Between now and Earth Day in April, Wesleyan employees who seek greener ways to commute to campus will have the opportunity to earn rewards through the Earth Day Commuter Challenge 2010: “Race to the Finish.” The event encourages all forms of green commuting including carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, biking, walking and taking the bus, and is projected to eliminating more than 140,000 vehicle trips state-wide. This level of participation would result in 5,000,000 fewer miles of driving and the elimination of 2,000 tons of emissions.
“Our hope is that the Earth Day Commuter Challenge will encourage employees to get out of their single occupancy cars and use alternate green modes of transportation,” explains Cliff Ashton, director of Physical Plant. “It’s the right thing to do for the environment and hopefully it will save employees money at the same time.”
The event is endorsed by Governor M. Jodi Rell and culminates with a reception at the State Capitol for the employers who have successfully encouraged their employees to participate.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Americans take 1.1 billion trips a day. Of these trips, 78 percent are single-occupant trips, which clog roadways and account for about 50 percent of urban air pollution.
Several Wesleyan faculty and staff already make green choices in their to-and-from-work
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Gary Yohe, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, and a senior member if the U.N.’s IPCC panel discusses the economic implications of polar ice melt with ABC’s Bill Blakemore ’65. He estimates the costs of polar ice melting and rising seas at $2.4 trillion over the next few decades.
Jerry Melillo ’65, a senior scientist at the U.S. Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., says in a study published in Science that the new generation of biofuels will actually emit more carbon dioxide, averaged over the first three decades of this century, than gasoline—although the fuels were meant to be a low-carbon alternative.
A Reuters report on the study noted that governments and private industry are spending billions of dollars on research into making fuels from wood and grass in the hopes of cutting carbon emissions while not competing with food, as corn-based biofuels do.
Melillo and his team found, however, that these advanced “cellulosic” biofuels will actually lead to higher carbon emissions. They contend that the land required to plant poplar trees and tropical grasses would displace farmland and therefore lead to more deforestation to create new crop farmland. Deforestation is a significant source of carbon emissions. Additionally, these biofuel crops require nitrogen fertilizer, which itself produces two greenhouse gasses.
Melillo notes that the paper is not meant to negate the place for cellulosic biofuels.
“It is not an obvious and easy win without thinking very carefully about the problem,” Melillo told Reuters. “We have to think very carefully about both short and long-term consequences.”
Gary Yohe, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, was quoted in a Nov. 3 New York Times article titled “Obama Administration Weighs Costs of Doing Nothing.”
The article examined the Obama Administration’s inaction on significant climate change measures and how it is “struggling to reach its own conclusion,” a stark difference from the President’s campaign rhetoric of speedy action on climate change issues. The sticking point appears to be the cost versus benefit calculations or “social costs” of deciding whether to enact specific measures.
Yohe says, in part, that the difficulty lies in objectively quantifying these costs.
“You can’t really quantify the social costs of carbon with any degree of confidence. You can get just about any number you want to, depending on the assumptions you use. That’s why EPA struggles so much,” said Yohe.
Bill Blakemore '65, an ABC News Correspondent, will speak on "The Many Psychologies of Global Warming," during a talk at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Memorial Chapel.
Four weeks before the nations meet in Copenhagen to try to avert the catastrophes that global warming may bring, ABC News Correspondent William Blakemore ’65 will identify many surprising psychological factors at play as people in all walks of life deal with the latest “hard news” on climate.
Blakemore will speak on “The Many Psychologies of Global Warming,” during a talk at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Memorial Chapel.
He’ll explore new definitions of sanity that may pertain, and give examples displaying different “psychologies, as well as manmade global warming’s place in “the long history of narcissistic insults to humanity itself.”
Two new time-line graphs of rapid and dangerous climate change will give fresh global context to the psychological challenges and experiences he has observed in the five years since he began focusing on global warming for ABC News.
Computer modelers trying to project the speed and severity of global warming’s advance often say that “the biggest unknown” in their equations is not data about ice or atmosphere, carbon or clouds, but “what the humans will do.” This talk probes that field and many states of mind already engaged.
The talk is sponsored by the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty, Department of Psychology, and the Robert Schumann Lecture Series in the Environmental Studies Program.
A follow-up discussion will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Wasch Center on Lawn Ave.
Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, contributed to an important study on the dangerous levels of Carbon Dioxide on the planet. He is featured in a Nov. 6 issue of Health News Digest. According to the article, if climate disasters are to be averted, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) must be reduced below the levels that already exist today. The model, created by Royer and nine other scientists from the U.S., the U.K. and France, suggests “the only realistic way to sharply curtail CO2 emissions is phase out coal use except where CO2 is captured and sequestered.” According to the study, coal is the largest source of atmospheric CO2 and the one that would be most practical to eliminate. The study was presented in the Open Atmospheric Science Journal, Volume 2, 217-231, published in 2008.