Leading by Example

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 COP16, many nations have areas and meeting rooms reserved so that they can host their own discussions and presentations.  Some of these nations include Qatar, Mexico, the European Union, and the United States.  I attended a presentation in the U.S. pavilion entitled “GreenGov: The Role of the U.S. Federal Government Operations in Reducing GHG Pollution.”  Presenting at the seminar were Nancy Satley chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Dorothy Robyn from the Department of Defense, and Anne Kelly from Council for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES).  Their presentations discussed what the U.S. government and U.S. organizations were doing to make an effort to be more sustainable. The U.S. government is the nation's largest energy consumer, and the Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest energy consumer within the government.  In 2008, DOD spent $20 billion on energy and was determined to cut that cost.  The department began to shift its focus towards reducing energy consumption. It began with smaller tasks, such as turning computers and lights off at night.  They tried unusual things, Satley says, such as “using goats to eat weeds off the lawn instead of lawnmowers.”  The department even put solar panels on top of golf carts. More importantly, DOD focused on missions.  When transporting items to troops on missions, caravans are in danger and when they are carrying fuel, it makes the danger more extreme.  Robyn explained that, to combat these dangers, DOD has made an investment in R&D  to develop new technologies to decrease the demands on these troops.  One example is the development of a turbine jet engine that reduces fuel consumption by 25%.  This technology will also be available for commercial use in the future.  Another example is use of fold-up solar panels on site to charge equipment.  Energy efficiency, Robyn says, “is the most cost effective investment.” Aside from the U.S. government, U.S. organizations such as Levi Jeans, Timberland, Dell, and Virgin America have all begun to take steps towards sustainability.  Levi has created jeans that wash in cold water to reduce water consumption.  Timberland puts “eco friendly” information on the tag of their shoes, so that the consumer can see what the impacts on the environment were during the production process. Dell plans to go carbon neutral.  Virgin America has a terminal in San Francisco International Airport that is the first LEED gold certified terminal in the United States. Government and companies are all taking steps...

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Hopes of Accomplishment
Dec08

Hopes of Accomplishment

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. Everything began to take shape yesterday morning: 200 NGO booths were hosted while thousands of individuals from delegate parties, NGOs and press were all rushing to various locations on site, without stopping for anything. The intensity of the conference has become apparent and the urgency of accomplishment is lingering over the participant’s heads. On my bus ride in, during the morning commute, I was able to overhear an incredible conversation from the individuals in front of me.  They were two persons from different UN divisions; one was from Panama, while the other was representing Kenya.  They were both discussing this conference and what they hope and expect as an outcome.  Later in the conversation, the individual representing Kenya stated, “We need a green revolution, and we need it to be more intelligent than before.”  I subsequently found out that this statement was a perfect description of the the initiatives taken by the delegates. In the afternoon, I attended the “COP16/CMP6 President’s Initiative on Stakeholder’s Engagement in Climate Action” forum.  This meeting was billed as a “special interaction of stakeholders with Parties” and included Mexican President Felipe Calderon and COP16/CMP6 President Patricia Espinosa, along with other influential delegates.  The brief lectures and updates given at this discussion were uplifting to the spirit of the conference.  All of the individuals involved expressed the need for accomplishment, but not the need to make a huge leap by the end.  “We cannot leave with just promises” stated Carlos Zarco, director of the Oxfam confederation.  “This is a very complex process but we need to take a step forward.” Other diplomats, such as Simon Anholt, who is an independent policy advisor, stressed that civil society and their opinion have the potential to be a major, contributing factor to the climate change debate.  The individual who encouraged this type of action most was President Calderon.  At the beginning of his presentation, President Calderon referenced COP15 – the 2009 Copenhagen conference - and how we all may have dismal memories, but noted that the conference did not dismiss without putting climate change on the top of the global agenda.  Furthermore, there is a need to mobilize society as a whole and not lose sight of the future.  With the suggestion to engage young minds, there is emphasis on creating more awareness about the issue, in hopes that with a larger society engaged, more appropriate action will come forth. Calderon, however, noted the...

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Richard Lindzen: Skepticism and Unprofessional-ism
Nov15

Richard Lindzen: Skepticism and Unprofessional-ism

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. Small debates, frustrations, and sophisticated arguments, from both sides, are all expected when discussing the topic of climate change.  But did you think you would ever hear a speaker use the word “stupid” to criticize his audience? Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT and a climate change skeptic, presented a seminar at York College of Pennsylvania and did just that.  Lindzen was asked about certain facts that were missing from his presentation and why they were not present.  As a questioner from the audience was giving background on his question, so that the speaker would fully understand, Lindzen proceeded to use the power of the microphone and talk over the audience member.  As an intense argument broke between the two individuals, the audience started to show frustration. One member shouted out, “Let him finish the question!”  At that point, both stopped shouting and the questioner was able to continue asking his question.  As the tension was rising in the room between Lindzen and the questioner, it was clear that the question being asked was not about to receive an answer.  The shouting match broke out again and in the end, it was answered by Lindzen saying, “This is a stupid question.” Lindzen’s presentation criticized scientists around the world.  Global warming models, data, and scientific phrasing were the main criticisms. He stated in the beginning of the seminar that the global warming debate is about three questions: How much warming is present? How dangerous is the warming? What is dangerous about the warming? In the end, Lindzen only addressed “How dangerous is the warming?” The present “alarm,” he said,  is due to the scientific phrasing, not the data; the justification for this argument was hypocritical.  Lindzen stated that scientists specifically phrase statements so that society believes what the scientists want them to believe.  But in turn, Lindzen did the same thing by re-arranging the words to make the statement seem less of a concern, and prove his point. This argument was the basis of Lindzen’s presentation.  The climate change debate is more about scientific phrasing than it is about data.  In the one instance when it was about the data, Lindzen described how climate models are wrong because they are all based on positive feedback.  His argument was that we need to create negative feedback models to show the truth behind the argument.  When describing why such a model has not...

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Climate Change Through The Eyes of Undergraduate Chemistry Majors
Nov09

Climate Change Through The Eyes of Undergraduate Chemistry Majors

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. From the sixth floor of the American Chemistry Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., we are undergraduate reporters posting our first blog from the home of C&EN.  Our names are Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block and we are honored to receive such significant credentials--UN accreditation to attend an international climate conference as well as press credentials from C&EN.  We are both senior chemistry majors at York College of Pennsylvania (YCP) and we will be reporting about the issues and events leading up to and at the UN COP16 climate conference in Cancun, Mexico. As undergraduate reporters, the journey to receive UN accreditation has already been an incredible experience, one that we treasure greatly.  Being from a moderate-sized college in the small city of York, we never dreamed that this opportunity would be presented with such vital and unique potential.  In essence, the purpose of our blog will be to assist our readers in understanding what is being presented at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 16th Conference of Parties (COP16), through the eyes of an undergraduate chemistry major.  We will be reporting on the events that occur at the conference, as well as interviewing scientists, official delegates, policy makers, climate change activists, and perhaps even climate change skeptics on their inputs and concerns related to the environment and sustainability.  We also plan to observe civil society and other NGO’s who are not officially accredited by the UN.  In attending this conference, our main efforts will be to explore the facts and stated interpretations from scientists, policy makers, and others in order to present them to you, the readers. We invite you to join us on this journey and encourage you to participate by posting your comments on this blog.  Think on these things; chemistry...

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