UT alumna speaks on climate change at science forum

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Melissa R. Allen of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory spoke for the 2015 UT Science Forum “Climate Variability and Change: What Fundamental Science and Modeling Tell Us.”

Allen opened by talking about a common debate between climate scientists and detractors; whether or not human activity causes the climate variability that has been observed.

“The scientists, in all of the observations they’d seen and all the modeling they had done worldwide, had come to the conclusion that warming was unequivocal,” Allen said.

To expand on her statement, Allen went on to describe what climate change is.

“We have an energy balance between the Earth and space. The sun’s radiation is coming in as light. Light color or bright color, it will just reflect the light back into space,” Allen said. “The darker surfaces will absorb that radiation and then they re-radiate infrared radiation or long-wave radiation, and that gets trapped then by greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.”

Allen also stated that some greenhouse gasses are good, and that there would not be life on Earth without them.

Her lecture included other topics, such as talking about Sen. James M. Inhofe’s vocal stance against climate change, the infrared absorption spectrum and the polar ice caps.

“Antarctica goes through this cycle every year, that some melts and some melts and some grows back,” Allen said. “The issue, though, is are we losing more ice than we’re gaining?”

She then directed the audience’s attention towards a new study that suggested that the ice caps were gaining more ice than they were losing.

“Turns out, though, that the study that had been done was looking at data from 1992 to 2008, and really all that study said was that increase in ice was constant. What it did not say was that the rate of the decrease in ice was increasing,” Allen said.

Allen closed her lecture by likening the climate change denial to that of an unhealthy individual who refuses to change their lifestyle.

“If we ignore this, we’re kind of like ignoring a doctor that tells us that if we don’t shape up and lose weight and stop smoking, we’re going to have a heart attack,” Allen said. “And we tell the doctor ‘I’m sorry, you’re a heretic because you can’t tell me when I’m going to have a heart attack.'”

Featured image by Benjamin Webb

Edited by Courtney Anderson

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