Climate change impact on U.N. topic of lecture series

Courtesy of Ron Lee

Christine Lee, News Editor

The issue of climate change and its effects on the United Nations is the latest topic of a lecture series between Wilkes and the Higher Education Alliance for the United Nations at 4 p.m. on Nov. 15. in Breiseth Hall Room 106.

The lecture will feature Mohammed Reza Salamat, a senior program officer in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Assistant professor of political science Andrew Miller, who has been coordinating the U.N. lecture series speakers, said he thought the topic of climate change was an important topic for the latest lecture.

In addition to the lecture, Salamat will also be on hand to answer questions from students from 1-2:15 p.m. in Stark Learning Center 270. Miller said several classes are attending this informal discussion.

Salamat has been a part of the U.N. Division for Sustainable Development since January 2002. He has written various articles on international environment and sustainable development ideas, particularly on climate change.

“I hope people listen to what he has to say about climate change,” Miller said.

James Case, professor of earth and environmental science and environmental engineering , is teaching a class on global climatic change this semester. He explains that the term ‘climate change’ refers to the fact that, although air and ocean temperatures are rising on a regional basis there can be either a cooling or warming effect.

“In the past, the climate record of the earth clearly indicates that we can have rapid swings in temperature. We can go really warm for a while for short periods of time or really cold for a while but it’s not necessarily the whole Earth,” Case said. “We use the term ‘global climate change’ because it is not out of the realm of consideration that our current global warming might result in a drastic cooling in Europe and in the Northeast U.S., while at the same, time the rest of the planet stays exceedingly warm.”

Case, who was one of the first to teach a class on the topic of climate change in the U.S., said it is evident across the scientific community that climate change is occurring and being caused by human activity.

“Scientists have nearly a complete consensus that global climate change is occurring, that includes over the last 50 to 100 years a temperature increase of around 2 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps a little more, and that is primarily attributable to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” Case said.

Case said the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and other forms of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are attributed to human causes. He said this because different radioactive isotope dating techniques prove that the proportion in fossil fuels used to fuel our economy is the same as that in the atmosphere.

Case said some immediate effects of climate change are the increase in the intensity and frequency of storms. He explains this has to do with the amount of water vapor contribute to this because it is a greenhouse gas.

“Water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas. Normally water vapor condenses and you get precipitation, or water vapor evaporates and you get water vapor in the clouds. But with global warming, the warmer the air, the more water vapor the air can hold. So as global warming occurs, you have more water vapor in the atmosphere, and this provides more energy for hurricanes, tornadoes, northeasters, storm systems,” Case said.

Case said water vapor enhances the vigor of the weather system and 1 gram of water vapor condensed into water and brought to room temperature is the equivalent of 700 calories of heat, which creates a huge amount of energy.

Earth and Environmental Science lecturer retired Lt. Col. Mark Kaster, a meteorologist by training, explains that as oceans and the atmosphere warms up, the more extreme weather events occur.

“Global models indicate more extreme events, however there is no positive answer,” Kaster said.

Kaster said the weather phenomenas El Nino, La Nina, and the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillation can be partly blamed for the recent weather phenomenas such as last summer’s drought and unseasonably warm winter.

“These are normal patterns but we do not know what climate change’s effect will be on these patterns,” Kaster said.

Both Case and Kaster explain individual people can make a difference in reducing the effects of climate change in the world.

“Collectively communities and nations need to do everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint,” Case said.

The event is free and open to the public.

More info on climate change:

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/

http://climate.nasa.gov/