True – an ounce of prevention is better! Let Hollywoo create a movie on Climate change that would be the fastest way to reach the public. May be Spielberg. Involve grandkids – the best ambassadors.

  • Rose Ginn

    Wake up!

  • davidp

    Some one mentioned that the U.S. is experiencing the 7th plague of Egypt as written in Gen 9:13ff…weather change.

  • For the birds

    Thank you for this interview. Talk it up. Hold the public responsible to understand what one individual can do to conserve the earth.

  • For the birds

    Thanks again. So many don’t understand the connection between the neighborhood life we lead and the nature ecosystems. We need to protect environments and ecosystems by choices real people make

  • Susanne McAllister

    Impassioned rhetoric on a truly pressing issue. I wish Leiserowitz had been more specific on the ‘prevention’ tactics. Perhaps a follow up on the things California is doing that make it the leader on addressing climate change head on, as is suggested, for those of us in the ‘alarmed’ camp. We need fodder for our letters to Congress and our community soap boxing.

  • Michael Jones

    Still talkin…too little….too late….
    China now passing USA in emissions. Soon India
    Coal is to be the energy of choice for these nations
    Renewables and alternatives will still be a small portion of the energy mix.
    Obama just indicated he is likely to approve the XL Keystone Pipeline….putting online unconventional dirtier fossil fuel of tar sands.
    “All the above” energy policy will not reduce emissions.
    The world is no nearer to a climate change agreement.
    The Congress will not pass a treaty or carbon fee.
    Do the math.
    2 Billion more people will be added to the populaton of the world to 9 billion.

  • Thomas A. Heller

    I found the figure cited where 16% of the public is “alarmed” curious when compared to the guest’s insistence that the media (“driving the discussion”) provide so little coverage on the issue.

    Hmmmm….16% in the alarmed camp when maybe 2% of media covers it? Hmmm….what does that suggest? Either massive & deliberate cover-up OR very effective dissemination of propaganda.

    Beyond that, I am skeptical that humans have learned all there is to learn about 1) atmospheric science; 2) geological science; 3) solar science and 4) the interactions of the wide variety of human activity with #1, #2, and #3.

    To assert that a) global warming is happening; b) humans caused it; c) we know exactly what to do about it and d) our action will indeed reverse or correct our past error(s) strikes me as the zenith of human arrogance.

    Lastly, I notice the guest did not take his analogy of a 70 mph vehicle approaching a stretch of widning, mountain road to the practical dimension.

    Since we all know that energy consumption is highly-correlated with economic activity (not to mention personal comfort) which produces jobs, income, wealth and capital that in turn supports invention and innovation, what would slowing down to 10 mph, in fear of an unknown future, mean to our nation, and the peoples of the world?

    If you think we suffered a painful economic contraction and are now in a sluggish economy marked by high unemployment, how can we gauge the likely effect of slowing to 10 mph?

  • Anonymous

    That’s why I call it alchemy. But the situation is getting desperate, so if the Chinese want to invest money in clean coal research, good luck to them. I hope they can convince me otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    You are quite right. In 1981, I was a senior undergraduate rushing to get my 6 obligatory science credits finished so I could get into grad school. The only course I could get into was chemistry, a course called “Chemistry, Pollution, and Environment,” where we studied the Greenhouse Effect — something I had heard about often but didn’t fully understand. President Carter had heard about it too, and he put solar panels on the roof of the White House. Reagan, at the behest of the oil industry, was taking them down.

    In other words, global warming is hardly a new phenomenon.

  • sunweb

    Anthony Leiserowit’s presentation was wonderful. The one very big
    mistake he made was using a poll to indicated whether tackling the
    global warming/environmental problem will effect the economy. He had
    just used polls to indicated the levels of knowledge or lack thereof for
    global warming. His error is and an important one that the only way to
    slow global warming is to use less energy. This means less resources
    out of the ground, process and manufactured. Less transportation of all
    kinds. This means a significant lifestyle change for the “developed”
    world and a shift of paradigm for the “developing world”. It would mean
    less military and less wasteful use of weapons. This will indeed be a
    game changer. Not addressing this leaves him and his cohorts open to
    misleading the public and negating their efforts.

