Dr. Trude Storelvmo has a front row seat to the climate change debate. The only trouble? There’s nothing to debate. The basic physics behind the phenomenon of climate change has been understood for over a century. “It’s sort of mind-boggling that we’re still arguing about this,” says Dr. Storelvmo, who spoke to Inspirer from Norway. While this fallacious debate can be frustrating to those working to better understand the effects of climate change and what to do about it, on a larger scale it can be dangerous.
As a professor and researcher at Yale, Dr. Storelvmo finds herself largely insulated from impending cuts in funding under an administration that doesn’t take climate change seriously. Some of her colleagues aren’t so fortunate. Many face deep cuts in funding, as well as layoffs and all those working in the field, perceive a general lack of respect for science and scientists.
As a permanent U.S. resident born in Norway, Dr. Storelvmo has a broad perspective on issues of climate change both in the U.S. and abroad. At a recent gathering for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, she says there was a palpable embarrassment from American scientists on behalf of their country’s unwillingness to work with the rest of the world toward a solution.
“In my research now, I consistently find more warming per unit increase and CO2 in the atmosphere, so that means there’s even more of a sense of urgency, there’s even less of this allowable CO2 input into the atmosphere before we experience dangerous climate change.”
What constitutes dangerous climate change, Dr. Storelvmo says, depends on where you live and what you care about. The Paris climate agreement was designed to keep warming below 1 ½ degrees if possible and definitely below two degrees. Dr. Storelvmo says people don’t realize how close we are to those limits now.
“As a society, we obviously need to cut our greenhouse emissions,” she says definitively. As individuals, we largely know what we should be doing, but actually doing it can be difficult. “We have lifestyles where we fly, we drive, do all the things that create emissions and it’s hard to make changes especially when you’re not getting help from the politicians.”
Holding onto hope is critical, “the worst thing we can do is to end up feeling there’s no point or it’s hopeless,” Dr. Storelvmo says. “It’s a balancing act, you want to install some fear in people so they realize this is urgent and we need to do something now, but you don’t want to tip it over to the point where they give up.”
Dr. Storelvmo absolutely will not be buying real estate in low-lying areas anytime soon. For her, the crisis of climate change is part of daily life and she is working tirelessly to make the urgent message heard. But her position at the university also gives her cause for hope. After the 2016 election, Dr. Storelvmo saw a sizeable enrollment increase for courses about climate change. This youth engagement is a hopeful trend at a critical moment.
“Some of these kids are going to go out and have an influence on the world and through them, maybe I can have an influence, too.”