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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Academics & Research

Fueled debates on climate change


Texas State Climatologist and Texas A&M Regents Professor John Nielsen-Gammon spoke at the energy symposium, which addressed the realities of climate change, stating that the current trajectory of increased global temperatures could put all life on Earth at serious risk.  |  Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

The University jumped into the topic of global warming with a public discussion about the threats, reasons and solutions to climate issues.

The discussion “Climate Change: Is It a Real Threat?” was presented by the College of Natural Science and Mathematics as a part of the Energy Symposium series that began in Fall 2013. The series serves as an innovative way of addressing today’s pressing issues in global energy needs.

UH Chief Energy Officer Ramana Krishnamoorti was encouraged by the student turnout and felt the symposium was a chance for Cougars to become aware of global issues.

“The symposiums are a great opportunity for students to educate themselves on some of the most pressing topics of the day relating to energy,” Krishnamoorti said. “These are issues that their generation will be helping to solve in the coming years, so it has been gratifying to see so many students attend the first three forums.”

Richard A. Feely, the senior fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, emphasized the growing changes in the acidity of our ocean. The concentration of acid in the the ocean has gone up by 30 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and its acidification rate is faster than ever. The global implications of a more acidic ocean include corrosion of coral reefs. Feely’s research exhibits that the ocean absorbs about a quarter of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere, and this carbon dioxide undergoes a series of chemical reactions that ultimately creates a more acidic ocean environment.

John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas State Climatologist and Regents Professor at Texas A&M, took a more philosophical approach and provoked discussion about what climate change really meant and whom it really impacted. He said that Earth would not get hit the hardest, but humans and other types of life living on Earth. Nielsen-Gammon’s research about the Earth’s atmosphere revealed that the Earth has already increased by 0.7 degrees Celsius during the past 100 years. This effect has negatively altered ecosystems all across the world. He concluded that if the human population were to do nothing at all, one of the biggest effects on the Earth would be an increase of 2 degrees Celsius during the next century, which could bring adverse effects and serious risks to the human race and other life on Earth.

David Hone, the chief climate change adviser in the CO2 team at Royal Dutch Shell, reviewed the complexity of the climate change issue, its social and political implications and what the population is really doing to change our current usage of fossil fuels.

His main point was the relatively new technology called carbon capture sequestration, through which carbon dioxide emissions are captured from the atmosphere and stored for long-term in deposits underground. The process itself has been used in the past as a means of enhancing oil recovery, but the addition of keeping it long term is new to the world.

According to Hone, China is leading the world in the trial of this new technology and already has five sites in construction for testing.

Michael Goltsov, a student who was in attendance, felt that the symposium was diverse and informative.

“I really appreciated the diversity of environmental careers that the speakers had,” Goltsov said. “It was a great informational session from different perspectives, and I felt like I learned a lot more in that one session than any coverage from news. Climate change is an important issue, and I think everyone should be going to these lectures.”

The upcoming Energy Symposium series lecture will be on March 4 at the Hilton UH and will be titled “Renewable Energy: Need for Governmental Support?” More information can be found at UH Energy’s website,

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