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Chicago professor warns about global warming

By Kathleen McWilliams
On November 9, 2012

  • UConn sophomore running back Lyle McCombs runs down the field past a University at Buffalo defender during last weekend’s football game. KEVIN SCHELLER/The Daily Campus

Thursday afternoon, as the week of storms subsided, a packed Konover Auditorium welcomed David Archer, renowned computational ocean chemist and current professor at the University of Chicago, as this month's guest lecturer. Students, faculty and community members packed into the Dodd Center, overflowing into the aisles and standing in the back. Every month during the semester, the Dodd Center hosts a prolific lecturer, as part of its long-standing "Nature and the Environment: The Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series." The lecture series has been running since 1995 as a UConn effort to continue conversation about nature and the environment.
Archer was introduced by UConn professor and climate scientist, Anji Seth. Seth's introduction was glowing and conveyed Archer's solid experience and incredible knowledge in the field of climate science. "His work has primarily worked around understanding earth's carbon cycle," said Seth. "Looking at his CV, you will see that his first paper published was in Nature and he has been published in many premier publications since. His work on the carbon cycle has been the frontier on our understanding of it and the computational work has pushed the boundaries and has helped our understanding of its role on large timescales."
After the introduction, Archer took the stage and started off the lecture with a connection to the weather of the last two weeks, saying that in a sense global warming is responsible for the extreme weather of late. Archer showed a photograph of the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek with a picture of recently flooded New York City, captioned with the phrase "It's Global Warming Stupid!" Archer then switched to a slide that he said represented the political discussion of climate change during the past election. The slide was completely blacked out. After audience laughter subsided, Archer went on to say, "It's all stacking up the way we predicted it to, if not worse."
Archer then began his lecture with background information on climate science. He explained topics such as greenhouse gases, the ice albedo feedback and the history and progression of climate science ranging from the 19th century to present day. While addressing the history of climate science and change, Archer discussed the fact that the idea of climate change is not a modern idea. "People believed that by the end of the century, we would start affecting climate change," he said.
Such things that change the environment, explained Archer, are variable. "There are natural climate forcings, these are things that drive the climate, and the big ones are the sun and volcanic eruptions. And then there are the anthropogenic climate change, like greenhouse gases that warm the planet, and aerosols that tend to cool the planet," Archer said.
Despite these various explanations for climate change, Archer affirmed that "greenhouse gases are the only forces that matches current warming trends."
Audience members seemed to enjoy Archer's presentation and lecture, and felt comfortable asking questions. Archer closed his lecture with a series of projections about climate change in the near future, concentrating on sea level rises. Archer illustrated the concept by saying that by 2300, sea level will have risen 50 meters and that 3.5 percent of Earth's surface will be submerged, displacing approximately 10 percent of the world's population. Archer also emphasized the role of Americans in this destruction, stating that for every gallon of gas Americans burn, 50 square centimeters of land is lost and that every American essentially "burns away" 1,000 square feet of land each year.
Archer's lecture concluded with his statement that "It's not hard to stop CO2 emissions; it's hard to pick which technologies to use." Archer stressed that we have all the technology we need to lessen CO2 emissions. Now it's up to us to figure out which ones to implement.
 


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