10.12.2006

SU and Global Warming

It appears, at least up here in the 'Cuse, that Americans are finally starting to wake up to climate change--which is just about the best news that I've heard in good long time. I won't repeat what has been said elsewhere either more eloquently or with a greater handle upon the facts than I can manage. I would, however, like to direct your attention to several recent local developments.

Firstly, the always astute Adirondack Almanack [1] has been discussing the effect that climate change will have upon that region of the world, someething Bill McKibben has been talking about at length for years.

Closer to home for me, Syracuse University has been on something of a "climate change kick" of late, beginning with Al Gore's speech before the Syracuse community at the Landmark a few weeks back. Since then, the University has opened up public debate on what can be done about climate change here at home. For me, perhaps the most profound statement to come out of those discussions was by Dr. Rachael May of EnSPIRE [2]:

"One of the reasons why we use so much energy is because we're so isolated from each other"

Just as the existence of a second home implies the failure of the first, our incredible expenditures in energy can be in a large part directly blamed upon the disentegration of our communities. Sprawl, long commutes, far-flung vacations, etc, etc. Strong, healthy communities just make sense in so many ways: economic, ecological, psychological and aesthetic. I'm glad that the connection between energy use and community decay was explicitly made.

Since that public forum, a working group called Global Warming Brainstorming has begun work trying to figure out how to break SU and ESF's energy addictions (they're taking suggestions). Even better news: this is part of a much larger movement of hundreds of universities around the nation dedicated to halting and even reversing climate change. It appears that there may be a reason that the NYT referred to students my age as "the Greenest Generation." Let's keep up the good work.

-Posted by Jesse

[1] "always astute Adirondack Almanack" how's that for alliteration? My English teachers at C. Fred Johnson Middle School would be proud as pie.
[2] EnSpire is the Office of Environment and Society at SU and ESF.

3 comments:

Adirondack Almanack said...

"always astute Adirondack Almanack" - GOLD STAR!

Ginni Quinton said...

the sun isn't getting any brighter!

Jesse said...

Ginni, no one's claiming that the sun is getting warmer... that would be ridiculous. Instead, what is being said is that the Earth is, to sum it up, gaining more insulation. So on a cold day, the sun is the same temperature whether I'm wearing a sweater or I'm buck naked, but the sweater helps me to trap and retain some of that heat.

The earth's atmosphere acts in the same way, retaining some of the heat that reaches out planet (and it's a damn good thing, because it would be as cold as the Moon here without that layer). You yourself can experience this: think of the coldest winter nights... they're the ones with no clouds to trap the heat.

Well 'greenhouse' gasses, like carbon dioxide work to bounce heat back to the Earth's surface. Normally, we exhale carbon dioxide and plants pick it up and build their bodies out of it, balance is maintained. Unfortunately, lately we've been burning the bodies of billions upon billions of plants in the form of coal and oil, which is releasing tremendous amounts of carbon into the air that isn't normally part of the system Slowly but surely, we're warming the Earth, changing weather patterns and generally speaking screwing with the Earth. Need evidence? Katrina, record hurricanes, record droughts, heat waves in France and California, the warmest winters on record. Heck up in Raquette Lake last year, they had a record number of snowmobiles go through the ice on the lake... are people stupider? No, the ice is getting thinner.