Climate in crisis

By By Jade Gray

By Jade Gray

If nations don’t cooperate with each other, the solution to the climate crisis will go nowhere, said Kevin Trenberth, expert on global climate change.

Trenberth gave a presentation at the S.J. Quinney School of Law on Wednesday about how global warming started and what people can expect with it in the future. He also talked about the ways in which America has contributed to the problem.

“China generates one-tenth of the emission per capita that the U.S. outputs, and China has many more people than the U.S.,” he said.

He went on to prompt the public to imagine the world in the future as countries such as China become more developed.

Trenberth explained in his presentation that the Kyoto Protocol-a strategy developed to deter the negative influences humans have on the environment-was ratified by 164 nations in 2005. However, the United States, the largest emitter of hazardous gases, has yet to ratify or limit its emissions.

In Trenberth’s overview of the scientific aspects of climate change, he said that it’s not so much a problem of humans polluting the earth, but the ways in which they do it.

“The main way human activities can affect climate is through interference with the natural flows of energy,” he said.

Many environmental signals have solidified scientists’ theories and given them the impression that the world is in fact warming.

One example that Trenberth said was a big support to the climate-change argument is oceanic changes.

“The oceans are rising,” he said. “Since 1993, there has been a 1.6 inch rise, which works out to be a foot increase per century.”

Based on data compiled by his employer-the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.-over the past century, “the composition of the atmosphere has changed in ways that are alarming,” Trenberth said.

He said many people in the scientific community agree with this premise and that a possible cause for such a change is human influence on the earth’s atmosphere.

“The atmosphere is a global commons where anyone can dump stuff in it without penalty,” Trenberth said. “There is no law of the atmosphere.”

One possible solution to deplete the negative affects humans have on the atmosphere, he said, is for countries’ governments to approve carbon taxes.

Carbon taxes are when industries, states and nations are required to pay for the emissions their organizations generate. By paying for them, it promotes less use of carbon dioxide and healthier air.

Some states and nations are already taking the first step toward legalizing carbon taxes. California is one example.

The European Union implemented a carbon tax system involving trading of rights in 2005.

“Although some are working toward carbon taxes, it won’t work unless it’s done across the board, worldwide,” Trenberth said.

“It’s a serious issue, and there should be more discussion like this on it,” said Kevin Bolander, a third-year law student.