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Climate change: It’s not all bad news

Rising sea levels, severe weather patterns, record breaking temperatures… it’s a constant refrain from climate change experts around the world. But it isn’t all bad news.

In Monday’s lecture titled “Climate Change,” Tripp Van Noppen, president of the non-profit environmental law organization, Earth Justice, addressed the progress we’ve made with protecting the environment and the steps that need to be taken to achieve an ideal environmental future. The event, sponsored by EAG and the Bertram Society, was attended by approximately 100 students and was held in Patrick Lecture Hall.

Van Noppen highlighted the progress made in recent years with the merging of a few members of the Green Party and the Tea Party to create the Green Tea Organization. Van Noppen praised the Green Tea Organization for their role in spreading the idea of solar energy as a primary form of renewable energy in this country. However, in order to continue making progress, Van Noppen stressed the importance of getting the public involved in the cause.

Throughout the lecture, Van Noppen made several suggestions as to how the public can make a difference and encourage positive climate change policies. One of the more direct ways of getting involved is to email state senators and encourage them to support policies that regulate climate change and work towards improving the quality of the environment we live in. Additionally, Van Noppen encouraged students to continue to ask themselves the key questions of “How am I going to participate today” and “What am I going to do to make sure that my community makes the transition to clean energy.” Asking ourselves these key questions can incite action that leads to necessary change.

According to Van Noppen, one of the main changes that need to be implemented is the creation of a “carbon budget” of 500 Gigatons. In other words, in order to avoid the worst climate conditions, we need to put a limit on the amount of carbon allowed in the air. This in turn would keep the average temperature from increasing too quickly. So far, we’ve put in half of the suggested “budgeted” amount and at current rates, will fill the “carbon budget” by 2030. This could potentially lead to a change in weather conditions and higher average temperatures.

“Scientist have concluded in a study on climate change patterns that if we exceed a 2 degree centigrade rise per year above pre-industrial levels of carbon, we will hit some major tipping points that could be irreversible” said Van Noppen adding that one of the most commonly discussed “tipping points” would be the sea level rise. This would displace thousands of people and destroy acres of livestock along coastlines.

The economic effects of climate change are tremendous and are one of the main reasons why the climate change debate is a “fight in the global, national, and local sense” according to Van Noppen. “It is a fight that will involve all of you, whether you are actively engaged or not.”

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