Campus News

UH experts talk climate change, conservation

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

As extreme weather events grow more frequent, climate change has become a topic of international debate. 

Several climate and pollution experts at the University explained the challenges currently facing the environment. Associate professor of atmospheric chemistry Yuxuan Wang said that understanding the climate crisis starts with understanding pollution. 

“We (humans) by adding CO2 to the atmosphere change the energy balance on climate causing warming and a series of changes in the climate system,” Wang said. 

This air pollution has caused average temperatures to increase worldwide. However, the effects of this aren’t just limited just to heat. Extreme weather conditions and fluctuating climate patterns are also a product of climate change, said associate professor of stratigraphy, sedimentology and glacial processes Julia Wellner. 

“Climate change, in general, is leading to warmer temperatures. However, associated with that is more variable temperatures,” Wellner said. “Meaning not only do we get higher highs, but we also will get lower lows.” 

But temperature is only part of the picture, Wellner said. Climate change refers to a myriad of changing environmental factors, and reducing the issue to a single metric belies its complexity. 

Conditions such as rising sea levels are considered alongside temperature and changes in global weather systems.

“The major factor that controls sea level is the amount of ice on the planet. In the modern world, we’re losing ice. The glaciers and ice sheets are melting, and that’s driving an increase in sea level,” Wellner said.  “It’s rising faster and faster each year. It’s not only raising, but the rate of rising is accelerating and that is a threat to shorelines around the world.” 

In addition, the impact of global warming can appear in ways beyond our ability to perceive. 

Increasing ozone levels can affect food supplies by inhibiting crop growth and production, Wang said. 

“The ozone damages the leaves. This is proven. As the ozone level goes high, the photosynthesis activity declines and also, the leaves show visible damages,” Wang said. “Crop yield is affected by pollutants, and also because of particle matter, it can shield sunlight and change the amount of light reached at the surface.”

According to climate experts such as Wang and Wellner, protecting the environment is a global priority. The consequences of failing to do so will be catastrophic for all nations.

While completely reversing the damages done is unrealistic, focusing efforts on conservation can go a long way in softening the blow. 

“Conservation is a good way to reduce energy consumption, reduce our reliance of fossil fuels to buy us more time,” said Wang. “It’s not going to remove the greenhouse gases completely, but it will slow down the rate of change to give us more time to look for cheaper options to stay away from fossil fuels.” 

While some people may feel helpless because of the effects of mass global industrialization and corporate over-production, change starts with conservation through limiting consumption on an individual level, according to Wellner. 

“There’s no reason that we should just keep buying as much as we do. Don’t just aim for green consumption aim for less consumption,” Wellner said.

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