University of Toledo holds lecture on climate change

Rachel Nearhoof / IC

Rachel Nearhoof / IC

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A lecture about climate change which focused on how we know climate change is real and what we can do about it was presented by  Andy Jorgensen, associate professor of chemistry and environmental sciences. The lecture was presented to a group of about 40 at the Lake Erie Center on January 19.

According to a graph presented in Jorgensen’s power point, seven in 10 Americans think global warming is happening, and six in ten Americans are worried about global warming. This highlights the very real divide in this country when it comes to climate change and what we think is true.

Jorgensen began his lecture by presenting global data from NASA highlighting the difference in temperature compared to the average temperature since 1880.

“As you see, 2014 was higher than any other year in modern times, but then we had 2015, which blew the records away, and 2016 is blowing the records away,” Jorgensen said.

A member of the audience asked Jorgensen whether the fact that 2016 was an El Nino year drove a lot of the temperature increase. To this question, Jorgensen said it did, but that was on top of the already increased temperature.

To put the data into perspective, Jorgensen personalized it. He pointed out that the raising of global temperature can be seen from generation to generation; it is not eons or from the modern ages.

“Most of the warming occurred within the past 35 years. In fact, 16 of the warmest 17 years on record have been since 2001,” Jorgensen said. “Everybody in this rooms looks to be 16 years or older, so you have been alive for 16 of the warmest years on Earth in modern times.”

As another way of putting climate change into perspective, Jorgensen related the increase in temperature on earth to an increase in temperature in a child.

“If your child has a temperature of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not an emergency. It is a serious situation though,” Jorgensen said. “It’s a situation I call ‘Paying Attention.’ We are not at an ignoring stage now.”

Jorgensen explained that the largest source of greenhouse gases in the world comes from generating energy. According to graphs presented in Jorgensen’s powerpoint, t

In 2050, Jorgensen said the temperature will be up 3.6 degrees, and in 2100 it will be up six degrees, the hottest it has been in 30 million years. Jorgensen deflected the argument that the Earth has been warmer before by stating that the population was not nearly what is now and that the present change is very rapid.

“People say, ‘It has been warmer before, why do we care?’ Well, the Earth is not going to split in half,” Jorgensen said. “It’s going to survive, but it may shake off us parasites.”

The second half of Jorgensen’s lecture was dedicated to what we can do to reduce the problem. These suggestions included changing to alternate or nuclear fuels, reducing the destruction of trees and plants and replacing coal with a natural gas.

Jorgensen also stated things that can be done at a personal level. Things as simple as turning off lights, recycling, driving less and even paying closer attention to the food we eat can help reduce the problem

“Chickens are very efficient in terms of not much carbon dioxide to get it to your table. For lamb, 38 percent more GHG to get lamb to the table. Ribs take 3.8 times as much. Beef is very, very inefficient,” Jorgensen said. “It takes 7.6 times as much greenhouse gas to get to the table. You could eat seven times the amount of chicken to get the same amount of CO2.”

The main determinate for how much greenhouse gas it takes to get food onto a plate, depends on how far the food must travel.

“As a vegetarian,” an audience member said, “I was wondering where vegetable-based proteins fall on the greenhouse gas scale?”

Jorgensen explained that it greatly depends how and where the produce is bought, hence the importance of buying local.

Jorgensen has given his presentation 158 times to a total of 3,000 people. He said that though some say we can’t afford to deal with climate change, the reality is we cannot afford not to deal with climate change.

(The sentences “After a long and distinguished career as an educator, he decided to throw it all away by dabbling in the dubious science of climate change,” said Tom Bridgeman, professor in department of environmental sciences, upon the introduction of Jorgensen. “Let’s welcome him with a slightly skeptical clap.” were removed due to misrepresentation.)

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University of Toledo holds lecture on climate change