Global warming tops agenda at science forum

Seth Roy

Doug Wagener said global warming doesn’t just hurt the environment — it hurts wallets.

“Global warming and energy issues — I think they’re going to have catastrophic results for lower-income families,” said Wagener, of Family and Community Services, at a Kent Environmental Council meeting last night.

About 45 community members and students gathered last night for the Kent Environmental Council’s fall forum, titled “An Inconvenient Reality: Bringing Global Climate Change Home to Kent.” The forum was held at the United Church of Christ in Kent and covered global climate change and its impact on citizens, business and science.

Wagener said rising energy costs may cause families to go without heat or air conditioning, and it may cause some to lose their homes.

“Families that we serve exist on a very thin margin,” Wagener said. “The difference between being able to pay your bills and disaster is very thin … the routine family that comes to our shelter is a working family — they have jobs.”

Scott Sheridan, associate professor of geography, said a growing world population and growing energy consumption are leading to the higher temperatures.

“We are going to have a lot more people that are going to potentially be more vulnerable,” Sheridan said.

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, account for the increase in temperature. As more energy from industries and transportation are used, more carbon dioxide is trapped in the atmosphere, causing the earth to heat up, he said.

Temperatures have risen and fallen throughout history, Sheridan said, but never as high as right now.

Sheridan said scientists have different ideas about how long the earth will maintain its current environment. He said forecasts differ because it is impossible to know about advances in technology, increases in population and changes in energy reduction laws.

Energy companies are especially interested in energy reduction laws, said John Judge, director of commodity supply planning for FirstEnergy.

“While the science is not certain,” he said, “it has become very clear that something must be done.”

He said policy on federal CO2 regulation of coal plants will probably be decided on within five years. According to Judge, 60 percent of FirstEnergy’s plants are coal.

FirstEnergy is researching ways to increase the efficiency of its coal and nuclear plants, Judge said.

One thing the company is doing is moving toward CO2 sequestration. The process captures CO2 when coal is converted to gas and stores the CO2 underground, rather than release it into the atmosphere. Sequestration policies are still being looked at, and haven’t begun.

Judge said the CO2 would be injected through a deep well into storage 4,000 to 7,000 feet underground.

Ann Ward, chairperson for KEC, said the organization’s goal with its fall forum was to raise awareness about global warming.

“We want to increase local awareness of global climate change,” she said. “We’re trying to encourage interest in sustainability issues.”

Ward said the organization, which has around 100 paying members, meets in hopes of starting a dialogue between people about improving the environment.

Contact public affairs reporter Seth Roy at [email protected].