  • Camburn

    In every inter-glaical of the past 4, sea level has been 12-20 meters higher than present. There is not a thing anyone can do to change that. That is what happens during inter-glacials.

  • Camburn

    Precisely. Our current knowledge is NOT sufficient to make any claim with any level of certainty because we do NOT know nearly enough to do so.

  • Anonymous

    I understand. You should still watch it. I bet you’ll be surprised. Leiserowitz spells out common sense ways to talk aobut climate impacts and helps you — liberating not depressing.

  • condorced

    “There is not a thing anyone can do to change that.”

    We’re causing an interglacial, and the way in which we’re doing it will kill billions of humans–maybe all the humans–as well as a large percentage of the species on Earth. It’s people like you who are responsible for these deaths, but I suppose the guilt-by-association folks would claim that it’s people like you who make us deserve to perish as a species…

  • Marcy Hamilton

    This 50 minutes gets your head engaged in this most important issue. The 40 minute and, ultimately, the 48 minute marks will get your heart engaged. If not, you may just like living in a concrete box away from all Earth’s flora and fauna.Mr. Moyers – you are a national treasure.

  • Katy Sheridan

    I think I am in the ‘alarmed’ group. We gave up owning a car 2.5 years ago and use public transportation in a sprawling city that is trying for good public transportation but it does fall short for wide-spread use. Our lives are constrained somewhat by how far we can get on buses and on our bikes. I feel like not owning a car is the right thing to do for the environment and it such a small effort for the level of fear I feel for the future! I fully expect to experience horrific environmental collapse and personal loss before I die. Being 68 years old, I don’t have much longer on this planet. I’m ready to join the 40 million Americans! Lets organize!

  • Marc Fontana

    congratulations on living without a car. I wish more people did – we need to adapt our cities to make it possible for young and old to live without a car. I’ve switched to driving an electric vehicle – Yes, it requires resources and building it generated some CO2 emissions, but operating it is cleaner (I charge it with solar generated power) than riding a bus or taxi.

  • Kelsey Jewett

    A large part of our problem lies is the word BELIEF.

We honor beliefs as truth when they are not . 
Our respect for belief incorrectly moves the “global warming” conversation from the domain of science into the domain of what we collectively belief. This error could be fatal for life on Earth.

    The Emperor has no clothing, and the Earth’s temperature is rising. We require strong global action to solve this problem NOW.

    If we fail in this task, I fear we headed for the sixth mass extension.!

  • Anonymous

    I agree… it is inspirational and by pointing to the importance of the “Ground Up” approach, he lights the path We The People must follow to push our elected officials to act on OUR behalf. Simple, but elusive concept in these cynical times.

  • George Yates

    Don’t give up somebody has to start stopping emissions somewhere. Capitalism won’t do it

  • George Yates

    Is anyone for a socialized election system where any citizen can run all paid for by the government so to take the short term interests caused by money out of elections

  • Tom Youngjohn

    One way to begin defeating the religious opposition to fixing climate change is to “take out” the offending pastors of the offending churches.

    Female environmental “double agents” need to date such pastors and then expose their sexual proclivities to their own churches. Take down enough environmentally evil pastors and the rest of the evil pastors will get the message.

    So, there you go, my green ladies. Take them out, and take them down.

  • Tom Youngjohn

    I voted for Obama, twice. I’ve never voted for a Republican for president in my life and I’m 47 years old. I would vote for Al Gore, Al Jezeera be damned. If I don’t get to vote for Al Gore, and he’s too ethical to run for president, then I want to vote for a green Bobby Jindal, if I hear him say, “God wants us to protect the environment” several times. Bobby Jindal in 2016! Woo hoo! Conservation is Conservative!

  • Tom Youngjohn

    Bobby, if you’re listening, it might be time to start turning green.

  • doris rhodes

    i kept wondering why no mention was made of the need for population control. if we continue multiplying at the present rate, it seems to me no amount of other change will affect the outcome.

  • Sandy Palmer

    We can pray that Pope Francis will remind the world that Noah built an Ark on dry land because God gave him a sign and it’s time for us all to participate in saving every living thing.

