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Columbia Spectator Staff

Thirty-seven years after Wallace Broecker, CC '53, coined the terms "climate change" and "global warming" in his research, he still thinks that his predictions were "smack on." At a discussion on Tuesday sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, Broecker and New York Times reporter John M. Broder, who covers energy and the environment, considered future solutions to global warming and how scientists can best implement them. Broder said that—especially in light of Hurricane Sandy, which ripped through New York City two weeks ago, causing mass flooding and power outages across the five boroughs—the topic of climate change needs to be addressed. "I have to admit, I haven't been busy in the last couple of years," he said. "I think we've learned in the last three weeks that this is an emergency—it's real, and it's here now." Broecker explained that scientists are working on new solutions to combat climate change and global warming and that some solutions are coming from within Columbia itself. In particular, he called the work of Klaus Lackner, professor of geophysics, one of the most promising developments in dealing with carbon emissions. Lackner's work involves carbon capture and sequestration techniques, but, despite promising innovations, funding for carbon capture research has been minimal, Broecker explained. "It takes CO2 out of the atmosphere at a reasonable price," he said. "But the total amount of money spent on this so far is something like $15 million—that's what a Yankees pitcher makes in one season. This is a huge, huge, huge problem, and we should be exploring all avenues of how to solve it." Broecker said that other solutions to limiting greenhouse gas emissions have been met with hesitance as well. "Wind power runs into all kinds of trouble because people who live on Martha's Vineyard don't want wind turbines in front of their million-dollar cottages," he said. While regular citizens are opposed to certain techniques that reduce carbon emissions, the government has not been lavish with its support for green projects, Broecker added. "We're spending incredibly large amounts of money on our military," he said. "Why? That's a small problem compared to CO2, but we're spending nothing on CO2." Broder said that in Washington, there is an "issue of messaging," noting that government officials may not be implementing the best strategies to stress the importance of addressing climate change. "Al Gore is probably the best example of this planetary emergency," Broder said. "These are fear-based messages, and I don't think they work very well." Audience members echoed Broecker and Broder, saying that the solutions to climate change require cooperation and communication across disciplines. "We understand the scientific problems well enough," Cody Kent, GSAS '13, said. "It's about getting from the place where we know there's a problem to we have a solution to are we willing to pay for it." Linda Amato, GSAS '13 and a student in the climate and society master's program, said she thinks climate change is lacking an efficient way to translate science into politics. "It's such a huge task and I think more needs to be done in terms of how the scientific community communicates," she said. Mark Taylor, the co-director of the IRCPL, agreed, saying that there is a political unwillingness to fund research and that more "global solutions" are needed. Broecker, who called himself a "very optimistic person," said he still harbors doubts about whether enough action will be taken. "Somehow we have to get together and say, let's not fight, let's come up with some plan and get going," he said.

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