My dad recently sent me this link and asked for my opinion on it: http://www.kusi.com/weather/colemanscorner/19842304.html

I'd like to preface by saying I do not know who this John Coleman fellow is other than through this speech that he's given. For all I know he could be some raving crackpot crazyman that nobody likes, or a wonderful human being who visits nursing homes and pets puppies.

My opinion, as someone who will be completing their master's in environmental science shortly and has spent quite a few years pondering matters such as these:

Mr. Coleman's points are valid; however like most people trying to prove a point he takes them to an extreme. To say that we humans haven't been impacting the environment with factory and exhaust emissions since the industrial revolution is a bit ludicrous. There's plenty of evidence for that happening. Hell, I'm seeing it on a near-daily basis with some of the research going on in my lab. The difference is that it's going on at a micro-scale, in terms of local acid-rain production or trees being choked on major highways. It does happen, but it's a problem that's best dealt with on a regional level, not a global level.

I did a feasibility study on carbon emission reduction during the Kyoto Protocol heyday (remember when everyone was upset that the US didn't sign that?) and in order to offset the emissions from just one coal-fired electric plant, we'd have to completely reforest about 90% of Ohio . For one plant. Imagine that on a global scale. That's why the Kyoto Protocol makes no sense except from a feel-good "let's plant more trees" perspective. That's why I'm glad the US didn't sign it, because it's a lazy protocol that did nothing but make a bunch of countries feel good about themselves in the short-term but will do absolutely nothing for the world in the long-term.

This is the problem with the current environmental movement. It's very easy to focus on "feel-good" environmentalism, like building green roofs and replanting trees, but what exactly does that do for us in the long run? Really, not much. An environmental group here at Cleveland State just had a big fundraiser to raise money for a green roof on top of the new Rec Center . Everyone got into it and they raised a lot of money for it; but a green roof, while pretty, will do NOTHING for the environment. It's too small to make any serious dent in carbon emissions and all it does is let people know that hey, some people thought putting a garden up here would be pretty. It's a waste of money. What they should have done was put some solar cells up there and try to offset some of the energy costs of running that new Rec Center. Solar cells might not look as pretty as a green roof, but they make a hell of a lot more sense in terms of bang for your buck. It's time we ushered in a new age of Pragmatic Environmentalism, where we take the true science behind the concepts and apply them in smarter, more efficient ways. We need to be able to get to the crux of the situation and identify just what exactly it is we need to do, and develop solutions for it. It may not be as fun as planting trees, and it may even go against some people's notion of what environmentalism is, but it needs to be done.

This is where Mr. Coleman is absolutely 100% correct: Global warming (I don't even like this term, it's inaccurate and I prefer using phrases like "human-induced climate change") is not humanity's biggest problem. It's not even close to our biggest problem. Overpopulation and freshwater availability are going to be our two biggest crises within the next few decades and you barely hear a peep out of anyone about those issues. Why? Because they're hard. Because they're not easily solved. Because they're serious, concrete threats that people don't want to think about. Because it's far far easier to have Hollywood fundraisers for some esoteric concept like "stop global warming" and feel like you're contributing to something than to go out to Bangladesh and teach a reluctant government to educate and protect their women, or to go to Cairo and build efficient rooftop water collectors for the city's poor. It's easier to build a pretty park on some roofs than it is to pass legislature requiring water-efficient toilets and facilities in all new governmental buildings, and to start retro-fitting old buildings.

There's going to be a lot going on in the environmental movement in the next few decades. Whether or not it's a step forward or a step backwards is up to people like my colleagues and me to decide, and I think the first step is proper education of the public as to what exactly helps and what does not. Mr. Coleman's speech, while extreme, is a step in the right direction because it forces people to question an issue they previously may not have questioned. It may not be completely right, but it forces awareness, which is something Al Gore did with his movie whether we liked it or not.

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