  • John

    Stop saying we need to save the planet when discussing catastrophic climate change. The planet will do just fine. It’s the human race that is at risk.

  • John

    The human population will come under control through wars, disease, pestilence or other system crash.

  • Loretta Huston

    It’s only a twist in words, there will never be such a thing as “clean coal” as it it’s a very toxic process every step of the way, beginning with the enormous energy it takes to extract, the water it pollutes, the dust that is blown across the superficial boundaries, the lethal elements of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead that is disturbed in the process of mining, transporting and burning. It is insane to think of it as an economical source of energy when these GIANT Corporations rob our tax dollars, exploit our labor and destroy our ecosystems.

    It is merely an addiction to a dead and dying paradigm that rewards the “pirateers” with the “illusion of wealth”. We can never “buy back an intricately complex planet of life” that we were all given.

  • Carolyn Caffrey

    women whoring themselves is your idea of a plan?

  • Loretta Huston

    Unfortunately Leiserowitz failed to recognize and acknowledge Bill McKibbens approach of mobilizing thousands to come to the streets in Washington and across the world in demanding action in dealing with Climate Change. The day before President’s day, 50K came to the Whitehouse while Obama was in Florida golfing with Oil- CEO’s. Obama has not spoken a word once about this historic ground swell of the people speaking for Clean, Safe, Renewable Energy NOW!

    After giving “lip service” of taking on Climate Change the very next week he outright says there is no way we can’t allow the toxic tar sands to move through our country. There is such a MAJOR Disconnect! Obama just does not understand nor feel the value working towards Healing Our Complex Planet of Life. He’s all about Corporate America or “Growing the American Dream”.

  • Loretta Huston

    Why hasn’t Obama addressed the most historic rally/march of 50K people taking to the streets a few weeks after his State of the Union Speech? The reason why this is a quiet issue, is because we are IGNORED!

  • Loretta Huston

    Yes, the 19sixties brought about a great awareness of Environmental concerns. Buckminster Fuller and others had many brilliant ideas and solutions for more sustainable models. Solar, Wind, integral living systems, modest housing, etc. were laughed at and ignored by the more dominant world view of the “American Myth” that “Bigger is Better”. And now we are living out this Dream/Nightmare that has “Bankrupted Our Planet”. “Capitalism” has “Capped” for there are very few schemes left to build the next “BOOM”, other that China, India and other developing Nations who are racing and diving deeply within this Voracious Business Model.
    But yet, no one promised us a sustainable system with 7 Billion+ Human Consumers.

  • Loretta Huston

    Earth is too Big too FAIL, what is it going to take for our Politicians to WAKE UP!

  • Guest

    Why doe Leiserowitz keep asking for confirmation by saying an almost unaudible “oK” or “k” all the time? Very irritating and an argument/debate no-no. Do you get me sweetheart … k?

  • Richard H. Stafursky

    Why does Leiserowitz keep asking for confirmation by saying an almost inaudible “oK” or “k” all the time? Very irritating and an argument/debate no-no. Do you get me sweetheart … k?

  • Stephen Leahy

    Brillant discussion – reasonable, thoughtful and practical. Thanks

  • ari papandreou

    thank you mr.Moyers


    No one talking about climate change gets into the basic science. I think people could understand if told the basics of how carbon dioxide absorbs heat radiated from the surface. Also the amounts of C02 released. Three pounds of CO2 is rerleased for each pound of carbon burned. A car getting 22 miles per gallon exhausts a pound of CO2 per mile. We use 80 million barrels of oil per day and each barrel produces nearly a half ton of CO2. Then there is coal, a ton of which produces about three tons of CO2. Much CO2 is taken out of the air by rain which causes acidification of land and sea but much still remains in the atmosphere. I thlink given some honest numbers more people would understand the problem. He said – she said arguements just do not convince.

  • Anonymous

    A truly excellent presentation of climate change! I wish everyone in the world could watch it. It’s effective enough to change the future.

    That being said, I was surprised to hear Bill Moyers use the term “suffragette” rather than “suffragist.”
    The word “suffragette” was coined by a British newspaper around 1906 as an insult and used in a
    derogatory manner. The paper’s editors thought using the diminutive “ette” was an effective way to ridicule
    women in the Suffrage movement by making them seem small and ridiculous.

