Yale’s resources are equal to those of many small countries, but so is its pollution level. According to Jim Motavalli, editor of E: The Environmental Magazine, the University’s greenhouse gas production is greater than that of 32 developing nations.
At a lecture yesterday in the Sage Hall student lounge, Motavalli warned that global warming has started and could have drastic effects on North America. In a wide-ranging talk on climate change, the editor addressed about 40 people on such diverse subjects as automobile emissions, environmental journalism and environmental issues in the upcoming presidential election.
Motavalli criticized President Bush’s environmental record, saying that the 2004 election provides a stark choice on environmental issues. He said while national policy has great impact on the environment, the benefits of local action cannot be underestimated.
“The best thing to do sometimes is look at your own campus,” he said.
Motavalli, who often test-drives hybrid automobiles — cars that use both gas and electric power — said an effective way to diminish greenhouse gas emissions is to drive cars that produce less exhaust. He said the hybrid version of the Ford Escape is effective in substituting electricity for gas power. Motavalli said the hybrid Chevrolet Silverado is much less environmentally friendly than the Escape, but General Motors, which manufactures the Silverado, is taking a step in the right direction. Motavalli said fuel efficiency is not as environmentally important as limiting fuel emissions and suggested that the public look for other methods of transportation.
“We have to look at alternatives to the car,” he said. “We need very good public transportation hooked up to disincentives to own cars.”
Motavalli also discussed the large-scale implications of climate change, often using photographic anecdotes. He highlighted disappearing beaches in Florida and the Caribbean, receding glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, and record heat waves last year in France and India as consequences of climate change. Motavalli said New York City could be vulnerable to flooding in as few as 100 years if global warming continued to cause sea levels to rise.
He said journalists have a duty to promote awareness of and action opposing climate change.
Seth Shames FES ’05 said environmental writing is a valuable means of communicating complex topics to people who are not scientists, spreading normally inaccessible issues to the general population.
Objectivity of writers while promoting awareness of environmental issues is vital in creating an environmentally educated public, Kim Wilkinson FES ’05 said.
“If it weren’t for journalists, people wouldn’t know about [climate change],” she said.
Motavalli said awareness of global warming has increased, but greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. He said stopping global warming will require a significant adjustment of American culture.
“I think we’re in a big denial about global warming,” he said. “To really address it, we’d have to fundamentally change our society.”