In her first speech as dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, Rosina Bierbaum outlined problems facing the environment in the 21st century, specifically climate change and its implications for other environmental issues.
“Climate change is, I would argue, the most dangerous environmental issue in the world today, and it is also the most retractable,” she said.
“Average temperatures have increased 1 degree Celsius over 100 years however, when you look at this over the course of a 1,000 years, assuming the continued increase of carbon dioxide pollution, it is very significant.”
This problem, Bierbaum said, is largely due to the 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide that pollute the earth”s atmosphere each year, much of which is from burning fossil fuels.
“In studies conducted from 1950 to 1995 concerning the cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide, the U.S. alone contributed 27 percent of the waste,” she said.
A panel discussion on the points Bierbaum brought up in her lecture featured the deans from three other colleges Stephen Director from the College of Engineering, Robert Dolan from the Business School and Douglas Kelbaugh from the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
“Americans make up 4 percent of the world”s total population and yet we use 40 percent of the world”s energy and water,” Kelbaugh said. “The average American makes 11 trips in their vehicle a day, and only 11 to 20 percent carpool.”
Kelbaugh said we need to find alternatives to our current means of transit.
“Transportation in this country is a joke,” he said.
Kelbaugh said that with the population growing so quickly, it will only be another two years before the world is equally urban and rural.
“We need to build an urban environment that is in harmony with the natural environment,” Kelbaugh said.
Hosted by the Center for Sustainable System on their 10 year anniversary, the lecture was in honor of donor Peter Wege.
He was “a generous benefactor and supporter of our program and many others around the world,” Bierbaum said.