Yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine in the hallway at lunch time. A professor from the Environmental Engineering passed by and we quickly started chatting. As she was leaving to hurry to her destination, she mentioned we should hang out sometime and she said oh, the Paris Talks too are starting today, and we, the experts in this field should be talking about this.
Today, I was tired in the afternoon and wanted to find some good 30-min to relax my mind on. I thought to myself, let me try to find a good climate change talk to go to on Campus, and to my surprise, I could not find any. Really? As a Mechanical Engineering graduate student whose research cross paths with three departments at the University of Colorado-Boulder: Mechanical Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Atmospheric Science, I could not believe the fact that there are no talks to discuss about this important issue not only within the experts, but also to inform the public about Climate Change and Global Warming. A few questions came to my mind and I would like to share my thoughts about this:
- Where and what are all the wonderful professors, graduate students, undergraduate students doing in the wake of these series of Climate talks?
- As experts, how do we not take advantage of this opportunity to inform the public about Climate Change and all its related issues?
- Why are we not talking about this among ourselves though seminars, conferences, and other venues?
- How do we expect the public to know the technicality and the complexity of these issues if we do not inform them? In the end, when the current business and Law schools students are leaders in the private sector and the public sector, we will call them ignorant for ignoring and denying global warming and climate change.
As always, the scientific community has been very mediocre at communicating with the public about what they do, interpreting their results in ways that people who are not scientists can grasp and understand. For example, one of the most used simple, but false explanations politicians have given when asked about global warming, they say, how is it that we still have cold winters if the planet is getting warmer? You see, for a simple questions like this, even a third grader science class student would know that it is totally wrong to compare single seasons in one setting. You have to analyze through climate weather patterns over time. Winters, and summers will still exist but when you look at average temperatures over an extended period of time, you notice that in fact, temperature levels are rising.
Another more-sophisticated answer would be to look at the ambient CO2 levels over time and observe how the ambient concentrations have been rising from the early 1900s to present: The beginning and the boom of the fossil fuel industry. If you look at the graph below, showing a time series of CO2 ambient levels and the increase in global temperatures from early 1900s to Present. The graph shows that, for example in early 1900s, the ambient CO2 levels were around 295-ppm, but today, those levels have come risen up to 400-ppm. The same graph shows very well that there is a direct correlation between CO2-levels and the rise in global temperatures. Or you can see that when the ambient concentration were 320-ppm in 1960s, there was a net of zero increase of temperatures globally. However, since then, as the CO2-levels went up, the rise in temperatures has been going up to 0.6C as of today. However, if our reliance on fossil fuels keep rising, and stay numb about it, the rise in temperatures will keep up, and once we reach 2C increase, that is when we get in trouble according to the prediction made by climate scientists all over the World. Thus, part of the 2C-increase in global temperatures you have been reading about all over the media in the wake of COP21 Talks in Paris, France. This number comes from this basic understanding from all the leading climate experts all over the world.
I understand that students and professors might be busy during this time of the semester, but to me, as an air quality student, not talking about this COP21 or not informing and sharing with the public, would be like an astronaut student who seem to not care that NASA is planning to go Mars by 2030 or a soccer athlete student, who is not watching the final world-cup game when he has been offered tickets to go to the game or simply watch the game. It would be like a water expert from a municipality, who seems no to care when a certain toxic chemical has been found in the city’s water supply system. Or a firefighter, who is not worried that their city is on fire. It just does not add up.
I guess we, undergraduate and graduate students, are worried more about our finals, and research. Our Professors are also busy (as they are always are) with preparing courses, final exams, research and other bureaucratic tasks that they have to deal with and manage. Are we really that busy to not even have an opportunity to discuss about this at least among the members of our university?
Despite the fact that 97% of climate scientists agree on the fact that climate change is indeed occurring, one in five Americans still deny in the effects of climate change . This is very concerning and should alert scientists about communicating their work and results better. Have you ever notice how irritated we get when a politician makes such stupid and ignorant comments about climate change? For example, three of the GOP candidates have made comments about how they simply do not care about Climate change: Marco Rubio, claiming that “he is not a scientist” . Thus, denying Climate Change as he wants. Jeb Bush, saying that “Scientists are going to take a back seat when he gets elected” . Basically, indicating that he does not care about what scientists say. And finally, Ben Carson saying that Climate Change is simply “irrelevant” . Comments like these should be very worrisome especially when you imagine that these three guys are running for President of the United States, one of the highest CO2-emitters country in the World.
As scientists, it is our duty and responsibility to communicate with the public about our work and what talks like COP21 mean to the members of the general public. We should be talking to our colleagues at law schools, business schools, and other schools about this. I do not mean to ignore to other departments, but given the fact that most of the current law students will become our next politicians, business students become the next CEOs in the private sector, and these two groups have shown to be among the ones which huge skepticism about climate change, and the positions they tend to hold in the private and public sector can affect many members of our society to a greater extent than others. With that in mind, all students are the leaders for tomorrow and should be informed about issues like this. If they are not, the society will bear the consequences in the future in one way or another.
As the Climate talks continue, I urge you to talk to your friends at school, at work about what is going in the next two weeks from November 30 to December 11th 2015. Educating yourself about COP21 is not only good for you, but also for the society as a whole. Talk about it at coffee breaks, lunch or dinner or wherever. If you need more details about the Climate Talks in Paris, visit this page to learn more at http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en . Remember we are in this together and we only have one planet: Planet Earth. The more and the faster we ruin it, the more and the faster we screw ourselves as well.
Also, remember that, it is okay to not-be a scientist or a climate scientist for that matter. In fact, I am not claiming to be one either. After all, we each depend on each other. For example, I am not tax professional. So, every year, I need a tax accountant to help me with my tax returns. Just like other subjects, the most important thing is to ask those who know or who are experts in this field and to try to educate yourself on the subject.
Good luck and keep in mind that #WeHaveOnlyOnePlanet and #WeAreInItTogether.
Peace and Love
Sources and references
 http://www.skepticalscience.com/The-CO2-Temperature-correlation-over-the-20th-Century.html: CO2 levels and temperature correlation over the 20th century.
 http://www.randalolson.com/2014/09/13/who-are-the-climate-change-deniers/: Who are the Climate deniers?
 http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2015/10/01/gop_candidates_and_climate_change_denying_reality_in_every_way.html: GOP Candidates and Climate change denying.
 http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en: The Official website of the COP21.
 The graph references in the article: https://didierchampion.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/cop21.png?w=568&h=260&crop=1