    That Bill Moyers doesn’t know this shows is surprising, except, I guess, when you consider how many more men than women appear on his show.

  • serendip

    Professor Anthony Leiserowitz uses analogies very, very effectively. He does so in a way to make the figures more easily dealt with, and he thus sounds unlike the Yale professor which he must be proud to associate with his name. All in all, this has to be one of Mr. Moyers’ more valued dialogues in recent memory — and I have both read his books and watched his powerful interviews for many years! Thanks, Bill: continue with your shrewd insights and remarkable choices of persons to invite to join you.

  • JAC

    ‘Climate Change’ and/or ‘Global Warming’ are examples of Dr. Frank Luntz type wordsmithing. I think the folks who want the misinformation and apathetic
    response to the ruin of our planet created this too big to comprehend by the average Joe concept. ‘Polar bear extinction; never saw one in the first place,
    doesn’t affect me.’ What a perfect distraction. Does anyone remember pollution? The horrible stuff that killed people when they went outside their homes and
    breathed in the air. It killed lakes of fish, caused rivers to catch fire and children to develop cancer from playing in the dirt. Haven’t heard about it lately though. But you know what, it’s still there, killing people when they breath the air, killing lakes of fish, and causing cancer. I believe those who were responsible for pollution had to divert attention from the damage they were doing to our planet. So they met with their public relations team who worked to remove the word pollution from the vernacular. We need to call it what it is—pollution. People understand that pollution is bad. Air pollution is melting the polar ice caps by creating a greenhouse effect. Water pollution is creating hermaphrodite fish, mutant turtles and frogs. Soil pollution is causing cancer clusters. Let’s STOP POLLUTION.

  • aaheart

    We are NOT hurtling toward Moyers’, Gore’s, and Strong’s “cataclysm”. CO2 is an effect of Temperature Change, not the cause. Global Warming is Club of Rome propaganda being used for political purposes. CO2 is vital to life on earth and the more of it the more profuse and productive are the plants and the more diverse and successful are the animals. Carbon trading is a scam and the nature of good science is to be skeptical. Consensus is a poli sci meme, not a scientific truism.

  • nwjaney

    We don’t have time to convince the deniers. We just need to mobilize the 45% that don’t need to be convinced – they just need to be organized. As part of the 16% Alarm population I am 33:27 in to this interview and I am still waiting to hear what I can do and how to organize. Let’s spend our energy on the 45%. With a little leadership and organization – forget waiting for the politicians to lead and the media to report – with social media, we are the media and we can be much louder than the 8%.

  • UUTrouble

    How DARE you
    an hour on climate change & nothing on population size like the two aren’t even related.

    What a joke, what a sad, dangerous joke on humankind at leat Al Gore said population size was also a problem. But I guess it is just like Jack Nicholson said– “You can’t Handle the TRUTH”…..

  • Audrey Fischer

    The solution lies within each one of us. Act now.

  • Doc Greene Sr.

    Climate change has been going on since the beginning of time. Greenland used to be covered by forests. Who is to say what the best climate is?

  • Anonymous

    To get a grip on
    the universal problem of global change must be done at the governmental level,
    that government must take the initiative to organize the public. At the same time government must
    have a program of procedure-just how to do this -the steps that must be
    taken-to bring everyone on line. These steps cannot be politically motivated.
    There also must be a sense of urgency that time is running out.

    There are some
    states, California for example and some cities that are evolving splendid plans
    that government can use as guides for a universal plan.

    It must be
    government, Democrat and Republicans to get this program started.

    According to many
    we have already reached that point of no-return. Delay can be deadly.

  • Bur Oak

    This was the best discussion on climate change I have heard thus far. Bravo!

  • skeptical

    Since the professor’s son is nine years old, and there has been no warming in the last 17 years according to the UK Met Office and the IPCC’s own admission, he doesn’t know what global warming is. More alarmism from rent-seekers depserate for more taxpayer funding.

