Professors discuss effects of global warming

Cynthia Gomez

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Professors came together Thursday to discuss the problems and solutions pertaining to global warming at the “Focus the Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America.” The event took place in the USU Grand Salon, where CSUN professors utilized PowerPoint presentations on the topics and issues they were familiar with.

Professors touched on issues related to global warming including environmental, scientific and political issues, as well as biodiversity and adaptation.

“The purpose of the event is to bring awareness about global warming and also to create a dialogue between the community and students and faculty on how we can implement solutions,” said Raychel Espiritu, a theatre major and one of the organizers of the event.

Ashwani Vasishth, an urban studies and planning professor and the other organizer of the event, made the first opening remarks of the event calling global warming “a very dangerous issue.” Vasishth then introduced Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Harry Hellenbrand for an opening introduction.

“What we are talking about today is a set of environmental and scientific issues, but it’s also a set of philosophical and political issues as well,” Hellenbrand said. “I really urge you to realize what is going to be talked about today as the implications of what it means to be a human, and it’s more than just the study of science, more than just the study of nature, more than just the study of politics.”

Helen M. Cox, a geography professor, gave a PowerPoint presentation titled, “The Science of Global Warming or Fact vs. Fiction.” Cox explained what global warming is and how it is formed.

“What happens is that there are some gases that are present in the atmosphere that trap the heat that tries to leave the Earth,” Cox said.

“Earth gets heated up by the sun. The Earth tries to get rid of that heat by radiating like any warm body and it gets rid of the heat what we call infrared radiation. A lot of that goes straight out, back out through the atmosphere, but some of it gets trapped by gases in the atmosphere, what we call these greenhouse gases,” she said.

Cox said three of the principles that make up greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide, the main principle that is produced by humans, is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned and when forests are burned down. Methane is also produced by humans, which comes from agriculture. Nitrous oxide is produced from fertilizers and fossil fuels.

Another contribution to global warming that Cox pointed out during her presentation was the rising temperature of the Earth.

“Over the last 25 years, the temperatures increased at almost two degrees per decade,” Cox said. “That’s a very, very fast rate and that’s something we really have to be concerned about. Now we don’t know that will continue, but all we can say is we know we are putting out more of these gases and we know the concentration is increasing, so we know there is going to be a warming.”

Cox said that one of the solutions that has been suggested in order to prevent the Earth from getting warmer is to pollute the sky.

“If you pollute the sky, it actually scatters sunlight and stops that sunlight from reaching the Earth,” she said. “Scientists will tell you that if it wasn’t for all the pollution that we’ve had for the last 50 years, (the) rate of warming would be much greater than what it is.”

Even though pollution has been suggested as a “remedy” to prevent the Earth from getting warmer, Cox said the suggestion is “not a nice solution” for the environment.

Debi Prasad Choudhary, a physics and astronomy professor, presented a PowerPoint titled, “Sunny Side of Global Warming,” discussing how the sun is influencing the Earth’s weather pattern and climate change.

Choudhary said there are brighter areas found on the sun that have an influence on the total light the sun sends to the Earth.

“So more than other places, you have less sunlight,” she said. “More than other places, you have more sunlight. All the light, all the energy produced in the sun must come out. If it doesn’t, then the sun will explode.”

In her presentation titled, “The Politics of Global Climate Change,” Kristy Michaud, a political science professor, discussed the political history of climate change.

Michaud said the political history of climate change has been going on since the 1820s, when scientists first started discovering the process behind climate change, a process that continues today.

“We’re still assessing scientific facts about it that will inform the policies we make in the future,” Michaud said.

The public was not aware that climate change existed and that it was a problem until in 1988, when a series of events landed climate change onto the political agenda through 1992, when the first step to policy action took place internationally, Michaud said.

In 1992, the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which Michaud touched on in her presentation.

“Their (IPCC) job is to assess the literature of climate change, the scientific research on climate change,” she said.

“They’re not necessarily producing the research. They’re just evaluating what’s already out there so that they can prepare these reports and tell us what we know, what we don’t know, and what we still need to know,” Michaud said.

Michaud also presented a chart that shows the top two presidential candidates and their support or opposition to global warming-related issues such as reducing energy consumption and reducing gas emissions.

In her presentation, “Species Impact and Habitat Change, biology professor Paula Schiffman focused on the impact that global warming would have on biodiversity if global warming continues to worsen, which would cause species extinctions.

“The level of extinction is expected to increase,” said Schiffman. “We want to prevent extinctions because species together form ecosystems and ecosystems, in a very selfish way from a human perspective, provide us with services, things that we need in our daily lives,” she added.

Some of the services are disease regulation, waste treatment and water and air purification,” Schiffman said.

“The warmer the climate gets, that alters where different organisms can live,” she said. “When we think about species and climate change, we have to think about the future. Instead of just protecting the lower elevation places at national parks, maybe we need to protect the whole mountain because organisms, with warming climates, are going to be migrating upward in elevation.”

Doug Fischer, a geography professor, discussed the adaptation to global warming in his presentation, “Adaption to Climate Change.”

“At this point, there needs to be some combination of emission reductions and adaptation,” Fischer said.

Some of the effects that global warming would have on humans and biodiversity are fresh water availability, impacts on the ecosystem, impacts on food availability and impacts on human health.

“It’s real, it’s inconvenient and we’re going to have to deal with it,” Fischer said.