Harvard Professor James Anderson gave a talk on climate change through the lenses of chemistry, physics and applied mathematics to a crowd of students and faculty on Monday.
Anderson studies Earth’s climate by focusing on the primary mechanisms that couple chemistry, dynamics and energy in the climate system. His current research aims to establish a high-accuracy record of global climate change by using an airborne ice penetrating radar to map glacial structures and a high-altitude, long-duration unmanned aircraft to study the stratosphere and troposphere.
Chemical studies in the earth sciences constitute an important component of his research. In the past few years, it has become clear that a pattern of chemical change of the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and terrestrial biochemical systems exceed natural bounds on methane, carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.
Anderson has studied the effects of ozone depletion for decades, including his recent discovery of ozone loss over the U.S. in the summer from thunderstorm convective injection of water.
Anderson spoke about how climate change drives the refugee problem. “It is estimated that in the few decades, 13 million coastal dwellers could be displaced by climate change,” said Anderson. Anderson estimates that 20 million people in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen are facing extreme drought, and many of these individuals are becoming refugees, forced from their homelands in search of stable food sources.
Anderson also talked about how in order to make a lasting change and combat climate change, the way universities teach introductory science courses needs to change. “I had to reformulate the way I taught freshman introductory chemistry,” said Anderson. The way introductory science courses are taught scare students from further pursuing the sciences. “It wastes a huge amount of creative talent,” Anderson continued.
Anderson has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and is a professor of atmospheric chemistry at Harvard University. He holds a Ph.D. in physics and astrogeophysics from the University of Colorado.