  • Jane Carroll

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  • bert dansereau

    Why does bill moyers omit discussion on such an obvious culprit in climate change as overpopulation. A very conspicuous exclusion. Why Mr Moyers ?


    Fossil fuel use in this country are a minor problem compared to the use by “emerging” nations, that don’t care about rising water or air quality.

    Also, underwater volcano eruptions warm the waters also, as seen on a special filming such a thing shown on

    the Weather Channel last night!! We are not in control of EVERYTHING, people, God , through nature and creation is!

  • Turky Tom Justice

    Perhaps nobody is talking about “global warming” because over the last 12 years, the climate has not warmed on average. That kinda blunts Al Gore’s claim that CO2 was driving it. CO2 released to the atmosphere has only increased, let alone stayed stable, yet the climate did not experience warming… So is it something driven by human activity? or natural forces outside our control.

  • BillW

    doris, this is a perfectly valid question, but it always derails climate change mediation discussions because someone starts down the “But I’m different I have 3/4/5 kids and don’t think that’s bad…”

    Unfortunate in the extreme as almost everything gets better with better population control. What I’d suggest is that we push as hard as we can on educating women. Usually doesn’t get the pushback but leads to improved population control pretty much universally. And of course it’s a good end in and of itself!

  • BillW

    Go troll somewhere else.

  • Argus

    As the fracking scourge rolls across the US, we must brace ourselves for even more global warming and erratic weather. It seems to matter not the plethora of documented disasters, local and state officials are completely hypnotized by the prospect of Big Money from Big Oil/Gas. Under the pretense of “research”, Universities are allowing fracking on their properties (many times public land) with the blessing of the state despite the opposition of concerned citizens.

  • Greg Burman

    Anthony Leiserowitz is mostly not wrong but he’s like a missionary screaming at the natives in English (science) when they only understand their local dialect (profit). He is wrong about creating a groundswell. Corporate culture will determine the outcome.and until we speak the correct language nothing will change. What is the risk adjusted net present value cost to my company of a 3 foot rise in sea level. Solve that, earth wins. Here’s one way:

  • Jim Rough

    For the lead-in to this show on Climate Change Anthony Leiserowitz speaks a few words that almost get it right. He says, “In the end the only way we are going to deal with this issue is if we come together as a country and have a serious conversation … not about “is it real? … “but what we can do about it.” This conversation must be far more than just this: It must include all people of the world. It must be collaborative and creative. It must reach near-unity on what to do; and it must be inspiring in a way that we all — all countries — follow through. While this bigger vision seems impossible for most people, it’s not. There are new whole-system conversation innovations like the “Wisdom Council,” that make this possible. See “How to save the world … fast and easy.” at

  • David Eddy

    Government is notoriously reluctant to do anything when it comes to preventing or recognizing disasters before they happen. Now, we have a situation where half of our nations citizens are conservative and want to revert back to caveman mentality. To top that off we have a failed economy that does not generate new money to keep up with daily needs let alone give us money to prevent or prepare for drastic changes in weather due to our abusive use of technology. People need to get their act together and work together to solve problems; not make them worst possible outcome.

  • fredricwilliams

    “I don’t want him to live in the world that we’re currently hurtling towards.”– hyperbole. Seriously, does he prefer that his son die? No. Then since we are hurtling toward his imagined terrible world, what shall we do?

    I know, become a professor and talk about our imagined terrible world — and claim that no one is talking about global warming (or, that’s right, just in case you missed it, we don’t talk about that any more, now we talk about “climate change” because that surely has been with us from the dawn of time).

    Let’s stop change! Change is bad!

    The earth is so big,
    We are so small.
    Stay as you are.

  • Pat Leavenworth

    This is the best discussion on climate change I have heard!

  • V. C. Bestor

    Can we inspire “soccer moms” to save the climate? “Fanged Wilds and Women Program” uses humor, shock and love to alert ladies that hearth and home can be a window to wilderness. Connect weather extremes, sexism, and the extinction of animals we adore? I think it’s possible. Or at least it’s a way to give voice in the silence.

  • Matt

    While I appreciate the work that Anthony Leiserowitz’s
    Climate Change Communication work has done to map population groups in America and how
    to motivate them, I criticize them for having a shallow philosophical or ethical grounding to work.

