Richard Whiteford is about to make his third climate change presentation at the United Nations this weekend. As a “Climate Reality Project” presenter, trained by Al Gore in 2007, he’s made over 250 powerpoint presentations to show just how much carbon we’ve used over the years and how much is estimated we’ll use in the next few years.
He says one of the biggest observations he includes in his presentations is the loss of glaciers.
“Glacier National Park used to have 150 glaciers. Now, they only have 25 and those are disappearing very fast,” he said. “The other thing is glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic are melting. The Thwaites Glacier broke off last May and that has committed the world to a four-foot sea level rise probably in the next four or five decades.”
Whiteford’s other key message is what he calls the “critical issue.”
“From 1850 up until now, we burned 500 billion tons of carbon and it raised the planetary temperature one degree,” he said. “Scientists are telling us we dare not go above two degrees celsius and that means we can only burn another 500 billion tons to put us at the two degree level. Right now, in inventory, we have five times that much carbon.”
It’s a message not all have agreed with. Right before President Obama’s second election, Whiteford was giving a presentation in a movie theater to about 350 people when a group of people burst in.
“[They] came down the aisle screaming ‘climate change is a hoax’ and they actually took my powerpoint projector and smashed it on the floor,” he said. “They tried to assault me in the foyer and I had to be escorted out of town by the police.”
Whiteford says his job is not to scare people with statistics but rather show that there’s an opportunity to engineer our way out of the problem.
“There are all sorts of new inventions happening right now,” he said. “Solar has really taken off, wind is doing really well. We have to invent ourselves out and it will really kickstart the economy is we get moving.”