At The Indianapolis Public Library on Wednesday night, IU-Bloomington Geology professor Faiz Rahman presented illuminating stats regarding climate change and the carbon cycle, including carbon’s impact on our own Indiana environment.
At the same time, he unveiled brand new mapping technology that tracks carbon uptake and carbon emissions on a district-to-district basis in Indiana.
Rahman’s presentation was part of a now completed, four-public library tour, including Bedford, Bloomington and Nashville, an impressive effort to show the public what Indiana University’s research is revealing about our climate.
A total of nine audience members attended.
Dr. Rahman told the assembled handful that the research, whose partners include NASA, Department of Energy and Indiana’s DNR, is centered at Morgan Monroe State Forest, where a sensor tower, along with ground level experiments and a small airplane with sensors, are tracking the forest’s ability to sequester carbon.
The goal: understand Indiana carbon cycle, extrapolating those findings out into the entire planet.
Over a twelve-year period, researchers, including Rahman, have determined that the ability of these Indiana forests to sink carbon is in fact improving — i.e. carbon uptake is increasing. On the face of it, Rahman said, this might seem like good news. After all, carbon sequestered in forests and oceans keeps CO2 out of the air, where it contributes to global warming.
However, Rahman made it clear the forest’s improved ability to sink carbon is due to the fact that Indiana temperatures are rising steadily, and autumn is falling later. In fact, autumn, on average, is arriving a full 20 days later than it did 20 years ago.
You could have heard a pin drop in the room, had the floor been made of wood instead of carpet.
A change in climate this obvious and disruptive should cause alarm — if not downright panic — and inspire a concomitant change in fossil fuel consumption.
Rahman wants this research made available to Indiana politicians to factor into their decision-making when it comes to environmental regulations, invitation to new business, considering mass transit, etc.
However, Rahman was adamant in asserting that scientists are not in a position of making policy themselves.
While this attendee admired the scientist’s restraint and neutrality, it was, nevertheless, frustrating beyond words, because if you can actually see seasons changing by as much as one day per year, then we are obviously on the cusp of enormous climate upheaval. This past year’s extreme weather events is just a taste of the fun to come.
Waiting around for politicians to do the right thing for the environment — i.e. champion clean, renewable energy legislation, quickly phase out coal, prosecute polluters to the fullest extent, etc. — seems like fool’s game as Indiana politicians have a long history of placing nature down the list of priorities, somewhere below subsidizing the purchase of spats for Hoosier marching bands.
We cannot wait for them to do the right thing — we must insist that they do the right thing, based on the evidence that is not just clear, but blatantly obvious.
Rahman’s said this research will be presented to politicians at the Statehouse in February (presumably, Conservation Day). People who care about survival — i.e. not just environmentalists — should be in attendance as well, to support the earth by demanding that stewardship of the environment comes first.
Jim Poyser is the newly named editor of Indiana Living Green. He is struggling in his quest to figure out how to communicate about the alarming threats to our environment. Let him know if he failed or succeeded in this post by posting a comment or emailing him at email@example.com.