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Advocates continue to call attention to climate change, but panelists on WFPL’s In Conversation Friday said more action from the state and the nation is necessary to address the issue.
Guests for the show included:
- WFPL Energy and Environment Reporter Ryan Van Velzer
- University of Louisville Assistant to the Provost for Sustainability Initiatives Justin Mog
- Louisville Climate Strike Coalition Co-Lead Fernanda Scharfenberger
- Kentuckians for the Commonwealth Chairperson Cassia Herron
Ryan Van Velzer said Kentucky’s average temperature has increased about 1.5 to degrees over the last 30 years. The increased average temperatures have contributed to heavier rainfall, flooding, heatwaves and other extreme weather consistent with impacts seen from climate change.
Van Velzer pointed out that coal’s dominance in the energy sector is on the decline as it is out-competed by cheaper alternatives including natural gas and increasingly, renewables. But that doesn’t change the fact that the emissions from burning Kentucky coal have contributed to the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
“The world has reached the highest levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that has ever been around since people started walking the earth,” Van Velzer said. “We only play a small part in this, but we do play a part.”
The need to take action on climate change motivated Presentation Academy Student Fernanda Scharfenberger to organize a climate strike in Louisville last week. Scharfenberger said the strike was successful, but she wants action from city leaders.
“I would say it [the strike] was a success. It will be more of a success once we see that concrete action come out of Metro Council,” Scharfenberger said. “Climate change is something that impacts every single aspect of our lives, and I believe that young people have an understanding that my future, our future, is synonymous with the future.”
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth Chairperson Cassia Herron said her organization is addressing climate change by investing in energy alternatives. But Herron said the nation’s economy must change in order to address climate change.
“Trillions of dollars are spent on fossil fuels, and there are not many funds that are being invested in renewables,” Herron said. “It’s time for us to dial it back and figure out new paths.”
One path from the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit suggests reducing the world’s carbon emissions to net zero within about 30 years — net-zero means any remaining emissions would be offset by carbon capture technology or reforestation. Justin Mog, the University of Louisville’s assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives, said it is possible for Kentucky to sever its reliance on coal and limit carbon emissions to net zero, but it will take extreme action to do that by 2050.
“We ran out of time for an orderly transition away from fossil fuels. Now we have to do something truly radical,” Mog said, adding that the nation must mobilize as it does in times of war. “We absolutely can do it, but we have to put everything we’ve got into it and we have to do it with a way that respects the people who are going to be impacted most by this.”
Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about gun laws and gun control.