Climate change debate is heating up

By Robert Vogl and Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Aware that it is a polarizing topic, Eric Snodgrass, from the Department of Atmospheric Studies at the University of Illinois, will present “peer-reviewed, scientifically accepted information” to help the audience “gain insight and clarity into the impacts of Earth’s changing climate” at the 14th Annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair on August 22-23 at the Ogle County Fairgrounds. Snodgrass is the director of undergraduate studies and co-founder of Global Weather and Climate Logistics, LLC.

What has long been beyond dispute is that carbon dioxide levels are increasing. Since fossil fuels are largely composed of carbon, when they are burned much of the carbon ends up in the atmosphere. With over a trillion tons of carbon having been released into the atmosphere it is reasonable to expect there would be some impact on the world’s climate. Historical records confirm that carbon dioxide levels are correlated with temperature changes.

In addition to the science of global warming, political and economic issues are involved. According to Katrina Huevel, BP and Royal Dutch Shell along with four other major European oil and gas companies endorsed an international price on carbon. They indicated a willingness to accept the challenge of meeting an increase in energy demand with less carbon. She also cites surveys indicating that as many as 71 percent of Americans acknowledge global warming is real.

While public opinion in support of addressing climate change is reassuring, the industry claims that fossil fuels are essential for meeting future energy needs. Dan Zegart reports that the industry has planned a global investment of $6 trillion in new fossil fuel extractions. The industry is advocating eliminating the ban on exporting US based oil which will favor continued fracking for oil. They also favor exporting natural gas from fracking.

Current efforts to address climate change are not seen as adequate and accelerated reductions including leaving large amounts of fossil fuels in the ground are seen as essential. The UN meeting in December is expected to establish a long term global goal for carbon reductions. The Alliance for Small Island States, already experiencing more frequent storms and floods, are seeking carbon reductions to limit global temperature increases to 1.5oC.

The Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean composed of nearly 1200 islands and atolls, is threatened with being inundated by rising oceans caused by global warming. It is possible that by 2020 this small nation with an average elevation of 1.5 meters will be completely covered by sea water. Upset by this threat posed by excess fossil fuel use, primarily by other nations, the government and people have decided to lead the fight against global warming by example to become totally powered by renewable energy by 2020, the date at which they may no longer exist. Five islands are involved in the project, which started with solar panels installed on a school roof.

In the Caribbean, the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Carbon War Room are teaming to help islands transition to renewable energy.

Several other speakers have addressed the topic from different perspectives at previous Fairs. We expect that Snodgrass’ presentation on Saturday, August 22 will clarify and add to the understanding of this important topic.

 

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