Atmospheric scientist discuss environmental issues with expert panel

Texas leads the way in energy production and carbon emissions.

If Texas were its own country, it would be ranked third in the world for gas production, yet first in the United States (tied with California) for carbon emissions. Texas also has more natural disasters than any other state. This makes Texas one of the most vulnerable states concerning disasters in the event of higher global temperatures.

Texas Tech University’s Presidential Lecture & Performance Series featured a panel of climate experts, facilitated by Dr. Katherine Heyhoe. The panel was held in the Allen Theatre on the campus of Texas Tech University on Oct. 12.

Dr. Heyhoe is a talented atmospheric scientist. She was featured by Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 Global Thinkers, and by Time Magazine in 2014 as one of the top 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2017, Dr. Heyhoe was named one of Fortune Magazine’s world’s greatest leaders.

The panelists included Joey Hall, executive vice president for Permian Operations, for Pioneer Natural Resources; Bob Inglis, executive director for at George Mason University, and a former congressman; and Michael Webber, acting director of the Energy Institute, Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Heyhoe had many informative slides in her presentation, with easy-to-interpret graphs illustrating stats such as nationwide average temperatures, natural disaster risk assessments, national rankings regarding energy production and consumption, and the proliferation of wind energy throughout the United States.

So we still get cold and we still get hot, but the (weather) dice are getting weighted against us,” Dr. Heyhoe explained.

The panel, which Dr. Heyhoe had referred to as her “dream team,” answered questions from Dr. Heyhoe and from social media. Dr. Heyhoe asked the panel about how the industry has changed.

Inglis answered, “We’ve seen a real change in the acceptance of climate change.”

He added how, in 2008, Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi had a conversation. They may not have agreed on much, but they did agree on climate change. Soon, Newt Gingrich had changed his opinion on climate change, and coupled with the recession, the Republican Party had been thought to be against climate change policies.

“People ask me, ‘Do you believe in climate change?,” Inglis said, “and what I tell them is, ‘No, I don’t believe in climate change. Climate change is just data. It’s not worthy of belief. My faith informs my reaction to the data, but it’s not worth believing in. It’s just data.”

The panel discussed not only changes in the industry, they also discussed potential solutions. Coal mines that have closed down have workers being trained to manufacture wind turbines to provide job security. Oil and gas operations are planning on running future expeditions solely on green energy.

Dr. Heyhoe and the panelists agreed on and discussed one simple fact: the best way to address climate change is to discuss it. They agreed on throwing the “us vs. them” mentality between political parties out of the window, to be able to discuss climate change and find solutions to preserve and protect the planet and those who live on it.

Dr. Heyhoe chose and hosted this panel to reflect on the independent thought and discussions people should be having with each other about climate change.

“The future is coming,” said Dr. Heyhoe. “The question is, will we be prepared for it? And this is, I hope and I believe, is a model of what we need to prepare for a successful future.”

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