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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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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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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