'Pollution Solutions Tour' comes to TTU to discuss global warming

Tennessee Technological University will be a stopping point of a nationwide "Pollution Solutions Tour" to educate the public about global warming on Friday, Oct. 29, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Organized by many environmental groups across the country, the "Pollution Solutions Tour" will showcase economical and common-sense energy alternatives that combat global warming, explained Mary Liz Knish of the Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC).

"Solutions to global warming revolve around using energy more efficiently in homes, businesses and transportation, as well as to shift to less-polluting power sources," she said.

To demonstrate more efficient energy alternatives, a tractor-trailer truck, called the Airstream Trailer, will be parked behind the Roaden University Center on Friday and will feature two contrasting power sources, solar and diesel electric. Each power source is capable of independently supplying enough energy to run all the appliances, lights and computers on board the truck. But a computer display will show how electricity produced by the carbon-dioxide-emitting diesel generator can easily be replaced by pollution-free solar energy, Knish explained.

There will also be combined natural gas powered vehicles, including the Ford F-250 pick-up truck and the Honda Civic GX, and a Ford Ranger electric car. And, finally, there will be a thermal camera that can be used to test buildings' energy efficiency/output/waste, Knish added.

The only other stop in Tennessee on this tour was in Jackson. The tour is being sponsored by the National Environment Trust and in Tennessee by the TEC.

What is Global Warming?

Global warming refers to greenhouse warming, explained TTU associate professor of chemistry John Harwood, and evidence today shows that environmental damage caused by global warming is indisputable.

"The greenhouse effect Ð absorption and reflection of heat emanating from the earth's surface Ð is a simple phenomenon. There is no denying that increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lead to heating of the earth," he said.

In burning fossil fuels, such as coal and gasoline, humans have increased the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and, in essence, made a thicker layer of carbon dioxide above the earth, which, in turn, means a thicker layer for the earth's heat to get through.

"If you increase the layer of a blanket, you will get warmer," Harwood explained in simple terms. So, basically, the more fossil fuels and other pollutants released into the atmosphere makes for a thicker and thicker blanket hanging over the earth's surface, trapping more and more heat on the earth's surface.

Scientists predict the earth's average temperature will increase by two to six degrees Fahrenheit in the next century, a rate faster than any observed during the last 10,000 years.

"There are some who say that the warmer the earth gets, the more water vapor there will be Ð meaning there will be more clouds. But that means less sunlight," Harwood said. "Either one will cause ecological havoc."

The bottom line, though, Harwood added, is that the earth is a very complex system and no one can predict exactly what will happen. But, based on years of research and the information we now know, he said, it is time to take a proactive stance to stop global warming before it is too late. Such factual information includes: 1. Almost every year since 1990 has been hotter than the preceding year and 11 of the past 16 years have been the hottest of the century. 2. The 1998 average global temperature was higher than any year in the past 1,000 years and the idea that this rapid trend is the result of natural phenomena is vanishing. 3. The average global temperature in 1998 exceeded the previous record, set in 1995, by 25-degrees Celsius Ð a huge, unnatural jump. 4. The tundra is beginning to melt, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide as well as methane, which is more potent and more harmful than carbon dioxide. 5. Coral "bleaching" (dying off) is occurring in many parts of the ocean, contributing to many diseases and threatening an integral part of the oceanic ecosystem as well as threatening a $375 billion worldwide tourist industry. 6. The Antarctic ice shelves, stable for the past 400 years, are breaking up. "And the fact that the Antarctic Peninsula average summertime temperatures have risen 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1940s is a very scary fact," Harwood said. 7. And the Boreal (northern) forests are presently releasing more carbon dioxide than they are absorbing, due to the warming of the soil.

"Although we can't predict when even more serious damage will occur Ð in the next decade or the next century Ð we can say that there will be serious damage if we don't start controlling our greenhouse gas emissions," Harwood said.

"The argument that we don't know what will happen is not a good one. It's like always driving at 110 miles per hour. At this speed, you know you will have an accident, you just don't know when. So what you do is slow down instead of waiting for the accident to happen and then seeing what kind of damage has been done," he added.

"We know we may have serious problems, so let's find alternatives now. All we really need to do is take some modest efficiency measures and this will have a great impact."

Steps that can be taken include: planting more trees, using energy-saving light bulbs, buying a high-efficiency refrigerator, recycling and buying food and other products in recycled packaging, walking more and riding a bike to work if possible and insulating your home.

For more information about global warming, call the Tennessee Environmental Council at (615) 248-6500 or visit the web page of the National Environmental Trust at www.envirotrust.com.