Jeffrey Kiehl – The Scientific and Social Challenges of Global Warming


Jeffrey Kiehl, Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, was actually the first keynote speaker at the 2007 LITA National Forum. His speech was not about libraries per se, but a topic that’s important for the whole human race – Global Warming. Thus, it served as a good opening talk. Global Warming played a significant role in Hurricane Katrina and is the reason why we have more and more extreme weathers every year.

The presentation was quite educational. Well, at least it taught me that global warming is majorly due to emission of carbon dioxide, which is a result of human obtaining and consuming energy, such as using a car, turning on an air conditioner, barbequeing, etc. All of these activities will cause the sea level to rise, little by little every year, and eventually create a disaster. Even if mankind were to stop all such activities, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted will still remain in the atmosphere for a while just like a pot of boiling water takes time to cool down. And what makes it possible to think people are willing to slow down, let alone stop it all? According to Kiehl’s research, there’s a huge “them vs. me” factor. He showed a bar chart of one of the surveys he’s conducted on combating global warming. The results indicated that when asked if it’s necessary to reduce emission, the positive answers were over 90%; however, when asked to act upon it, that is, to enact a tax based on amount of emission, the positive answers were less than 15%. This clearly tells us the way people’s minds work: “yes, THEY should do something about reducing emission; oh, but if that means I have to pay more tax, then that’s a no no!”

The following week when I returned to work, a co-worker of mine who’s taking Chinese lessons – and thus are very interested in what’s going on in China – sent me a Climate Change Special Report titled Chinese bid to cast one-child policy as emissions curb raises eyebrows. Here’s to quote some of the interesting things in the article:

“Bejing’s one-child policy had prevented about 300 million births since it was implemented in the late 1970s. That amounts to 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide avoided in 2005 alone — a calculation based on an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which says developing countries emit about 4.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person per year.”

Seems like China is trying to claim credit on the one-child policy. I am sure I would’ve heard a different tone or seen a different stance if I had read this report in a Chinese news source. I am also sure the Americans are using pollution and the “would have been” factor (i.e. this would’ve been of no concern if China hadn’t had a huge population to start with, blah blah blah) as their reason for “raising the eyebrows”.



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