Since October 2012, I have taught around 7 continuing adult education classes for St. Louis Community College. These classes were about 3 hours in length. In addition, I have also co-taught or taught 3 climate change classes for the OASIS Center of St. Louis, which is a non-profit educational organization promoting lifelong learning for adults over 50 years old.
I promoted these classes on social media to inspire others passionate about climate change across the U.S. to approach their community college for teach their local citizens about climate change. The response I received from some of climate change communicators was: “Great idea! Can I see a copy of your syllabus?”
I did mail the class agenda to anyone who was interested. I will keep doing this for others asking me the same request. In this blog, I will expand more upon what I cover in my class agenda. Hopefully, this will help others borrow or steal ideas to create their own climate change classes.
Because of this length and details, I had to break this blog up into two parts. I freely admit this blog post will not be for everyone. However, it is my Christmas gift to my Facebook friend, Andrise Bass, and others looking for materials to teach a similar class.
Agenda for my 3 hour Climate Change 101 Continuing Adult Education Class:
A. Introduce self: Why am I teaching this class? (10 minutes)
I design the first part so that folks arriving 10 minutes late will not miss anything vital on climate change. On the other hand, I do want to establish my credibility why I am a qualified to teach this class.
1. I start out with a story of Admiral James Stockdale. He ran for Vice President as the running mate for Ross Perot when he ran for President as an independent candidate in 1992.
Stockdale seemed out of place and a little bewildered during the Vice Presidential Debate on stage with Democratic Senator Al Gore and Republican Vice President Dan Quayle. He started his introduction at the beginning of the debate saying, “Who am I? and why am I here?”
Then I pivot and talk about who I am and why am I teaching the climate change 101 class.
2. I share my personal background story
With pictures, I share I was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. I want to establish that I am from their same community. I then share pictures of the local parks, including one of me going to Bee Tree Park taken when I was 18 years old. My story starts with my love of spending time in local nature as a child which lead me to working in the national parks. My goal here is to establish the common bond of nature, especially of the local area parks and the common love people share for our national parks. I want to break down any barriers to show that I am just like them.
|Brian Ettling, age 18 at Bee Tree County Park, Missouri|
Then I segment into the story of how I witnessed climate change while working in the national parks.
As British climate change commentator, George Marshall noted, “Science is not what persuades people. It’s the stories they hear from the people they trust.” – George Marshall, co-founder of Climate Outreach.
3. Humor is such an important tool to reach audiences.
There is an old joke among professional speakers.
One day a new speaker asked: “Do I need to be funny when I give speeches?”
The veteran public speaker responded: “Only if you want to get paid.”
|Brian Ettling at Everglades Nat. Park|
Thus, I share the story how I knew nothing about climate change, but park visitors were starting to ask me about it global warming thing as I was narrating boat tours in Everglades National Park.
I then ask rhetorically, “People expect park rangers to know everything don’t they?”
The audience always responds with a chuckle, “YES!”
Then I share how I had to run to a book store to read my first book on climate change.
4. Showing knowledge is another ingredient to establish credibility with an audience.
Then I explained how I read in 1999 my first book on climate change, Laboratory Earth: The Planetary Gamble We Can’t Afford to Lose by the late Dr. Stephen Schneider of Stanford University.
Then I show images of the stacks of books I read on climate change since that first book. Reading extensively about climate change evolved into a longing to take action.
5. Passion is the next way I show credibility on this subject by the actions I took.
I quit doing my Everglades winter seasonal job to spend my winters in my hometown to engage St. Louis area residents on this subject. I spoke at my nephew’s and niece’s school.
|Brian Ettling speaking at the school of his nephew Sam, February 2010|
I attended 3 Climate Reality Project Training conferences. The first one was in San Francisco August 2012. At these conference, former Vice President Al Gore leads the training how to give one of his climate change talks. At the May 2015 Climate Reality Training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I had an opportunity to directly ask Al Gore a question.
As a park ranger, NASA and the National Park Service invited me to attend an Earth to Sky Training in September 2011 to learning from NASA climate scientists how to give climate change talks in national parks.
Yet, despite all this experience, I had to overcome an obstacle. For years, I did not give climate change as a ranger. I was scared a visitor would want to get into a argument with me.
