Adler, Hovland, Williams Bring Global Climate Change Issues to Light

Greenhouse gases, CO2 emissions and global warming are common words in today’s vocabulary. On Sept. 14 in Schaefer Hall, Associate Professor Charles Adler of the Physics Department, Professor Bill Williams of the Biology Department and Associate Professor Al Hovland of the Chemistry Department gave a panel discussion on those very topics for the first Natural Science and Mathematics (NS&M) Colloquium of the semester. The talk was split into three sections, with each professor having their own section concerning the energy crisis. The panel was concluded with questions from the audience.

Adler explained the laws of thermodynamics and the movement of energy. Energy flows spontaneously from high to low temperatures, which Adler said “can [be] useful to flow through an engine” but since the energy’s movement is spontaneous, it becomes useless and “puts stringent limits on the efficiency of engines.”

Since the Industrial Revolution, the CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by a third due to the increased burning of these fossil fuels. Adler compares the heating of the Earth’s atmosphere to a campfire. He calls it the “Campfire Problem.”

“What determines your warmth around a campfire? The distance you are from the fire, how thick your coat is, the type of coat you have and how big the fire is,” Adler said. “The greenhouse gas is the coat that prevents light from being radiated into space.”

Hovland spoke in depth about the oil crisis. In 2010, the global consumption of oil was 87.4 million barrels per day (mbd), which is 31.9 billion barrels per year (bby). “Those figures are projected to go up to 90.7 mbd and 33.1 bby,” said Hovland. Out of all of the oil sold and consumed, the United States uses up to about a quarter of it and the rate of consumption is increasing.

“Oil fields are dropping by 9% a year but car sales are still increasing,” said Hovland. “Can you say addicted to oil? We want oil and will go to great lengths to get it.” To back up this statement, Hovland stated that Brazil has traveled out into the Atlantic ocean to dig an oil well. The distance from the surface to the sea bottom is three miles, plus the distance from the sea bottom to the actual oil is another four miles. Brazil is going a total of seven miles underwater to find new oil.

“We will need to have 105 mbd in 2030 at the current rate of consumption,” said Hovland. “We will need to find 45 mbd more, which means we will need to find five more Saudi Arabias in the next 20 years.”

Last, Williams spoke about the ecological effects on the environment resulting from these crises. “There has been a 1.2 degree Celsius temperature increase over the past 100 years,” he said. However, there are people who are strongly opposed to these research results. Williams mentioned how Michael Mann was accused of fraud due to his research on the global temperature increase.

Evidence of temperature increase is shown in the rapid disappearance of land-locked glaciers. Williams showed a picture of a glacier in 1899, then showed a picture of the same glacier in 2003. A student asked, “Where is it?” due to how much it had melted.

“There is not [one] solution [to the crisis], there will be a hundred different solutions to solve the problem,” Adler said.

The next NS&M Colloquium, from Stanton Gill, professor and extension specialist for nurseries and greenhouses at the Central Maryland Research and Education Center at the University of Maryland, will be on Sept. 27 at 4:40 p.m. in Schaefer 109. The lecture will be called “The Scourge of the East Coast – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and the Spotted Winged Drospholia.”

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