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Earth Day event focuses on climate change

By Allana Akhatar, Summer News Editor
Published April 22, 2014

In honor of Earth Day, two University professors and state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) spoke about climate change to a group of around 25 students in an event at Ingalls Mall Tuesday evening.

The event was sponsored by Organizing for Action Michigan, Clean Water Action and Ann Arbor 350, three nonprofit environmental advocacy groups, as part of a statewide Earth Day effort to raise awareness of climate change.

Erika Ackerman, adviser of OFA Michigan and chair of the event, said she hoped the event would bring to light the destructive potential of climate change.

“This is a catastrophe we’re on the edge of experiencing and people are just not aware, not awake to it,” Ackerman said.

Knute Nadelhoffer, an ecology and evolutionary biology professor, and Richard Rood, an Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences professor, opened the event. Nadelhoffer, who also directs the biological station at the University, is a former co-director of the National Science Foundation’s Ecosystem Studies Program, and Rood is a recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Leadership and Exceptional Achievement Medals.

Both focused on the science behind climate change in their presentations, discussing the evidence in defense of global climate change, the difference between climate and temperature and the way human actions harm the environment. The pair also touched on some of the misconceptions of global climate and misinformation surrounding the topic.

Nadelhoffer encouraged the audience to study the facts and data when it comes to climate change, instead of only listening to rhetoric from politicians.

“We can work to promote a society that provides evidence based planning and policies,” Nadelhoffer said. “Not myth-based, not anecdote based, not belief based, but evidence based.”

Irwin, who spoke after, talked about how to translate scientific evidence on climate change into legislature on a state and national level.

As a state representative, he has traditionally been active on several aspects of environmental issues, most notably in his 2013 bid to pass bills to reduce “fracking”, which is the act of injecting water into the ground to create fractures and extract gas, and his successful 2002 effort to pass a land preservation initiative during his time as a member of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.

In an interview before his speech, Irwin said students can take action on environmental issues through their electoral power. He urged students to elect candidates who support using clean, environmentally friendly energy sources over those who chose to subsidize companies with harmful environmental impacts.

“Michigan would be smart to put our engineers and our government policy in line with making a difference on these issues,” he said.


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