6. I then chat how I had to overcome fear to give talks on climate change as a park ranger.
I decided to “Just Do It” like the old Nike. I started giving ranger talks on climate change in August 2011. To my surprise, national park visitors were very supportive and responded very positively to my ranger evening campfire program on climate change, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
|Photo of Ranger Brian Ettling giving his climate change
evening campfire program at Crater Lake National Park
With personal stories, demonstrating my knowledge, showing my passion, and overcoming my fear, I hopefully have established myself as a credible speaker to my class.
This only takes about 10 minutes. However, if someone is 10 minutes late, they will not have not missed out on vital information.
B. Get to know the participants. (10 minutes)
I then ask the students: What brought you here?
This is so valuable for me to hear their stories. They open up on what hope to learn from my class. This gives me a mental note for the subjects I want to cover in the class and what I should emphasize.
|Comedian Brian Malow|
This is vital for me because it gets them involved. Hopefully, it makes them feel welcome and appreciated. I found this sets a very positive rapport with the class for me. Even more, it helps them feel like it is going to be an interactive learning environment.
As my friend, science comedian Brian Malow, likes to say, “An audience is not an amorphous blob. It is a group of individuals. Never forget that.”
This is still a “get to know you” time. Thus, if someone is still 20 minutes late to my class, they have not missed much.
C. What is climate change? Why is it a problem? (55 minutes)
This is where I dive into the science of climate change. My template is the 5 Essential Messages about Climate Change–identified thru audience research–you want to convey by Dr. Ed Maibach of George Masson University. I saw Ed Maibach give this presentation at the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, CA in December 2011.
Maibach’s Key Messages:
• Climate change is real.
• People are causing it this time.
• There is widespread agreement among climate scientists; more than 95% of scientists are convinced that human-caused climate change is happening.
• It is harmful to people.
• People can limit it, if we choose.
Therefore, following Maibach’s messaging, I breakout the science of climate change into 5 Parts:
1. Climate Change is Real:
I start off with my own humorous spin of the old GEICO caveman commercials by saying that “the science of climate change is so simple that ‘even a caveman could understand it.'”
I talk about how when we burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas for our energy, it releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into our air supply. This is heating up our planet. The Earth has a natural amount of CO2 which traps some of the Earth’s heat and makes the natural temperature of the planet around 58 degrees Fahrenheit. This is known as The Greenhouse Effect. It was first discovered by British scientist John Tyndall around 1859. Thus, it is not a new idea.
However, since the industrial revolution around 1880, scientists have noted that we have increased the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by 43%. The result is that the average temperature of the Earth has increased by a 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880.
A 1.8 degree Fahrenheit rise may sound laughable since 1880, since many people from St. Louis and other areas have seen the temperatures rise or fall by 20 to more degrees in one day. I then ask the audience: “What is your body temperature?”
Their response: “98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.”
I then ask: “What happens if you 1.8 degrees to that?”
“You have a fever,” I answer with them, and then add, “You are then thinking about calling in sick from work, school, or not coming to this class. It is the same thing with the Earth. We are giving the Earth a fever by pumping all the CO2 into our air supply.”
I then play a NASA image video which shows the rise in global earth temperatures across the globe from 1884 to 2013. Then I show how 2014 was the hottest year on record since 1884 and now 2015 is on track to blow past the 2014 record. Then I have a Climatecentral.org graph showing the decades from 1880 until now. It clearly documents a clear rise in temperature each decade from the 1960s until now.
Dr. Charles David Keeling, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, was the first scientist to the rise in CO2. He noticed it from taking air samples from the Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii, starting in 1959. In 2001, President George W. Bush presented Dr. Keeling with the National Medal of Science, the highest US award for scientific research lifetime achievement primarily for his work establishing what is now known as the “Keeling Curve.” This curve shows a steady rise in CO2 since 1959.
|Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org|
It then shows an image of the rise in temperature rising in correlation with the rise of CO2.
|Image Source: images.iop.org|
I mention that there is a dance between CO2 and global temperatures. It’s not a perfect dance, kind of like this viral image of these dance partners, President Barak Obama and former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin.
That image is now 7 years old, but it still gets a good laugh from the audience. Then I have an image of the Volsok ice core from Antartica showing the correlation between CO2 and temperature going back over 420,000 years. In my next image, I note that CO2 levels are now over 400 parts per million (ppm) today, which is higher than any time in the last several million years.
If we don’t do anything to limit global carbon pollution, some scientists show we could reach over 600 ppm by the year 2100. This would put over all 10 billion of us living on this planet by then in a precarious position. I demonstrate the danger of that level by showing images from the internet of working from very unsafe ladders.
