Thursday, January 24, 2008
It sounds like a daunting task: to tackle global warming as “the issue of this generation.” CSUMB Otters, along with college students all over the country, say they’re up to it.
On Jan. 31, CSUMB and some 1,450 schools, churches and civic groups will hold a teach in on global warming intended to encourage policy makers to invest in clean energy. Organizers Focus the Nation want state and national leaders to pay attention to solutions put to them by colleges and civic groups participating in this event. The intent is to “rewire the U.S. economy… to address global warming as the issue of this generation,” says Alex Tinker, a staff member of the Portland, Ore.-based group. Organizers expect about 2,000,000 students to participate.
Locally, CSUMB anticipates 300 students throughout the day for its 10-speaker program. Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue and Santa Cruz County Treasurer Fred Keeley, a former Central Coast assemblyman, will both give talks.
“It’s an economic opportunity, just as Silicon Valley was in the 1950s,” Donohue says. “But we don’t have to pave over our valley. We have open space, natural characteristics, a marine sanctuary and prosperity. All the essential elements of the new economy: wind, solar power, green [technology]. If you can’t make the case for sustainability here, it’ll be pretty tough to make it anywhere.”
Dan Fernandez, chairman of CSUMB’s Division of Science and Environmental Policy, heads the all-day event. “We already have greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and this can’t be changed,” Fernandez says. “The best we can do is to hold the increase in temperatures to three or four degrees Fahrenheit.” To do this, Focus the Nation says the United States needs to cut 2 percent of its current emission levels a year for the next 40 years.
The U.N.’s Panel on Climate Change notes that “to hold global warming to the low end,” between three or four degrees Fahrenheit, “global emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide) will have to peak in 2025 – less than 20 years from now.” By granting developing countries a 10-year lag to make their own changes in emissions, the models used by Focus the Nation indicate that the United States must peak and begin declining in emissions by 2015.
CSUMB has projects in the works to reduce its own carbon emissions, including creating energy from methane gas captured from landfills, revegetating public land and using recycled lumber from Fort Ord for the ceiling of the Alumni Center. Fernandez recently made a personal contribution by converting his car to vegetable oil fuel.
CSUMB President Dianne Harrison says she hopes to make the teach in an annual event. “I don’t see these issues going away,” she says. “It will take repeated dialog.”