Climate Change?

I was lecturing in an environmental science course this week, having students calculate the amount of carbon dioxide generated from burning gasoline in an average car driven an average number of miles per year.  The amount is fairly astonishing.

We then began to build upon that, multiplying that number by the number of people in the lecture hall, the number of people in their town, the number of people in California, the US, and so on.  I find that empowering students with the math and then allowing them to make calculations to see how overall impact grows in magnitude when a few million little-old-me’s are all doing the same things is very powerful.

Students are always kind of blown away by what they find.

Then one student asked, innocently, ‘but how is it that carbon dioxide is related to global warming?’

Sometimes, as a professor, I have to step back and get my bearings.  You think you have a basis to begin with, a good point of departure, and then you realize that as deeply mired as our society has  gotten in the highly politicized ’debate’ about climate change, what we are still lacking is a strong foundation in the science, which is all that should really matter.

Lecture was over.  Hold that question, I said, it’s a good one.

Next lecture, we talked greenhouse gasses.  And I shared this short video that explains the concept quite nicely.  It’s useful and entertaining.

Is it still fire season???

Classes began at the college this week and in the decade that I have been a professor, I cannot remember ever leaving the house without even a jacket on for the first day of spring courses in January.  California’s weather always tends toward the beautiful, but this season it is no joke.  It’s on the news that California is on the brink of a devastating drought.  Down here on the front lines, it’s downright creepy.  Every day, more blue skies and sunshine.  It’s beginning to get to me.  And it sort of puts into perspective that helpless powerlessness that we all have in the face of nature.

Extreme Fire Conditions in January!

Extreme Fire Conditions in January!

Looking down the north slope of the San Jacintos.  Nothing but blue skies and the mountains beyond.

Looking down the north slope of the San Jacintos. Nothing but blue skies and the mountains beyond.