Then I show images documenting how climate change is impacting our national parks. I then share my story how I witnessed seeing climate change in my 23 years working as a park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. I then end this section with an image from Skepticalscience.com showing Indicators of a Warming World.
2. How do we know we are adding carbon dioxide?
In this section, I demonstrate by using a banana vs. coal how we know that carbon dioxide is from us. I got this idea from a talk I heard a talk from NASA climate scientist Dr. Peter Griffith. He was a speaker at a National Park Service and NASA: Earth to Sky Training in Shepherdstown, West Virginia I attended in September, 2011. Dr. Griffith talked about old slow carbon (coal) vs, the fast carbon (a banana). Scientists have seen a vast increase old slow carbon. Even more, scientists now notice the old slow carbon now dwarfs the the young fast carbon what is in our atmosphere.
|Brian Ettling with NASA scientist Dr. Peter Griffith|
This may be too technical for most audiences. However, I note that the old slow carbon is Carbon isotope 12 and the young fast carbon isotope 14. I found a graph from the book Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming by Penn State climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann indicating the percentage of the Carbon 14 isotope decreasing.
|Image Source: Micheal Mann & Lee R. Kump.
Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming.
I then remark, “If this was a TV crime show like CSI, it is Carbon 12 which is warming up the planet. This would be the DNA fingerprints which would make us humans guilty.”
This explanation is complicated for most audiences. However, I found a wonderful video by Penn State climate scientist Dr. Richard Alley to make my point. It gives a great easy to understand explanation of the carbon isotopes and how the Carbon 12 “flavor” points to us humans.
I then show a Skeptical Science image “Human fingerprints are all over our climate.”
Since this part gets technical for most people, I end this section a viral humorous image of how the Positive Proof of Global Warming: The change in underwear fashions over the years.
This always gets a big chuckle from the audience.
3. There is widespread AGREEMENT among climate scientists.
Over 95% are convinced climate change is real and caused by people.
In this section, I cite three separate studies by Peter T. Doran, William Anderegg, and John Cook. They all show around 97% of climate scientists are convinced it is real and currently caused by humans.
|Image Source: www.skepticalscience.com|
I throw humor in this part by establishing that the scientific agreement on climate change is as solid as these scientific agreements: Earth is round, Earth revolves around the sun, dinosaurs once existed, smoking causes cancer (I have a comical image of a 4 year old child trying to smoke a cigarette), Neil Armstrong once walked on the moon, and the Cubs never winning the World Series (I admit then that image is a mistake. It is only a consensus among St. Louis scientists).
Then I pivot to the key “gateway belief” from the research of Dr. Ed Maibach and Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz: People are more likely to support climate action when they know there is scientific agreement among climate scientists.
Unfortunately, polls show only 55% of Americans think there is scientific agreement climate scientists. Emory University climate scientist Dr. Marshall Shepherd is mystified by this public confusion. As he joked in his Slaying the Zombies of Climate Change TEDx talk:
‘This gap is like saying that 97% of heart surgeons agree how to do heart transplant, but the public disagrees.’
I then show the Credibility Spectrum that was created by Kaitlin Alexander, PhD student in climate science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. I gave a detailed explanation of the Credibility Spectrum on my previous blog.
|Dr. Ralph Cicerone|
“I continue to think is there anything wrong with this picture (of climate change science) because scientists become rich and famous not by agreeing with everyone else. They become recognized by doing something different by showing that everyone else is wrong and doing something new, so I think about this all the time.
For 35 years, I have not been able to crack this thing (find ways to prove it as wrong). A lot of people who are smarter than me are always looking for new explanations. However, the consensus has come down stronger than ever that what we are seeing is due to the human enhanced greenhouse effect.”
“The Earth’s climate system is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks.”
I then try to use humor with the question: “Would anyone like some fine English wine?”
I share a story from this 2008 National Geographic special on climate change: 6 Degrees that Could Change the World. It talks about how wine is getting harder to grow in the south France and more vineyards have been popping up in England. Therefore, at a future fancy dinner party, you may hear your dinner host oddly offering you some fine English wine instead a a fine French wine.
I then share this sobering quote by climate scientist Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research,
“Global warming is contributing to an increased incidence of extreme weather because the environment in which all storms form has changed from human activities.”
Meteorologist Jeff Masters explains, “The Climate Has Shifted to a New State Capable of Delivering Rare & Unprecedented Weather Events.”
What is this “new state” that the climate has shifted?
