Reflecting back on the Denver GSA meeting, I found that the session on ďThe Cause of Global Warming-Are We Facing Global Catastrophe in the Coming Century?Ē was one of the most fascinating sessions that I attended. As the discussion that followed the presentations turned into heated arguments loaded with political meaning, I found myself wondering whether I had a fair understanding of our current scientific knowledge on the subject. I was particularly interested in this session, as I have been teaching global climate change for many years and the issue has become such a hot topic in the media. I also find that it is greatly misunderstood, as everybody now has an opinion, in many cases not backed up by any scientific information.
As geoscience teachers, many of us have taught ďglobal climate changeĒ as either part of physical geography, environmental geology, environmental science, or another course. When I teach this subject, my main goal is to help students differentiate between scientific data, interpretation of the data, and personal opinions about whether and/or what we should do about it. This seemingly simple goal has been challenging at times, especially in view of preconceived ideas and faulty reasoning (i.e. using the evidence of climate change in the past to conclude that global warming cannot be human-induced). In the end, I remind students that whether or not we agree that humans have been enhancing the greenhouse effect, and whether or not we agree we should curb our release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we should all be concerned about our dependence on fossil fuels for a variety of other reasons.
As for my personal life, living in Tahoe at a 6000-foot elevation, global warming does not seem so bad, especially when I have to shovel snow on my front steps (or is climate change going to result in greater snow accumulation? J)
I hope that 2008 is finding you all in good health and good spirit. I look forward to seeing or meeting many of you at our Spring Conference at Palomar College. You can find all of the details about this conference at http://www.palomar.edu/earthscience/NAGT/flyer.htm
Best wishes to all,
Brigitte Dillet, President, Far Western Section