Solar Energy for the Future
Dec13

Solar Energy for the Future

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. As the climate rapidly changes and fossil fuels become increasingly scarce, there is a growing demand in the world for new sources of energy to limit the damage to the environment.  From visiting multiple NGO booths on alternative solar energies, one can conclude that the damage currently being inflicted on Earth's climate by burning fossil fuels almost guarantees the destruction of the livelihoods of millions, especially in developing countries. It will also disrupt ecosystems and speed up the extinction of multiple species. We know that the sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface can supply enough energy to power civilization. Every year, more and more solar panels and other solar-powered energy sources have been installed around the world, decreasing emissions including greenhouse gases that are linked to climate change.  Greenpeace representatives told me that a prediction made by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA)  in 2001 about the solar energy market has already been surpassed. EPIA and Greenpeace predict that one quarter of the world’s electricity needs will be satisfied through f solar panels by 2050.  Different companies have been furiously working to make these breakthroughs more affordable and more available.  With the price dropping rapidly, this type of energy is on its way to being able to compete with conventional electricity sources...

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High Level Meeting Interview with Prime Minister of Ethiopia
Dec08

High Level Meeting Interview with Prime Minister of Ethiopia

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. At the talk “High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing” there were many points addressed.  At the start the Secretary-General’s Report was issued to all who attended.  It was then referred to as the “leg work” already completed and this meeting was just to provide an overview of what is being suggested and to give all in attendance a chance to voice their opinions. After the question and answer session at the closing of the talk, Anthony and I were lucky enough to get a brief statement from the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to reach out to all youths.  We identified ourselves as students reporting from America and we got him on tape stating that our youth is going to play a large role in climate change policy.  He also stated that the use of new technologies will aid in preventing a cataclysmic...

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Women Leaders And Climate Change
Dec07

Women Leaders And Climate Change

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. I arrived a bit early for a session yesterday titled "Women Leaders and Climate Change" and was noticed by someone getting ready to speak, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.  I must admit I did not know who she was at the time. We made eye contact, and then I walked up and introduced myself to her.  We were the only people in the room and had a casual conversation for a couple of minutes. She told me a story of a time when she had a dialogue with her daughter as a small child, about five or six years old.  Her daughter asked if her father was miserable.  Figueres was baffled that her child would ask such a question, and asked her daughter why she would say this.  Her daughter replied, “Since he is a man, he can’t make all the decisions and does not have all the power anymore.” In one of the talks at the session, Ambassador Patricia Espinosa, Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs and president of COP16/CMP6, began with a quote: “If you want something said, ask a man.  If you want something done, ask a woman.”  The audience was mostly female and lightly laughed after this comment.  According to the woman leaders, generally, women suffer more in developing countries than any other group.  In these places, it is the woman’s job to walk hours to collect clean water or to travel great distances for firewood to cook food with. Cooking on an open fire produces black soot, which is extremely bad to inhale and can take years off a general lifespan. Because women are busy managing these tasks, they often forfeit their chance for an education. And the session speakers consider these women to be the most vulnerable population to suffer due to climate change. Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action, made the point that climate change needs to be more “people-centered” and that a greater communication outreach needs to be accomplished.  This outreach needs to be more tangible and known by the masses.  Other speakers commented that the vocabulary used needs to change and be more general and that the youth needs to become more involved and support their movement.  Being the youngest member in the audience, I felt a few stares directed my way. As young chemists, we should be interested in and questioning the chemical roles of climate change.  When presented with the...

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Cancun: We’re Here!
Dec06

Cancun: We’re Here!

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. Greetings from Cancun, Mexico!  Today we traveled down from Baltimore, Maryland to Charlotte, North Carolina, to finally arrive in Cancun.  Slightly problematic events prevailed as we encountered issues during flights and troubles with our professors obtaining their UN press pass; nothing comes easy. Anticipating cavernous lines, intense humidity, and the scorching sun, we set out Sunday night to obtain our NGO passes, hoping to avoid the weather hazards.  We headed to the Cancunmesse - main site of the conference - and to our surprise; we were able to avoid all long lines and were attended to very quickly. After gathering our passes, we headed into the NGO booth area.  Standing in the empty hall gave us time to observe the setup and get an idea of what to expect and what we want to accomplish.  We hope to tell the “behind-the-scene” stories of the major events, all through our eyes as undergraduate chemistry majors.  Join us on this incredible journey though the last week of COP16/CMP6 and continue to leave your comments; they are greatly...

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Twenty Years of Warming
Nov18

Twenty Years of Warming

This post is part of a series by guest bloggers Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block, senior chemistry students attending the COP16 conference in Cancun under the sponsorship of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. Dr. Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, is one of the most recognized names among climate-change skeptics.  I attended his recent lecture at York College on November 11.  Unfortunately, I found his presentation to be lacking in recent scientific data.  No relevant data was presented from the last ten to twenty years.  When confronted with this fact during the question and answer session, he became irritated and said that the data was statistically insignificant. We hope that the discussion on our blog will be about what scientists know and don’t know about climate change based on scientific data.  Since recent climate change data was not presented during Dr. Lindzen’s lecture, I had to obtain this information from outside sources after his lecture.  The years 1998 and 2005 have been documented to be the warmest years on record.  And, even though 2008 was the coldest year of the decade, it has been shown through models and collecting data that each decade is on a continuous warming trend since the 1970s.  2010 is on track to be the warmest year on record.  This data contradicts what Dr. Lindzen responded to the audience member’s question about the last two decades. During the lecture, Dr. Lindzen seemed to deliberately talk over the heads of the audience.  He barely mentioned rising carbon dioxide.  When one audience member questioned him about the missing Keeling curve in his lecture, he did not even allow the person to finish asking a question, interrupting and stating that it is so well known it didn’t need to be presented. The Keeling curve documents the steady rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1958.  Dr. Lindzen made clear that he believes the environment is changing by a degree or two, but that it cannot be linked to people causing this.  At the start of his lecture, he listed three main topics he would discuss. However, the only point he addressed was the “alarm” associated with the current issue. I emailed him to ask for a copy of his power point to ensure that I present the correct information from his lecture; however, he did not respond back to me.  He had stated at the end of his talk that he would be willing to share his power point with anyone who requested it.   He resembled a politician who did not want to directly answer specific questions.  He merely danced around the current...

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