1. Warmer Air = More Moisture
2. Arctic Amplification = “Stuck” Jet Stream
3. Warmer Oceans = More Heat Energy
All three factors combine to create Wetter Rains, Drier Droughts and Stormier Storms.
I then play a video from Texas Tech University climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe which she says: “One of the changes we have seen is that the average humidity of our planet has increased by 4%. Warmer air holds more water vapor. So, on average, our atmosphere is 4% more humidity than it used to be 30 to 40 years ago…So, when storms come through, there is more water for them to now pick up and dump.”
An example I give is Typhoon Haiyan. As it was getting ready to make landfall in the Philippines on November 7, 2013, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated the system’s one-minute sustained winds to 315 km/h (196 mph; 170 kn), making Haiyan the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at that time. Although scientists think the contribution of global warming to Haiyan’s extreme intensity is likely to have been small, Haiyan did have deeper, warmer pools of water in the Pacific before it hit the Philippines to provide sufficient energy to fuel storm intensification.
Hayhoe explains that ‘Climate Change does not “cause” Bigger Storms like Sandy and Haiyan….But it can make them worse.’ Climate change can exacerbate these storms with its impacts of higher sea levels, higher sea surface temperatures, more moisture in the air, and melting polar ice changing the weather patterns.
According wunderground.com, of the 13 strongest tropical cyclones at landfall, 6 have happened since 1998. However, that fact is now outdated because meteorologists now say that Hurricane Patricia is the strongest hurricane ever recorded before it hit the southwestern Mexico coastline.
Unfortunately, climate change does not only exacerbate hurricanes and rain storms, it also makes droughts worse. Scientists think California is in its worst drought in about 500 years. The Atlantic Monthly reported in September “Drought and climate change have combined to produce the largest area burned in more than a decade” in California.
|Image Source: droughtmonitor.unl.edu|
This current drought is not just in California, but it also includes nearby states like Oregon.
As a summer seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, I witnessed the impacts of this western drought. When I arrived in the park in mid May 2015, I only saw a couple of fee of snow on the ground. The park can typically have 7 to 8 feet of snow on the ground that time of year. Normally, the park receives over 524 inches of total snow each year. For the winter of 2014-15, the park received only 196 inches of snow, the lowest snowpack on record.
As a result of the mild, short and dry winter, Crater Lake received its largest historical wildfire at over 15,000 acres. The fire was so intense that the park had to shut down its North Entrance station for about 10 days to fight the fire. The intense smoke made it uncomfortable to breathe and obscured the view of the lake at times. Below is a video taken of that wildfire.
It not just Crater Lake National Park. With increasing drought and higher temperatures in the western U.S. climate scientists worry about increasing fire frequency by drying and warming landscapes.
Even worse than increasing western wildfires, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on November 8, 2015 that World Bank issued a report that “Climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 by disrupting agriculture and fueling the spread of malaria and other diseases.”
The Washington Post released a map in February 3, 2015 of countries most vulnerable to climate change. Basically, poor third world and politically unstable countries, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, North Korea and central African nations are the most vulnerable to climate change.
What about local impacts? How does climate change impact my hometown, St. Louis Missouri?
I start off this part by showing a video I filmed of fireworks going off in St. Louis on October 27, 2012. It was a display I stumbled across driving into the city to house sit for a friend. These fireworks were supposed to be set off for the 4th of July. However, that summer had a drought and heat wave that was so severe that it was too dangerous to light fire works. It troubled me to see national news story on November 29, 2012: Drought threatens to close Mississippi River to barges between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill.
I have never liked the summer heat and humidity in St. Louis. This is one of the reasons why I spend my summers in the cool mountains of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
In 2009, this report Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Midwest by the Union of Concerned Scientists stated:
“Under the higher-emissions scenario, St. Louis could experience an entire summer of days above 90°F toward the end of the century. Under the lower- emissions scenario, the number of such days would be reduced by one- third. Dangerously hot days over 100°F (shown in the inset box) are also projected to increase dramatically, with a month and a half of such days expected under the higher-emissions scenario.”
|Image Source: ucsusa.org|
The thought that climate change could make the muggy and hot summers in St. Louis even worse really disturbed me. Climate change could make things worse, not just for my hometown, but for all o the Midwest. According to the 2008 National Geographic special on climate change called Six Degrees Could Change the World,
“If the world warms by just 1 degree Celsius, the result could be severe droughts in the U.S. Great Plains. The prolonged droughts could turn some of America’s most productive farmland and ranch lands into deserts, causing shortages in the global grain and meat markets.”
