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Climate activists stress positives of Senate climate bill despite its shortcomings
Amy Rawe is communications director for Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
KNOXVILLE — The U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), an estimated $430 billion bill, of which approximately $370 billion will be allocated to investments in clean energy and to address climate change.
It’s the single largest climate investment in U.S. history, and if it passes the House, will put the country on a path to be able to achieve roughly 40 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, reestablishing our influence in meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
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Scientists discuss climate challenges and solutions during 2021 One Health Day
As climate experts and scientists huddled in Glasgow in an international effort to stem potentially disastrous global environmental changes, a panel of doctors representing multiple disciplines at the University of Tennessee and beyond offered their assessments of climate challenges and solutions.
Their take on climate change? We have problems, but we also have solutions. Hopelessness will drive you crazy. Stay healthy, stay informed and do your part to mitigate the long-term environmental consequences of a changing Earth.
Above all: Don’t despair and don’t lose hope.
The panel, held Nov. 3 at the UT Student Union and presented by the UT One Health Initiative, consisted of the following experts:
— Dr. Gus Engman, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
— Dr. Kate Evans, Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
— Dr. Joshua Fu, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennesse
— Dr. Sindhu Jagadamma, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
— Dr. Kristina Kintziger, Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee
Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity and don’t include the full response. Questions were submitted ahead of time or during the panel discussion.
What do you see as the largest threats of climate change, especially related to your individual research interests?
Engman: Changing precipitation patterns are something I think about a lot.
Pretty much all the rivers in the world are expected to have changes to their flow regime.
These changes in droughts and floods are a really large issue.
I think a lot about aquatic communities. If we are scarce on drinking water, we are always going to prioritize people having that water, over the fish or the bugs in the streams.
There are all kinds of impacts to life histories and interactions with communities in streams.
When animals are stressed because of these changes in precipitation patterns and changes in flow patterns, they might become more susceptible to other stressors, like disease.
Changes in algal community composition can impact the entire water quality of a stream, and that might happen because of these changes in precipitation patterns.
These places that are experiencing these extreme droughts really worry me. The Colorado River already doesn’t even flow all the way to the ocean anymore. That’s a huge change. Because we take up so much water for agriculture.
If a stream runs out of water, it’s not a stream anymore.
Evans: From a meteorological perspective, the biggest event that hurts people's health is actually heat waves. A lot of press goes to tornadoes and hurricanes and storms but in fact these large domes of hot air (are deadly), which happen because of changes in the large-scale weather patterns.
The greenhouse effect insulates the earth, it makes it more uniform in temperature and so that changes the flow patterns that go around the earth. That changes those big weather systems that come in and how long they stick around.
When you talk about these long droughts, we know that’s what's we have to understand: Will they last longer, be more humid, less humid, and that has huge impacts for human health as well as the food they eat and the plants that grow.
Kintziger: Heat also has a bigger impact on a more indirect pathway to human health. Not just heat-related illness but also cardiovascular impacts, renal impacts and even mental health impacts.
Heat is the one that keeps me up at night. We are seeing increasing temperatures globally and we also have this urban heat island affect.
Our vulnerable populations in the cities — inner cities with lower-income housing, homeless populations — they are going to experience heat very differently than people who live in newer buildings with better cooling and infrastructure and have better capabilities for adapting to heat.