Booster

Climate change, frigid weather don't contradict, chamber hears

Series of talks encourages local groups to act on global warming

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The irony was not lost on Richard C. Hicks.

Yes, the director of the Office of Health Planning with Columbus Public Health conceded last week, he was about to discuss global warming on a day when the predicted high temperature wasn't expected to get much above the single digits.

"The two ideas are not contradictory," Hicks told a Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon audience last week.

Harsher temperatures on both sides of the freezing mark -- along with more-severe storms of all kinds, including blizzards -- are possible consequences of what is also called climate change, he said.

The presentation by Hicks, titled "Climate Change in Central Ohio: Why We Should Act," is part of a series of talks being given to community groups and organizations to offer scientific information about the subject and to get attendees' thoughts on the matter and what steps they might be willing to take.

The talks are part of a collaborative effort between Columbus Public Health and the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The collaboration also will include surveys passed out at the presentations; random telephone interviews of 400 residents; and follow-up surveys three to six months in the future to determine if the views of those participating have changed.

Climate change is real, Hicks said; it is caused by people, it is already having an impact on central Ohio, and efforts are underway to halt or slow its progress.

The local impacts include more-extreme storms, flooding from stronger rains and increased summer heat waves, he said.

Those are the "takeaways" Hicks said he wanted his audience to have from the presentation.

Information gathered from future surveys will be used by OSU researchers and the city's environmental steward to plan efforts for addressing climate change and its potential consequences, he said.

Hicks began by discussing the "greenhouse effect," which refers to the way gases trapped inside the earth's atmosphere catch and hold on to warmth from the sun. Without this, the planet could not sustain any form of life, he said.

"Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing," Hicks added.

Since 1850, the levels of greenhouse gases -- especially carbon dioxide, which had been fairly constant for the previous 400,000 years -- "shot up astronomically," Hicks said.

"The obvious question is, why is that a problem?" he continued. "It matters because there's a very strong correlation between levels of carbon dioxide and increases in temperature.

"Small changes in temperature can have a big impact."

In the last 250 years, according to Hicks, the average global temperature has gone up by 1.5 degrees.

"That's tremendously fast warming," he said. "That kind of abrupt increase will have an impact on us and our ecosystems."

The burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil is the leading contributor to global warming, Hicks said. Reducing the amount of forested land also is a factor, because that lessens the planet's ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

City officials are trying to slow climate change by converting vehicles to alternative forms of energy, expanding the bike-path program, instituting curbside recycling and expanding the tree canopy, Hicks told chamber members.

Individuals can do their part, according to a brochure distributed at the end of the program by Hicks and Ellen Eilers, a graduate associate at Ohio State's School of Environmental and Natural Resources. These steps include installing insulation and fan ventilation, caulking and weather stripping, using fluorescent bulbs, installing energy-efficient appliances, keeping vehicles tuned up, carpooling when possible, and combining several errands into one trip.

The brochure offers a variety of websites for obtaining more information, including climate.nasa.gov; columbus.gov/ getgreen; and aepenergy.com/ promo/ geo.html.

Organizations interested in having the climate change presentation given to their groups may email Eilers at eilers.14@ osu.edu.

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