In November 2015, it was announced that the world is on track to end the year 1°C above pre-industrial levels. This is troubling news because the world is already seeing more intense droughts, heat waves, floods, and storms at .8 degrees celsius.
According to Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University, “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.”
Staying below 2°C warming is the guardrail that nations are negotiating to stay under as they try to reach an during the current climate talks in Paris. As Dr. Alice Bows-Larkin, Professor of Climate Science and Energy Policy at The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, stated, “2 Degrees represents the threshold between dangerous and extremely dangerous climate change.”
Dr. James Hansen, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observed, believes, “Two Degrees of warming is a prescription for long term disaster.”
Munich Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers, has graphed out a dramatic rise in weather related global catastrophes since 1980. In a related statement, Munich Re said, “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.”
The truly frightening part are images of what scientists predict as potential DROUGHT INTENSIFICATION in vast, highly populated areas of the world—if we do not act soon to sharply reduce global warming pollution, says a 2010 study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
According to J. Eric Smith, CEO of Swiss Re, the other largest reinsurance company in the world, “What keeps us up at night is climate change. We see the long-term effect of climate change on society, and it really frightens us.”
On top of all this, I got married on November 1, 2015. This was the headline I woke up seeing the day after my very blissful wedding, Climate Change Kills the Mood: Economists Warn of Less Sex on a Warmer Planet.
All of this makes me want to scream!
So then I ask my audience: “Are you ready for some good news?”
After all of that bleak news, they always seem to shout back, “YES!”
5. We can limit climate change, if we choose.
When sharing the science of climate change, the solutions are the most important topic to cover. In 2010, Matthew Feinberg, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto and Stanford University sociologist Robb Willer published this report in 2010, Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs.
Their findings showed that fear-based appeals on climate change, when not coupled with a clear solution, can backfire to cause people to be even less motivated to take action on climate change. Thus, talking about solutions is a vital component of my class. Even more, this research strong shows solutions must be included in talks to the public about climate change.
|Dr. Robert F. Cahalan|
This section is shorter because I do expand more on solutions in the next part of the class. However, I do want to touch upon climate change solutions that gives me the most hope for the future.
First, I love the quote by NASA climate scientist Dr. Robert Cahalan “The fact that humans are causing climate change is good news. That means we can do something about it.”
Indeed, there are so many solutions available to reduce the threat of climate change, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power.
It is uncertain how much the role of renewal energy played in this. However, The International Energy Agency reported in March, 2015, “global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn.”
Furthermore, In 2014, the global economy expanded by 3%. It is just one year. It will take many more years to show if this is a trend. However, it may be a sign of “decoupling” economic growth from rising carbon emissions. It may be the first signal that the world economy can grow without out using more fossil fuels and using increasing renewal energy.
In April 2015, The Chemical and Engineering News reported, “China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is claiming it significantly slowed both carbon dioxide releases and coal consumption in 2014.” According to the Chinese Government statistics, “China’s CO2 emissions remained roughly flat between 2013 and 2014.”
|Image Source: cen.acs.org|
Unfortunately, New York Times reported on November 3, 2015 that China “has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data.” This was very bad news because “The increase alone is greater than the whole German economy emits annually from fossil fuels.” However, China is under increasing scrutiny externally and internally to confront the pain of kicking its coal addiction, according to the October 28, 2015 Washington Post.
I cover more about China in part Part II of this blog in the section of the class “Unusual suspects who accept climate change.” The bottom line is that this could be the beginning of starting to bend the curve globally, domestically in the U.S. and in China, in terms of carbon pollution.
The good news though is that 2010 was the first year that global renewable investments in energy projects exceeded fossil fuel energy investments for the first time, according to Bloomberg Business News.
Even better, Bloomberg Business News reported in 2015 that Fossil Fuels just Lost the Race Against Renewables. This article noted, “The shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels,.. The shift will continue to accelerate, and by 2030 more than four times as much renewable capacity will be added.”
It then went on to add, “The question is no longer if the world will transition to cleaner energy, but how long it will take.”
July 29, 2013, Forbes Magazine, advised “Fossil Fuels Investments Are Increasingly Risky.”A few days earlier, Goldman Sachs warned, ‘The window to invest profitably in new coal mining capacity is closing.’
Months later, in December 2013, The New York Times reported, Large Companies Prepared to Pay Price on Carbon. The article noted:
“More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.”
