Honors Student Council sheds new light on climate change

By on March 1, 2014

By Landon Lauder–

Climate change experts and U of L honors students came together to disprove common myths and misconceptions about climate change in a panel held by Honors Student Council on Feb. 27.

A few of the myths addressed included the effects of global warming, how carbon dioxide levels are climbing and simply whether or not climate change is actually happening.

“They think [climate change] means the days are going to be just a couple of degrees warmer,” said panelist and ecologist Margaret Carreiro.

Carreiro presented data that states the Earth is becoming warmer over time, regardless of natural solar and planetary variations. The main culprit for this upward trend in overall global temperature is carbon dioxide.

According to Carreiro, the temperature today is the warmest Earth has been in 900,000 years. This conclusion was reached in the scientific community by analyzing ice samples from the arctic, which can trap pockets of prehistoric air.

“The warmest 10 years on record have all occurred since 1998,” said Carreiro.

Most of this temperature increase occurred with the onset of the industrial revolution and continues to this day, matching the upward trend in human population. The carbon dioxide comes from the combustion of fossil fuels, which is part of most everything we do. We burn fossil fuels both directly by driving cars and indirectly by flipping the light switch on or even by throwing trash away instead of recycling.

“We’re worried about [an increase] of two degrees Celsius warmer as a global mean temperature by the mid century,” said Carreiro. History has shown that only six degrees Celsius could be the difference between today’s temperatures and having “a mile-high glacier” over Louisville.

More pressing are the extremes in temperature and weather, something we certainly have been experiencing this semester with temperatures in the negatives and sometimes reaching 70 degrees. Not only does this put a strain on your electricity bill, but it also stresses ecological habitats and processes.

“A lot of what people think of as controversial is trying to guess what’s going to happen in the future,” said panelist Justin Mog, assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives. “What is not controversial is what’s happened in the past…what is controversial is what does that mean for Louisville, Kentucky in 2040?”

U of L has undertaken numerous initiatives in order to reduce its carbon footprint in one of the most energy-sucking states in the country. In 2010, the university halted its coal-fired power plant on campus.

The overall carbon footprint of the university has decreased 27 percent, which is equivalent to taking 14,167 cars off of the road. Mog estimated the city of Louisville’s bike share program would come to campus within one year, providing more options to reduce carbon emissions. However, one of the university’s largest carbon-dioxide producing issues is the amount of commuter students and faculty who must drive their cars to campus.

“We deserve, as a country, a D for effort,” said Carreiro. The United States possesses vast potential for renewable energy sources, but fossil fuels still dominate the market. “We need businesses and government to change policies to help make us have a broader range of choices.”

The panelists presented Germany’s approach to the climate change problem. In one year, Germany was able to derive four percent of its total power from solar energy, bringing its total renewable energy production up to 20%. “If Germany could do it, what’s stopping us,” asked the panel.

Avery Kolers, panelist and director of U of L’s social change program, spoke extensively on the morality issues of harming the Earth and what is the worth of changing our individual actions to better the planet. Kolers stressed that it is important to be cognizant of future generations and how your actions today will shape their Earth tomorrow.

“We’ve imposed capitalism, something that can grow forever, on an Earth that is very finite,” said sophomore student climate panelist Laura Krauser.

 

About Olivia Krauth

Asst. Editor in Chief at The Louisville Cardinal.

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