On May 6th The Brookings Institution hosted Denmark’s Foreign Minister, Martin Lidegaard. The subject of this event consisted of the Russian Ukraine conflict, climate change, and how these issues relate to one another. I was Impressed to hear the foreign minister discuss the various policies that the Danish government has implemented to combat climate change. Martin Lidegaard mentioned that Denmark, along with several other European countries, is rapidly phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energies like wind energy. Denmark plans to completely phase out coal by the year 2050. Supporters of this energy plan convinced parliament by focusing on the economic, ecological and infrastructural benefits of renewables. Lidegaard stated that renewables are beginning to be able to compete with oil and coal companies as more economical and practical options. Martin Lidegaard said that through an aggressive clean energy program, Dennmark was able to keep their fossil fuel consumption at the same level for 20 years, despite significant economic growth.
I learned that the use of fossil fuels not only threatens our Earth but also the security of people in every country. We can see Ukraine as an example of how fossil fuels can have a powerful grip on governments. The best possible solution is investing in domestic renewable energy in replacement of coal, gas and nuclear energy. I felt inspired by this event because the foreign minister echoed my belief that a solution to climate change is possible. Not only is it possible but the global economy can benefit from a second industrial revolution where we rapidly improve the technology behind renewables and implement them in society.
I feel that the answer to global warming is going to come through the competitive environment of capitalism where various scientists and businesses are racing to find revolutionary renewable products that can replace fossel fuels. I walked away hopeful that as man kind, we can overcome this hurtle of global warming through our uncanny ability to use innovation to improve our lives.
On April 10th I went to the Wilson Center for an event called Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Impacts on Public Health and Agriculture. The event speakers were Tom Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center, Catherine Thomasson, Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility and William Hohenstein, Director of the Climate Change Program Office at the Department of Agriculture. A brief introduction was made by the Brazil Institute Director Paulo Sotero, who talked about how Brazilians are protecting their rainforest and the measures the government is taking to reduce extreme weather impacts in Brazil.
This event was very interesting. We always hear how global climate change will affect us but I haven’t had the opportunity to actually listen to the experts and realize the causes and effects that can affect us as a society. Tom Karl presented very valuable information focusing on the U.S regions that are impacted by billion dollar disasters. He pointed out that there is a correlation between natural disasters and heat index registered over the years. For example in California there has been an increase of forestal fires and the intensity of thunderstorms in the southeast region has also rise. Although there are some extreme weather changes that can be detected like heat waves, others like severe thunderstorm and extra tropical cyclones are harder to detect. He concluded his talk by stating that the better ability they have to observe changes the better they can understand and identify the patterns.
Next up was Catherine Thomasson, who explained the effects that climate change has on the population’s health. For instance she focused on how for example the loss of electricity by severe thunderstorms or just the increase of heat waves can impact the elderly, chronically ill and little children. She pointed out that in 2003 during the European heat wave, the number of deaths dramatically increased. Heat also impacts the health of those in vulnerable regions like Africa. Mosquito disease and malaria are affecting areas, which due to extreme high temperature the disease is more likely to spread faster. Dengue fever has also increase in the southern region of the U.S due to climate change. Another important point she focused on was the fact that drought increased forest fires and therefore it affects vital crops that we eat every day. A statistic I found very interesting and important to share is that 2 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean potable water. To conclude, she mentioned that human intervention is necessary to help reduce emissions and to move towards renewable energy.
The last panelist was William Hohenstein and he specifically focused on how climate change is impacting agriculture in the US. As well as Catherine he called for a reduction of greenhouse emissions. He gave various example on how severe weather affected crops. For instance, corn suffers from high nighttime temperatures as well as soybean from water stress and high temperatures. Wheat and small grains can be frozen during flowering and affected by water stress. Although his data showed important damages towards the crops he was much more optimistic when talking about farmer’s adaptation to severe weather. He stated that farmers are adapting to the change and that they are trying to develop new strategies, tools and practices for adaptation. Nonetheless, effects are likely to worsen significantly if greenhouse emissions remain high.
Overall I think this event was very interesting and I certainly enjoy it. Like I said we always hear about these changes but to actually see data and listen to the expert’s it changes your perspective about the issue and makes you realize that with small changes we can all contribute in solving the problem.