Symposium highlights climate-saving tech

Virginia Zantow

Students and Ames residents pasted colored strips of paper on simple diagrams, giving the room a playful feeling – but the tone of discussion was anything but lighthearted at the Global Citizenship Symposium in the Pioneer Room of the Memorial Union on Saturday afternoon.

Vikram Dalal, professor of electrical and computer engineering, spoke with urgency as he described the rapidly melting ice cap in Greenland, which he said is disappearing at a much faster rate than scientists had anticipated.

“All coastal areas are in deep, deep trouble,” Dalal said, explaining one aspect of the grim outlook he expects to occur if climate change is not adequately addressed.

Dalal and William Gutowski, professor of geological and atmospheric sciences, led the day’s events. Saturday was the second session of the symposium; the first part was Thursday. The symposium was the third GCS event since the GCS committee formed three years ago.

Gutowski gave a presentation covering basic concerns about climate change, which was followed by a “Climate Challenge Game.”

The game, developed by Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative, involved selecting seven strategies to reduce carbon emissions and weighing the positive and negative effects of each.

After choosing seven strategies from a list of 15, participants pasted colored strips representing each onto a “Stabilization Wedge” diagram.

The “Stabilization Wedge,” according to CMI’s Web site, represents the idea that enough technologies already exist or are developing to help carbon emissions level off over the next 50 years.

If emissions stopped rising, staying constant until the year 2055, 175 billion tons of carbon could be kept from polluting the atmosphere, according to CMI’s Web site.

“No one strategy can do all the work [to reduce emissions],” Gutowski said, citing some of the common strategies – biofuels, nuclear electricity and wind power, to name a few.

Gutowski explained the importance of thinking about who will be affected by each initiative, as well as the implications for the economy, natural resources and future generations.

“The idea is, this is supposed to be a starting point for discussion,” Gutowski said.

At the end of the game, a member from each group presented the strategies the group found most effective, fostering further discussion.

Carol Faulhaber, senior in agricultural engineering and student co-chairwoman of the day’s event, said she found the event successful.

“Although we didn’t have a large crowd, we had a crowd that was very interested in the topic,” Faulhaber said. “I think everyone came out learning something.”

Most of the information presented Saturday came from CMI or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization that synthesizes research findings from around the world.

Devin Hartman, senior in political science, said getting information from reliable sources such as the IPCC is important, because many special interest groups have skewed perspectives on climate change.

Hartman said climate change is “at least in the top three” daunting challenges facing humanity over the next century.

“The horrible [effects of climate change] are still avoidable, most likely,” he said. “But they aren’t going to be unless our age group steps up to the challenge, displays how much this means to us, and puts enough pressure on political leaders.”