On Tues, Nov. 10, Nobel Prize winner Richard Alley came to Wilson College and presented two lectures on climate change. Alley is currently an Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University where he teaches in the Department of Geosciences. He was given the Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship in 2014 for his work in helping to understand the Earth’s history of climate change.
During his first lecture, “Abrupt Climate Change and Sea-level Rise: How What We Don’t Know Might Hurt Us,” Alley began with background on climate change before coming to his main point, the potential dangers of climate change. In order to prove the importance of preparation for what may occur due to climate change, Alley compared it to a dragon lurking outside of town. He makes the point that while the dragon may not enter town at present, if it does and the town is not prepared it would cause great devastation and anger among the town. The same is true with climate change. While climate change may or may not cause immense damages, it would be better for us to prepare for disaster and for it not to occur, than for the damage to occur with no prior preparations.
In Alley’s second lecture, “Good News in the Greenhouse? The Big Picture on Energy, the Environment and Our Future,” he discussed the amount of fossil fuels left and the relationship of the existing amount to the amount of fossil fuels people use. Alley touches on the fact that, while economists do not like the term “run out,” eventually fossil fuels will no longer be an option and humans will have to live without them.
He also discussed climate change as a fact proven by physics with no room for debate, saying that those who debate climate change either believe that things are “too scary” or “not scary enough.” However, rising CO2 levels and the warming of the Earth’s environment is a fact that cannot be disputed.
Alley ended his final lecture with the question, “Can we have a world with both icebergs and rainbows?” in which he answered yes, leaving the audience pensive about the environment’s changes due to climate change and the greenhouse effect.
If you are interested in viewing Dr. Alley’s second lecture it can be found on the National Academy of Sciences YouTube channel.