    What I mean by that is they recognize climate change as something that needs to be addressed, but fail to place it in context of larger issues of political economy.
    Essentially, they assume that climate change can be addressed appropriately as a problem isolated from political and economic power, or other ecological crisis like biodiversity loss or antibiotic resistance. I think this is a false assumption, and can have the potential to cause tremendous damage in how we articulate a response.

    The problem, put another way, is that the libertarian think tanks are smarter than Anthony Leiserowitz’s project in the sense that they’ve mapped out what climate action will mean for their position in society. I don’t think they fully understand the evilness of their retrenchment.

    I highly recommend reading “A Trillion Tons” in this winter’s issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It mapped out a set of scenarios of various responses to climate change. Even with massive efficiency policy, much cheaper renewable energy and substantial carbon tax ($35/ton), we still will cross over the climate limits in the next 60-80 years. We’ve slowed the rate of growth,
    but have changed the underlying system, which is Energy Intensity / GDP. We have to address the GDP piece.

    This will be the greatest political fight of my generation
    (20s), probably maturing in 6-8 years. The arguments will largely surround the issue of fair distribution: whether we should shrink the economy or keep it
    stable. This is what the conservative/libertarian
    think tanks are so afraid of – the ecological limits force the issue of fair distribution and property rights into the public sphere, with overwhelming moral force. Fair distribution arguments have always been there with legitimacy, but the ecological limits eviscerate the possibility that the feudal ideal of “compassionate neoliberalism” – think Bill Gates or Warren Buffet
    – as having any sort of moral legitimacy.

    In short, my impression is that Leiserowitz has not grasped the full complexity or difficulty of dealing with ecological crisis, and that has immense bearing on his project.

    (Or he may, and has decided that public disclosure of that sentiment will make him a political lighting-rod that will reduce the effectiveness of his work. I’m not sure. I prefer honest transparency. It makes communication easier.)

  • Br. Lawrence

    Naturally, there’s more than hope needed to move climate change issues into the national attention, though hope depicts an uplifted intent and we should be more mindful to intend, and then to be better planetary stewards; and more than talk needed, even though idly chatting about real causes with better alternatives can only help more than our very meager conversational efforts to date…if only more dialogues, crowd-chatting-channels, discussion groups, et al, could be significantly increased; and more than action needed, especially when the type of crowd-action necessary does not exist yet – not yet – and which needs to be actually located in environmentally active neighborhoods where vital actions, as simple as tree planting for example, whose natural environmental function and enhancement is inextricably intertwined in good planetary stewardship and whose definition and state has not yet found its way into the national consciousness – not yet. But all these crowd-action aspects are bound up in the new movement toward community regeneration, where our bonds to nature and community are ONE and where this bond should be consistently reinforced, and rewarded with acknowledgement, and which bond must always be taken into account whether crowdsourcing, crowdmapping, crowdfunding or crowd-planning a community’s ongoing renewal. Check out Storm Cunningham’s efforts in creating the world’s first crowd-action community revitalization website – still in development, but in earnest need of your support > joining is free.

    Br. Lawrence,

    Advocate for Community Revitalization Networking

  • LovetheEarth

    If “Ending the Silence on Climate Change” were shown in every classroom from the 5th grade through college, the young generation would clearly “get it” and hopefully rouse their parents into taking action. In the meantime, the adults who see this program MUST impress upon their elected decision-makers to actively and vigorously pursue dealing with climate change NOW and now wait until it’s too late.

  • Wes

    Further to deliaruhe’s post; it is also a fact that our PM, Stephen Harper, is actively and deliberately “muzzling” our government scientists from speaking publicly about their work, especially when it contradicts or otherwise brings into question the ideology which Harper’s regime espouses. If Bill’s moderators will allow it, here is just one link to this issue:

  • David L Lews

    Read the facts: Germany will be 100% solar powered in the year 2040. Oil wars will continue as long as we have idiots denying the obvious.

  • Robert Harshman

    When they start telling the truth about geo engineering our skies , when the admit co’2 was the wrong approach, when they stop telling half truths , when they admit they really don’t know , when the admit the sun and oceans truly drive our weather, I will start to listen.

