With the approach of summer, Jim Motavalli, editor of E/The Environmental Magazine, warned a small group of students on Wednesday during a Pierson’s Master’s Tea about “Feeling the Heat,” which is also the title of his recently published book about the worldwide implications of global warming.
Motavalli avoided scientific jargon and complicated graphing techniques when trying to frame his arguments about global warming, a phenomena which he claims will be more important and dangerous than terrorism in upcoming years.
“From where we sit, al Qaeda seems much more important because global warming has little effect on our daily life,” he said. “Soon, it will be on the front page of the newspaper. I do think this is a bigger problem than terrorism.”
With only five students seated in the chairs at the start of the lecture and 10 audience members by its end, Pierson Master Harvey Goldblatt expressed concern about Yale students’ commitment to the environment.
“For anyone who cares at all about the environment, and apparently it’s far fewer people than I expected, you know this man,” Goldblatt said in his introduction.
Motavalli pointed to glacial melting, beach erosion and migratory pattern changes as examples of global warming’s effects.
“Even if we stopped omitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, we would still see effects for the next 100 years,” he said.
While Motavalli said the world remains transfixed by the Middle East and corporate scandals, global warming has remained primarily “under the American radar,” he said.
“The Conservative critique [of global warming] has shifted from ‘It’s not happening,’ to ‘It’s happening but it doesn’t matter,’” he said.
Motavalli displayed slides of photographs from locations across the planet, ranging from Antarctica to Switzerland to Miami, that demonstrated degradation of land masses, glaciers, and wildlife populations. Evidence of ecological changes, Motavalli said, is not limited to polar regions or those close to the equator.
“A report by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies indicates that Yale produces more greenhouse gases than many developing countries,” he said. “Climate activists can look in their own communities, or on their own campus, for projects that will affect change.”
Soichiro Shibata ’07 said he attended the lecture in hopes of learning more about the environment.
“[Motavalli] made it clear that the impact of global warming is not only inevitable, but something that will be a threat to our lives, and to our kids’ lives too,” Shibata said.
Audience members asked questions throughout the lecture. When asked what could be done to reverse the current trends related to global warming, Motavalli made suggestions for policy change.
“We need to stop licensing coal-burning power plants that continue to avoid federal regulation,” he said. “Connecticut, a ‘severe non-attainment zone’ in regards to air quality, needs to adopt emissions standards which match those enacted in California, which remain a model for the entire world.”
Motavalli has published articles in numerous newspapers and magazines. He has contributed to radio shows and currently teaches journalism at Fairfield University. He is the author of “Forward Drive: The Race to Build ‘Clean’ Cars for the Future.”