Kimberly Sweetman – The Corsair
The debate continues to rage over global warming. Is there cause for alarm? Does the condition even exist? If so, are mankind’s activities responsible for climate change?
Those are the questions researched and debated by 14 members of science teacher Jeff Wooters’ introduction to environmental science class during a presentation for fellow students and community members held March 22 at PJC’s Hagler Auditorium.
“We have been investigating this topic through several different guest speakers, panel discussions, discussion forums, and classroom assignments,” Wooters said. “Last year I had my zoology students do a class project on endangered animals. This semester I decided with all the things in the news lately about global warming, it would be a good time to get the students to investigate.”
Wooters pointed to increasingly dire predictions about rising temperatures on earth by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with the worldwide attention given to former Vice President Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Countering such arguments, however, have been questions about the trustworthiness of data gathered about global warming, and even the fact that this past winter was one of the coldest on record.
Team 1 argued that global warming is taking place and is caused by human activities. Team 2 argued that global warming is not occurring or, if it is happening, is a natural environmental event. Both sides had to do extensive research for the debate and each team member contributed either through research or a presentation.
Kelly Suhrheinrich began the debate with an opening statement for Team 1.
“Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that the earth will warm as concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases increase. Indefinite temperature data from the atmosphere, the ground, and the subsurface, combined with evidence such as melting snow, ice and permafrost, rising sea levels and observed changes in plant and animal behavior make it clear that the earth’s surface is warming noticeably,” Suhrheinrich said.
She then cited examples and data supporting her argument.
Marian Doyle opened Team 2’s presentation with statistics she collected.
“Global warming is defined as an increase in greenhouse gases resulting from human activity such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation,” Doyle said. “A stunning 79 percent of Americans polled in 2007 agreed that human activity is largely the reason why our climate is changing. In reality, humans are only responsible for 3 percent of fossil fuel emissions released into the atmosphere. The rest is largely due to decay of plants, volcanoes and forest fires.”
She urged the audience not to “jump on the band wagon” before researching the topic.
Damien McNeil made a point during Team 2’s presentation that lightened the room’s serious mood: “In 1998 the U.N. reported that the earth’s global warming phase was officially over. There was, however, a Senate hearing on global warming last month that was unfortunately canceled due to unexpected freezes and snow patterns. Sorry about that, better luck next time.”
But that remark about this past winter’s severity was rebutted by Chelsee Raynsford: “As climate changes, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will change whether it is warming or cooling.”
Raynsford and other Team 1 members argued that the rising level of carbon dioxide is causing global warming.
Catherine Churchwell with Team 2 countered that “when temperatures increase, carbon dioxide increases as a result.”
Following both teams’ closing presentation, most agreed that the debate had ended in a tie. But that did not diminish arguments that continued even after the presentation.
Said Allie Toussaint, an audience member and student in Wooters’ class: “I don’t think global warming is actually happening because I think it is hype, and a lot of propaganda is behind it.”
Fellow student Kieanna Ponds begged to differ, believing humans are the cause of environmental problems that are growing increasingly more serious.
No matter what your opinion, the most important thing is to educate yourself about the issue, said Roman Fiol.
“Regardless of which side of the debate you are on, it is best to look at both sides of the argument and make the decision for yourself before you jump on the band wagon of what everyone claims,” he said. “The environment is very important, but exactly how much do we impact it is the important question here. Open your eyes and look at all the facts before you jump on.”