Researchers say climate change questions remain

    Faculty members from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and other campus science departments discussed the atmospheric effects of global warming at a special talk on Jan. 18. The event was the second lecture in a series of global warming symposia scheduled as a part of the 40th anniversary of Revelle College.

    While the first symposium on Jan. 11 centered on the effects of climate change, the latest event focused on the science behind the changes.

    During his lifetime, Roger Revelle made many contributions to research regarding global climate change. According to Gustaf Arrhenius, a Scripps professor and one of the panel speakers at the event, Revelle was responsible for discovering that the chemistry of seawater prevents oceans from absorbing excess carbon dioxide caused by human activities.

    The speakers emphasized that, while scientists generally agree that the Earth is warming and that this is a concern, there is debate about the actual rate of warming and how to mitigate the problem.

    “We’re dealing with a system here in which we human beings — all 6 billion of us — are recent additions to the mix, where all the history of our species has been as spectators of the great pageant of global change,” Scripps professor Richard Somerville said. “Now we’ve come up on the stage and we’re actors in the system, too.”

    Aside from carbon dioxide, there are other particles in the air, such as carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide, that also contribute to global warming but are much harder to measure, according to physical sciences Dean Mark Thiemans. Thiemans said he encouraged the audience to examine the issue of climate change from different perspectives.

    “Ozone [causes] cardiovascular disease, [and] you have 10 million work hours a year of people being sick and staying home because of cardiovascular distress, so how many dollars does that translate into?” Thiemans said. “It’s a significant aspect, tied up with global climate, tied up with human health, and also tied up with being able to try to understand where [global warming] comes from.”

    Thiemans suggested that many areas of research needed further exploration of climate change.

    “This is a good example where … there’s a lot of room for people that are 18, 19, 20 years old to be studying fundamental science, as Roger Revelle wanted when he founded this campus,” he said.

    Chemistry and biochemistry professor Kimberly Prather, who presented additional information on the effects of aerosol particles in the air, also said she encouraged students to take action on global warming.

    “One of the issues [that] I get asked a lot about when I travel around the world is [that] the U.S. is behind,” Prather said. “That’s something that you as young people going out [into the world] can play a role in. You don’t have to wait for the federal government to figure out the climate is changing. California is actually the most proactive state … [and] we can help educate the public.”

    Two more symposia in the series will be held this month. The next one will be held on Jan. 25.

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