Climate change is coming, whether you believe in it or not, says Nobel Prize-winning scientist from Castor

Dr. Russell Schnell has studied atmospheric conditions in 92 countries

Dr. Russell Schnell, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist from Castor will speak about climate change Oct. 24 at the Red Deer Public Library. Admission is free. (Contributed photo)

Dr. Russell Schnell, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist from Castor will speak about climate change Oct. 24 at the Red Deer Public Library. Admission is free. (Contributed photo)

The Earth’s climate is warming due to rising fossil fuel emissions, and the effects will be irreversible — but people are not doomed, says a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Castor native.

Humans are an adaptable species, explained Dr. Russell Schnell, who until his recent semi-retirement was the senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, Schnell warned we will all face big changes to come, politically as well as environmentally.

The 77-year-old guest speaker at an Oct. 24 Red Deer Public Library forum called The Air We Breathe: It is Not What it Used to Be, cautioned that borders will have to open to an exodus of people from soon-to-be uninhabitable parts of the world.

For instance, when glaciers dry up, people in India and Pakistan will have no source of drinking water, so will look to immigrate to countries like Canada, said Schnell.

A Colorado resident since the mid-1970s, he has worked in 92 countries, collected air samples from the Arctic to the tropics, and is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and a team of climate researchers.

He knows drastic environmental changes must happen immediately to make things better in the long term. Many scientists believe it’s already too late to enact changes that will be felt in this century.

But everywhere Schnell goes, he still encounters climate change deniers.

“People say, ‘I can’t believe in that if my job is going to go away.’ The big problem is that’s going to happen, whether you believe in it or not,” he added.

Places like California are already decreeing that only electric cars will be sold there as of 2036, so the scientist is glad to see Alberta starting to diversify its economy. He predicts this province will take a big economic hit in the years to come. Only agriculture will benefit from a longer growing season caused by climate change, he added.

“The question is what can we do? All of my family and friends live in Alberta,” said Schnell, who was always fascinated by science — from observing the clouds drifting overhead as a boy in Castor, to learning about the dynamics of flight by earning a pilot’s license.

Schnell believes one helpful shift in the shorter term will be to switch to natural gas instead of oil. Expanding wind and solar power will also help. But he believes the best longer-term solution for this province and others is to start building regional nuclear power plants to heat homes.

Although the 1986 Chernobyl disaster turned the public against nuclear energy, Schnell points out that more people die annually in car crashes — and no one has banned cars.

Climate change is a hugely complex problem, without an easy solution — rising carbon emissions are why a minor Ice Age that many of us were warned about during the 1970s, did not happen, said Schnell. “The amount of Co2 and methane just stopped it. They overrode it.”

But he still believes individuals can make a difference by changing their behaviors.

For instance, people should drive smaller cars — preferably hybrids. “It’s amazing how many big trucks and SUVs there are in Alberta,” added Snell.

He advised, “Don’t waste electricity — insulate your house.” And build more modestly: “I live in a five-bedroom house, which is ridiculous just for the two of us…”

People should also shop locally as much as possible, he added, noting having strawberries in the middle of winter means they must be shipped up from a warmer climate.

Schnell’s 2 to 4 p.m. talk at the public library on Monday, Oct. 24, has no admission charge. There will be a question and answer session, which Schnell predicts will be the most interesting part. His talk will also be live-streamed to the Castor library.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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