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Richard Alley: Climate change needs lots of action - fast

by Christina Choi
March 09, 2012


Courtesy of Richard Alley


Medill file

Geoscientist Richard Alley

Christina Choi/MEDILL

Keeping climate change at safe margins requires "a lot of action very fast," according to geoscientist Richard Alley. Push for solutions with political willpower, zero-carbon cities and community initiatives throughout places such as Evanston a leading climate change researcher. That's the message from the recent the crowd-packed Climate Change Symposium at Northwestern University.

Keeping climate change at safe margins requires "a lot of action very fast," according to Richard Alley, a leading climate change researcher, Pennsylvania State University geologist and star of the PBS series, "Earth: The Operators' Manual."

Alley packed an auditorium as keynote speaker for Northwestern University’s Third Annual Climate Change Symposium on Thursday with his talk "Get rich and save the world, or else: Energy, environmental change and options."

His lively talk showed how rising carbon dioxide emissions from human use of fossil fuels are directly related to climate change. The "time machines" of ancient air pockets found in ice cores Alley has helped extract show that carbon dioxide levels are rising to unprecedented ranges compared to the natural cycles of the earth's heating and cooling over the past hundreds of thousands of years. And carbon dioxide holds heat in the atmosphere, linking it directly to global warming.

"If we could power light bulb's with this man's energy, we could probably solve the climate problem," joked Yarrox Axford who introduced Alley. She moderated and helped organize Northwestern's climate symposium.

Here is an overview of climate change options presented in the afternoon symposium session featuring Alley, public policy expert Barry Rabe of the University of Michigan, Evanston's Sustainable Program Coordinator Catherine Hurley and Chicago architect Adrian Smith.

The morning session looked at the evidence and impact of climate change - the health problems it causes, the reconstruction of environmental change and the chemistry of the oceans.

The symposium was sponsored by Northwestern's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the Program in Environmental Policy and Culture and the Initiative for Sustainabiltiy and Energy At Northwestern.