  • David L Lews

    Fact 48 million acres of fed forest lands burnt last year another 34 million acres destroyed by beetles –freezes are to short to kill them; 68^% of corn soy gone due to drought. Super-storms now cost 10 of billions growing each year; global drought drive us into food shortages faster each year. Germany now50% solar will be 100% in 20 years. Why wait jobs and getting rid of oil wars will save us in the short and long run.

  • David L Lews

    1 degree global rise in the North seas it is more like 8 degrees hence the glaciers are melting at 8 times the rate projected even 30 years ago. 48 million fed forest go up in smoke last year 34 million die because freeze is to short to stop beetles. 68% of corn group destroyed and globally worse drought in over 200 years, so proof is building and to deny it is a fancy and a vain imagining. So do not add to the ignorance.

  • Beth

    Dislike the term global warming. Prefer climate change.
    Wish the media would have some of the conservatives on whom I know are walk the talk environmentalists. Maybe then more naysayer on the right would take notice and get involved.

    And how about calling out those who talk talk green but live in more than one home, have more than 1-2 children, more than one car, are out of shape and are anything but walk the talk when it comes to being green and less is more lifestyle?
    And yes, we are a walk the talk green family and have been for 4 decades.

  • Victoria Lamb

    I don’t
    think it’s wise to speculate about what other people are thinking. It is
    sometimes more convenient, but that doesn’t make for intelligent debate;
    instead it gives rise to demonizing and vilifying of perfectly decent people,
    and it creates the impression that doing so is OK.

  • Victoria Lamb

    The organizers of the rally seem not to have checked ahead of time to ensure that the President would be in residence. They then sent a very outraged letter to their supporters (of which I am one). I have worked in communications for over 30 years and never would orchestrated an event involving so many people (many traveling from other states) without double- and triple-checking the arrangements right up to morning of the start date.

  • Victoria Lamb

    You can’t be serious.

  • Victoria Lamb

    The Senate is proposing to take the pipeline decision out of President Obama’s hands and give it to the oil industry. How do you think that will work out?

  • Victoria Lamb

    Population control would be far easier if the GOP hadn’t spent since 2010 chipping away at contraception and other women’s health services in all of the ALEC-controlled states.

  • JDietrick

    Is there definite factual corroboration of the President’s whereabouts during the rally and what his options were?

  • JDietrick

    How many therms of natural gas does it take to make a pound of CO2? How many kW of electricity? 40% of CO2 is generated by the heating, cooling and operation of structures and that is the most amenable sector to local interventions and does the most to create clean jobs and improve local economies.

  • JDietrick

    Wondering if Bill has talked with architect/activist Edward Mazria? He’s doing a lot through Architecture 2030, but I want to know what it would take politically to radically upgrade the National Building Codes?

  • Anonymous

    And coal is actually even worse than tar sand.

  • Pat Elgee

    What we need is to stop making wars, then invest the money in making the USA fulfill it’s destiny and assume leadership in the world based on respect, not might. We need to invest in making clean energy a reality, education the best possible, and focus on solving real world problems like clean, plentiful water and food, clean environment, access to healthcare.
    We need to ban toxic plastics, toxic chemicals in our enviornment, and especially toxic colors and preseratives in our food.
    I was so proud of our country when as a little girl I learned that we were the “Bread Basket of the World.”
    What are we now? The unwanted, self appointed world police that invades other countries to stomp out WMD and not worry about collateral damage?

  • John Mohler

    I have a somewhat facetious question… Since only 3.2 percent of CO2 emissions are from manmade sources, and the remainder from decaying plant matter and the like, couldn’t something be done on the plant matter side to mitigate our emissions? i.e., limited deforestation?

  • Buck Rogers

    If we put much effort into reducing human made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere we will have to do many many things. One will be regulating deforestation.

  • Joseph Horgan

    Clean Water is the essence of life on earth. Dirty water is the result of bad land use and dirty air. Ensuring that the water is clean means ensuring the air is clean and that land use policies are not for the sole benefit of speculators (euphemistically called developers).