By Ivan Flores
There is an unending argument between skeptics and believers with regards to climate change. Washtenaw’s Political Science Club invited climate change activists from various organizations to present their case at Towsley Auditorium on March 24.
Mariah Urueta is an activist for the local Food And Water Watch chapter.
“Climate destabilization is not how the weather feels outside,” she explained.
Climate and weather are not the same thing. Weather is volatile, but climate remains constant over long periods of time.
Emily Woodcock was among the other speakers present. She is the office manager for Clean Water Action’s Ann Arbor branch.
“Climate change affects us directly,” Woodcock said. “(In Michigan) it especially affects the cherry crop and has other impacts on agriculture.”
According to Joe Somers, a retired Environmental Protection Agency employee with a PhD in chemical engineering, the main factor behind climate change is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases make up a small part of the atmosphere, but they are critical to the global climate.
When the sun’s energy hits the Earth, some of it is reflected into space, and the Earth absorbs some of it. That energy is radiated back out towards space, but greenhouse gases trap some of the heat in the lower atmosphere. The greater the concentration of greenhouse gases, the greater the effect on global temperature.
“CO2 levels have been rising,” Somers said. “They’re now a little over 400 parts per million. In the pre-industrial age, they were about 300 PPM. That’s roughly about a 25 percent increase, which is significant.”
While natural events like forest fires and volcanic eruptions account for some of the CO2, and other greenhouse gas, emissions, human activity accounts for most of them.
“The (average) ambient temperature has increased by about 1 degree Celsius, which is almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit, in the past century. What is significance of that? Polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise. It’s causes climate perturbation, where climate systems become more unstable and (susceptible) to adverse events like storms.”
Energy production is a huge source of CO2.
“Fossil fuels do not include their true cost,” said Jeanie Rodgers, from Citizen’s Climate lobby.
Fossil fuels are relatively cheap, but that is not always the case.
“Michigan,” Woodcock added, “actually has one of the highest costs for energy because of coal.”
Rodgers went on, “60 percent of the carbon footprint comes from the household products we buy, between manufacturing and transportation.”
According to Somers, that footprint is huge. The United States is responsible for roughly 30 percent of the CO2 produced by the entire world.
The main message from the conference was to be responsible human beings, by being educated and making good choices to protect the environment.
Henry Griffin, another activist present, said, “We are not inheriting from our ancestors, but borrowing from our children.”