Panelists discuss humans’ climate change response

November 8, 2019

A lot of people are aware that climate change exists, but many of them don’t do anything about it, according to a panelist on Tuesday in Sherman Function Hall. After news last year from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out that stated that humans only have about 12 years to attempt to reverse the effects of climate change before there is irreversible damage, discussions and debates on the struggles of mitigating climate change have spiked. There are many different conflicting perspectives on how to best address the issue, and some of these were discussed at the “Critical Conversations—Fiddling While Rome Burns: Understanding Humankind’s Response to Climate Threat” for first-year students as part of their University Writing Seminar (UWS) class. 

Panelists included Professor Sabine von Mering (GRALL/ENVS/WGS) from Germany and Professor Paul Miller (BIOL) from the U.K. They represented the two differing perspectives of the debate moderated by Professor Charles Chester (ENVS). Miller took on the role of the scientist in the debate while von Mering took on the role of the activist. The conversation started off with a brief background of the two professors and how where they grew up formed some of their opinions.

The conversation proceeded with Miller giving a short introduction on the history of climate change. Von Mering then had the crowd all stand up to take a poll. 

She directed the crowd to remain standing if climate change is a “serious issue that needs to be addressed.” No one sat down. She then proceed to asked the crowd if anyone recognized Greta Thunburg and a few people sat down.  

She finished the poll by asking the crowd “you’ve all said that you find this a very serious crisis, so stay standing if you are acting as if your house is on fire.” Only two people remained standing.

Miller then answered the question that Chester had asked him—if climate change is real enough to act on it. 

“I am trusting other scientists that what they produce is not fake, that they are doing it from a good basis,” said Miller about carbon dioxide warming the earth. “That they know what they are doing and obviously some of them, I haven’t seen every single one of them, but there are enough lines of evidence that kind of intertwine and connect that all make sense to a coherent cause.” 

He followed this statement by assuring the audience that there is no doubt that we need to act on this issue. After Chester had asked some of his own questions to the two professors, questions were now open to the audience. They asked questions such as what the best course of action, whether individual or governmental, to fix the problem. Miller said that governmental action was important and von Mering said that individual action was important. 

Next semester, von Mering is teaching Human/Nature: European Perspectives on Climate Change (GECS 188B), Küche, Kochen, Kuchen: Advanced German Grammar, Pronunciation, and Baking (GER 102B) and Your Brain on Carbon (HWL7). Miller is teaching Computational Neuroscience (NBIO 136B), Systems/Computational Neuroscience Journal Club (NBIO 340B) and Readings in Neuroscience (NEUR 98B).

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