Goal 13: Climate Action
“Natural climate change has helped shape human history. Anthropogenic climate change will undoubtedly affect our future.” -Dr. Dagomar Degroot
Dr. Degroot is an assistant professor of environmental history. His research explores past, present, and future climate change. We now know that our industrial societies are unsustainable, he says, and we must take urgent action to address the climate changes our greenhouse gases have caused. This year, the warming effect of those gases has contributed to record breaking temperatures, typhoon seasons, hurricanes, and droughts. Rising sea levels are now beginning to displace island communities, while droughts worsened by climate change are destabilizing vulnerable societies. Dr. Degroot maintains that this is just “a taste of what our future holds” if nations across the world don’t attempt to slow the rapid increase in global temperatures.
The United Nations has called for nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thereby limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. Scientists have decided that additional warming beyond that limit will likely have catastrophic consequences. Dr. Degroot supports that goal, but warns that some level of warming will continue for decades, no matter what we do now, and that sea levels will keep rising for centuries. We therefore need to learn how to live in a warmer world, even as we try to stop that world from warming too much.
With that in mind, Dr. Degroot conducts research into how societies, organizations, and individuals responded to preindustrial climate changes, which were caused by volcanic eruptions or shifts in solar activity. Dr. Degroot hopes we can learn from historical examples of social resilience and adaptation in the face of these climate changes. To share these insights from the past with policymakers, journalists, and the general public, he has created a popular website and podcast. He also co-founded a network of interdisciplinary scholars who study past climate change.