Alan Weisman: Is climate change happening?

Alan Weisman's reports from around the world have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Wilson Quarterly, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, Discover, Audubon, Condé Nast Traveler, and in many anthologies, including Best American Science Writing 2006.  His most recent book, The World Without Us, a bestseller translated into 30 languages, was named the Best Nonfiction Book of 2007 by both Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, the #1 Nonfiction Audiobook of 2007 by iTunes; a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction, for the Orion Prize, and a Book Sense 2008 Honor Book.

His previous books include An Echo In My Blood; Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World (10th anniversary edition available from Chelsea Green); and La Frontera: The United States Border With Mexico. He has also written the introduction for The World We Have by Thich Nhat Hanh, available this fall from Parallax Press.  A senior producer for Homelands Productions, Weisman’s documentaries have aired on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and American Public Media.  Each spring, he leads an annual field program in international journalism at the University of Arizona, where he is Laureate Associate Professor in Journalism and Latin American Studies.  He and his wife, sculptor Beckie Kravetz, live in western Massachusetts.

  • Transcript


Alan Weisman:  Well, there are fewer and fewer skeptics, I mean we are down to the usual names that we hear over and over again, it sort of like, the discussion that has finally died down about what the cigarettes really cause cancer, for a while you could always find some doctor who is on the take form the American tobacco institute or something like that, who would say “Well we don’t have enough research in, it is not proven.” There are very few skeptics left top deal with, I am not scientist, I am a journalist anecdotally I am as an observer out there, I have seen things like in the permafrost I have seen glacier lakes, which basically those where holes that would dug by receding glaciers that later got, or advancing glaciers that later got filled by an iceberg that fell into them and it melted and it is where fossil glacier water has been held in place by frozen permafrost for the last 10,000 years and now suddenly as there permafrost is slaying all the levels of these lakes are dropping some of them have disappeared, that is pretty compelling when you see that. In an Antarctica and in southern Chile I have seen glaciers receding, you see grasses growing on the edge of the Antarctic peninsula right now, the droughts that I have mentioned earlier and just the convulse of climate gyrations, mean that we have definitely perturbed the climate and all this tracks directly with the increases in carbon dioxide that began at the beginnings of the industrial revolution and particularly intensified after 1950. The ice corals, the pollen course from the bottom of the lakes all of these things show that we haven’t had this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for nearly 700,000 years and the earth was a really different place back then. So, I suspect that climates are changing right now. Atmosphere of scientist who I talked for this book, suggested that if we stop tomorrow, putting carbon up are chimneys, it would take about a 100,000 for the earth to reabsorb it all. Fortunately, most of that would happen in the first few centuries and so that means that any reduction in our carbon contributes this atmosphere right now would be extremely helpful. So, we should start thinking about it, yesterday.


Recorded on: 2/5/08