NASA scientist warns about the effects of global warming
By Christine Simek
More than 50 people, including over two dozen third and fourth grade students from the Haldane School, packed into the Cold Spring Village courtroom on May 1 to participate in the Board of Trustees Earth Day workshop. Timothy Hall, a senior scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and adjunct professor at Columbia University, presented a scientific overview of climate change, and Mayor Seth Gallagher put forth an outline for the Village’s adoption of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Smart Communities Pledge. Mayor Gallagher also offered a quick review of the pro-environmental changes already in the works for the community. (See Cold Spring Board Introduces Global Warming Pledge)
Hall began his talk by stating that “the basic arguments about changes in the Earth’s climate are not tricky or subtle or hard to understand,” and that one of the questions that scientists are studying is: “How sensitive is the Earth’s atmosphere to increase in heat?” Hall compared the recent increase in the Earth’s carbon emissions akin to human beings “throwing blankets on the earth for the past 100 years.”
As it turns out, the Earth is a sensitive planet. According to Hall, this ‘carbon-dioxide-blanketing’ of the atmosphere has led to an increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature–the Earth is, in fact, warmer today than it has ever been–with the global effects of this temperature increase resulting in heat waves, drought, and glacial deterioration. If the temperature increase continues unchecked, it will create havoc for the planet and for the human and animal populations living on it.
Hall explained that as the Earth’s atmospheric temperature increases, the frequency of extreme weather events will increase, too, and the impact these events will have on the Northeastern portion of the United States will be: “water, water, water.” Changes in precipitation, specifically an increase of intense rainfall events, will result in even more flooding and soil erosion than we’ve seen in recent years. Ocean temperatures will rise and, because warm water takes up more space than cold water, sea levels will rise, too. Rising sea levels will lead to an expansion of the areas in danger of being damaged by storm surges, especially along costal and river communities.
As part of their study of science and the environment, Haldane teachers Simon Dudar, Michelle Hartford and Sylvia LeMon encouraged their students to attend the workshop with their families. The students, who sat on the floor for the duration of the presentation and were attentive and engaged, and asked questions ranging from the significance of sea water salinity to the effects that global trade has on the Earth’s climate. Several students shared that they have made changes as a school to decrease their impact on the earth by composting, recycling and contacting local businesses to encourage them to recycle, too.
Despite his bleak report, Hall encouraged the students of Haldane to continue their environmental studies at school and their lower-impact living at home. He stated that decreasing our human dependence on oil is one of the vital steps necessary to curbing climate change.
Mayor Seth Gallagher seemed thrilled with the turnout for the workshop and was eager to involve the Haldane students in the discussion. He pledged to keep people talking about environmental matters because “when this topic [of climate change] drops out of conversation, nothing happens.”
Photo by L.S.Armstrong