Greenbelt Climate Action Network Meeting
Greenbelt Climate Action Network (GCAN) is a local environmental group whose mission is “to educate residents about climate change” and “how they can change their behavior and take political action.” The group meets on the second Wednesday of the month at the Greenbelt Community Center. At its January meeting, the featured speaker is Juanita Constible who is a Climate Presenter with The Climate Reality Project. This project is founded and chaired by Al Gore.
Greenbelt Climate Action Network meets in the Greenbelt Community Center which is the center of community life in Greenbelt and hosts a variety of activities by local organizations every day. Here a whiteboard announces today’s events, from City Council meeting to homeschool ceramics class, dance theater rehearsal, volleyball game, and GCAN meeting.
Lore Rosenthal, coordinator for GCAN, introduces the speaker. Juanita Constible is the Science and Solutions Director at The Climate Reality Project. She was trained as a wildlife biologist and is also a coauthor of “Climate Change from Pole to Pole: Biology Investigations,” a book for high school and college students about the biological effects of climate change. Here Rosenthal asks how many people in the audience have seen Al Gore’s documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Many hands are up.
The presentation starts with photos of houses in the low-lying regions of coastal Louisiana that will be in danger if sea level rises and photos of glaciers in Antarctica which are disappearing. Constible then talks about the rising global surface temperature and hot days getting hotter and wet places getting wetter: Texas had one of the driest years and the Northeast one of the wettest.
She shows a graph of carbon dioxide concentration rising sharply in recent centuries and explains, when questioned, that this information comes from ice core data. She tells that 90 percent of carbon pollution is from fossil fuel including coal, oil, and natural gas and the biggest polluters are the electricity sector (33 percent) and the transportation sector (27 percent). She mentions “clean coal” which refers to the idea that carbon dioxide from burning coal in power plants can be captured and says that this technology does not exist on a commercial scale. She talks about JunkScience.com which pays people to “debunk” climate science and is vague about its funding sources.
Constible concludes by urging people concerned about climate change to do several things: (1) oppose new dirty energy projects (such as the Keystone Pipeline Project); (2) hold companies accountable (recently Facebook, when petitioned, promised to power some of its data centers by clean technology); and (3) change the conversation (by challenging mis-information, hosting more presentations, and making climate change an issue with elected officials).
About thirty people attend tonight’s meeting.
Many join the discussion afterward with the presenter. David Abraham says the presentation preaches to the choir. He says that people in Denver, 5,000 feet above sea level, may not care about sea level change in the Chesapeake Bay. Constible states that this presentation is targeted toward this audience, and there will be a different way to talk about climate change in Denver.
Robert Cahalan, who heads the Climate and Radiation Branch at NASA/Goddard, tells the audience that it is likely that Greenland will melt in the next centuries and that will raise sea level more than 20 feet, affecting billions of people.
Eric Norwood seems to be the only skeptic in this audience. He questions the downsides of wind farming and the difficulties in getting anti global warming papers published. The presenter says that every form of energy production has a cost and the sources we are currently using have much larger costs. Some in the audience adds that it is hard to publish these papers because in science one has to support his or her theories with evidence and reference works by others.
At the end of the discussion, Lore Rosenthal announces a number of upcoming events which include a house party to overturn “Citizen United,” a march for jobs and justice over the Martin Luther King weekend, a legislative reception in Annapolis, demonstrations at the Supreme Court against “Citizen United,” a “Polar Bear Plunge” to benefit Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), meetings of GHI Buildings Committee, Green ACES (Greenbelt Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability), and City Council.
Maggie Cahalan announces that in next month’s meeting, Juliette Jones from Pittsburgh Permaculture will share her experience on the design and installation of Pittsburgh’s first food forest. She adds that in December a partnership of Greenbelt organizations submitted a grant application for “an outdoor classroom and design work for food forests and rain gardens” in Greenbelt.
The meeting concludes but people continue to discuss and debate. Here Eric Norwood (left) and David Abraham talk about a wide range of topics including supernaturalism, miracles, David Hume’s essay on miracles, The Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Creationism, Darwinism, the moral code, fossil evidence, carbon dating, etc.