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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Climate change can’t be beat without alternative energy

    It’s a warm spring day in Tucson and while students are rushing to class, Oliver Monti goes to his lab and tries to save the world.

    While some (dumb) Americans may still doubt that climate change is real, the majority of scientists in the field have confirmed it and say humans are to blame. And unfortunately, turning lights off and buying recycled bottles doesn’t actually have a significant impact.

    Monti, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is researching how to make solar cells cheaper so large-scale solar energy will be affordable and possible. He’s doing this because, without an affordable solar cell, the world may be a very different place in 2050.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in 2007 that “global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activity since 1750 and now far exceed the pre-industrial values determined from ice cores.”

    Scientists generally agree that, while dangerous, an increase of under 2 degrees Celsius is manageable. Any increase exceeding that value could result in drastic change, like water levels high enough to bury islands and enough temperature increase to breed disease.

    The United Kingdom plans on cutting its carbon dioxide output by 34 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. The U.S. emission output has only dropped 7 percent between 2007 and 2011. While both the plan and the actual reduction are a step in the right direction, frankly these reductions are doing nothing.

    Even if carbon dioxide emissions are cut, there is still a chance that the Earth’s temperature will warm more than 2 degrees, especially because carbon dioxide isn’t the only greenhouse gas that contributes to warming.

    This is also largely because the alternative sources of energy aren’t looking very promising right now.

    The two forms of alternative energy that could impact climate change, more than recycling your soda bottle or flipping a light switch when you leave a room could, would be nuclear and solar power, but both come with problems.

    With the recent crisis at the nuclear facility in Japan, people are especially uneasy about the state of nuclear plants because they may pose a risk to health and safety. That, coupled with the fact we don’t know where to put the waste materials, frightens people away from nuclear energy.

    That leaves solar energy as the best way to fix the global energy crisis. However, the major problem with solar energy right now is that it is way more expensive than the alternatives and while its price may be decreasing, it’s not decreasing enough.

    Monti is attempting to fix this problem.

    By creating an affordable solar cell, Monti could enable larger and more efficient solar cell production, which would solve the global climate crisis.

    “The exact numbers aren’t the point, their magnitude is the point,” Monti said. But the numbers point to a glaring and upsetting fact: Little things can’t resolve the problem right now; it has to take the form of a major change in governmental policy.

    “It’s nice that you recycle, it’s nice that you cycle to work and it’s nice that you turn down your heat and AC,” Monti said. “But that’s not going to do much.”

    The biggest problem standing in the way right now is the conflicting messages sent to government leaders.

    While experts in the climate fields say that there is a serious problem, some people seem to think that these scientists are out to trick them. Even former presidential candidate Rick Santorum echoed this ridiculous stance. When someone makes a Facebook status that says “it’s freezing today, so much for global warming,” scientists around the globe cringe a little.

    When the government begins to seriously change the way it handles climate change, it may be able to take steps to reducing temperature. Monti calls the global energy crisis the Manhattan Project of our time.

    There are many problems in the immediate future that the government has to deal with. They have to fix a wayward economy, end a war and try to fix health care, but none of these things will matter if we don’t stop the climate crisis.

    “Cancer is important but it can wait,” Monti said. “Climate change is important but it cannot wait.”

    — Dan Desrochers is a chemistry freshman. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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