Climate change threatens the survival of people and planet. The dangers cannot be overestimated but they must be properly understood if the world is to respond effectively.
Thankfully some of the greatest scientific minds of today are able to explain the stark realities of the crisis to the wider public in language that everyone can comprehend. One of the world’s most renowned theoretical physicist, Professor Lawrence M. Krauss, my guest today on Inside Ideas, does that better than anyone. In his groundbreaking new book, The Physics of Climate Change, the best-selling author examines the various predictions being made about a planet plagued by rising temperatures and reveals the data-backed projections countries need to acknowledge and address, and those which are a bit more speculative.
It’s happening now – it’s not something in the future and we can learn how to deal with it.
On the upside, the President of The Origins Project Foundation, says people should be hopeful that a positive way forward can still be found for a world in climate crisis. “It’s not all doom and gloom. And no matter what some people on the left in the US might say, the world is not going to end in 12 years through climate change,” he said. “It’s a huge challenge, but it’s a long-term challenge and we can minimise the effects – which will be serious, but they’ll be serious anyway.”
He continued: “But it’s not as if all hope is lost. And also it’s happening now – it’s not something in the future and we can learn how to deal with it in ways that minimise, or at least mediate, some of the worst impacts.”
There is a plain speaking honesty to the respected physicist, which is desperately needed to cut through the hyperbole and present the challenges as they are and what must be done to tackle them.
“When I grew up my parents had a small gift shop and there was a little sign above the trinkets that said ‘you break it, it’s yours’ and I often say that that’s the case with our world in some sense,” he added. “The first world – the United States and Europe have been dumping carbon in the atmosphere for 100 years, and the worst and most immediate impacts will happen in parts of the world that really didn’t contribute to that. So we kind of have, at least an ethical obligation I think, to reach out and assist because we helped create the problem.”
The Origins Project Foundation Professor Krauss leads, celebrates science and culture by connecting scientists, artists, writers and celebrities with the public through special events, online discussions and unique travel opportunities. The Foundation produces the Origins Podcast, an extremely popular video podcast Professor Krauss hosts involving dialogues with the most interesting people in the world, including Noam Chomsky, Stephen Fry, and Ricky Gervais, where he discusses issues that address the global challenges of the 21st century.
Before taking his current position at the Foundation, Krauss served as Director of Arizona State University’s Origins Project, a national center for research and outreach on origins issues, and was Foundation Professor at ASU for a decade, and also Chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, responsible for the Doomsday Clock, from 2008-2018.
Beyond his scientific work, Krauss has been one of the world’s most active and successful science popularizers and a vocal advocate for science and reason vs pseudoscience and superstition, as well as sound public policy. He has written over 500 publications and 11 popular books, including the international best-sellers, The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing. His most recent book, The Physics of Climate Change was released in February 2021. He has written regularly for magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker, and appears regularly on radio, television and most recently in several feature films. Among his numerous awards are included the three major awards from all 3 US physics societies and the 2012 Public Service Award from the National Science Board for his contributions to the public understanding of science.
His own research interests have focused on the interface between elementary particle physics and cosmology, including the origin and evolution of the Universe and the fundamental structure of matter. Among his numerous breakthrough scientific contributions was the proposal, in 1995, that most of the energy of the Universe resided in empty space.
During his career Professor Krauss has held endowed professorships and distinguished research appointments at institutions including Harvard University, Yale University, University of Chicago, Boston University, University of Zurich, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), Case Western Reserve University, Australian National University, Arizona State University, and New College of Humanities.