Students Connecting the Dots: Sandy, Energy and the Future

Speaking yesterday to two classes of students and members of the President’s Council on Sustainability at University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Jeremy Symons, NWF’s Senior Vice President for Conservation and Education, discussed with students some of the links between energy choices, carbon pollution and more frequent, extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy., which devastated areas along the Mid-Atlantic this week.

NWF’s Jeremy Symons helps students at the University of Mary Washington connect the dots between Sandy, Dirty Energy and their Future.

“Climate change is putting hurricanes on steroids,” he explained.  “Climate change doesn’t create storms, but it makes them stronger and bigger and we have a responsibility to do something about it.  Carbon pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes is throwing our climate out of balance, and the severe storms, droughts, wildfires, and floods we are experiencing are the new normal as a result.”

Symons showed the students maps of the unusually warm Atlantic ocean temperatures that preceded Sandy, noting that hurricanes gather energy from warm waters, as happened with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  He also noted that warmer air is holding more water, and that sea levels at Battery Park in New York have risen by almost a foot in the past century, amplifying the storm surge that swamped the city and the coastline.

Symons explained why National Wildlife Federation is concerned about climate’s impacts on the survival of species, which is jeopardized by our growing dependence on fossil fuels even though cleaner energy alternatives are already available and within reach. He also explained how NWF is working with its 4 million members and supporters to foster a shift towards clean, renewable energy, coupled with cleaner transportation and energy efficiency.

Putting a price on carbon pollution, he explained, is one of the most important measures we can take to create the market incentives that would make clean energy profitable and more rapidly replace fossil fuels. In response to a question from a student, he also noted that there is much in Virginia we can do to boost incentives for energy efficiency, and that Dominion Power needs to do more to open opportunities for Mary Washington and other institutions to use cleaner, safer forms of renewable energy.

One of the benefits of student and higher education engagement around energy choices and policy, Symons explained, is strengthening America’s economy with more good jobs for graduates, illustrating relative job creation through the clean energy versus the fossil fuels economies.

Dr. Melanie Szulczewski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at University of Mary Washington, helped to organize this event.
The visit was part of a student conservation leadership tour series organized by NWF’s Campus Ecology Program and features findings from a new NWF report, A Student’s Guide to How Corporate Oil, Gas and Coal Money Influences U.S. Energy Policy, written by Courtney Cochran, Kevin Coyle and Lisa Madry.

Many of the students in the classes who attended the lecture are studying environmental regulation and earth sciences and when asked, “How many of you are looking forward to a career in the clean energy economy?” nearly all of the approximately 50 students present raised their hands.Helping to organize and host NWF and Mr. Symons were Dr. Melanie Szulczewski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Graham Givens, one of the leaders of the Student Ecology club on campus.

About Climate Change, Weather and Wildlife, See other NWF Posts:

About How Students in Higher Education Are Leading for Clean Energy, See NWF Resources:

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