The Times listed the five big oil companies as Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP and Shell The other companies incorporating a carbon price into their business planning include Walmart, American Electric Power, Microsoft, General Electric, Walt Disney, ConAgra Foods, Wells Fargo, DuPont, Duke Energy, Google and Delta Air Lines.
Not only is investing in renewable energy and reducing your carbon footprint a good investment for businesses and investors, green jobs are becoming a wiser career move.
As the Los Angeles Times reported in March 19, 2013, Green jobs grow four times faster than other work, including healthcare. The jobs are in renewable because renewable installations are exploding in growth.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association: U.S. Installs 6.2 GW of Solar PV in 2014, Up 30% Over 2013
In 2014, The Solar Energy Industries Association further noted, “Rapidly falling prices have made solar more affordable than ever. The average price of a completed PV system has dropped by 33 percent since the beginning of 2011”
In March 2014, American multinational financial services corporation, Morgan Stanley, observed, ‘There may be a ‘tipping point’ that causes customers to seek an off-grid approach [to solar].”
There are now 3 U.S. cities that have blown past the tipping point. They are now using 100% renewable energy: Greensburg, Kansas; Burlington, Vermont; and Aspen, Colorado.
Soon to be joining them in 2017, will be Georgetown, Texas. As the mayor, city manager and many of the residents would tell you, Georgetown is switching to renewables to strictly to save money, NOT to combat global warming or save the environment.
“I’m probably the furthest thing from an Al Gore clone you could find. We didn’t do this to save the world — We did this to get a competitive rate and reduce the risk for our consumers.” – Georgetown, Texas interim City Manager Jim Briggs.
As a side note, The Climate Reality Project, led by former Vice-President Al Gore, gave an in depth scientific training for 350 participants, including me, on how to give climate change presentations on May 5-7, 2015 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
During this training, Al Gore talked about Georgetown, Texas going 100% renewable. Gore then cited the quote from the City Manager, ‘I’m the furthest thing from Al Gore you could find. We’re only doing to keep electric rates low.’
Al Gore hilarious response: “Hey man, that works for me!”
In 2008, the small town of Rockport, Missouri, over 1,300 residents, announced that it was the first 100% wind powered community in the United States. Missouri, as a whole, has a long way to go, compared to its neighbors. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Missouri only gets 1% of its electric grid energy from the wind. On the other hand, Iowa gets over 28% of its electricity from the wind, South Dakota 25%, Kansas 21%, Oklahoma 16%, etc.
|Mark Z. Jacobson
Image Source: web.stanford.edu
“It’s absolutely not true that we need natural gas, coal or oil — we think it’s a myth,” said Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. “You could power America with renewables from a technical and economic standpoint. The biggest obstacles are social and political — what you need is the will to do it.”
In 2013, the journal Energy Policy published a study by Jacobson and a group of other Stanford engineers. It showed how New York State — not windy like the Great Plains, nor sunny like Arizona — could easily produce the power it needs from wind, solar and water power by 2030. In fact there was so much potential power, the researchers found, that renewable power could also fuel our cars.
I then conclude this section by repeating The 5 Essential Messages about Climate Change:
1. Climate Change is Real
2. People are causing it.
3. There is widespread agreement among climate scientists.
Over 95% are convinced that it is real and caused by humans.
4. It is harmful to people.
5. People can limit it, if we choose.
The 5 Essential Messages about Climate Change can even be simplified into:
1. It’s Real
2. It’s Us
3. Scientists Agree
4. It’s bad
5. But we can fix it.
After that summary, I open it up to questions. Often, I am answering questions during this presentation. Thus, I may not have questions after my summary. If no questions,
D. We take a 15 minute break. Around this time, I am halfway through the class. This give the class and me a chance to relax, get to know others, catch up on personal business, digest the information we just learned, etc.
In the second half of the class I then cover, which will be the focus on part II of this blog post:
How do Americans really feel about climate change? (The 6 Americas Report)
How do you effectively chat with your neighbors, family, friends, and co-workers on climate change?
How do you engage someone who strongly disagrees with you about climate change?
Looking at “unusual suspects” who accept climate change.
Answering climate myth questions.
Ending by showing humorous climate change videos.
If you are thinking about teaching a class to your community college about climate change, I hope this blog give you some ideas.
If you still want more information after reading all of this, check out my second blog post on this subject: (to be release in a couple of days)
How to teach a climate change continuing adult education class at your community college, Part II.