ClimatePalooza urges student involvement

The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory came together Thursday to host ClimatePalooza 2013, an event raising awareness for global climate change.

Panels took place throughout Annenberg simultaneously, allowing guests the opportunity to hear expert opinions from some of NASA’s finest scientists and the university’s climate change scholars. The panels stressed collaboration among scientists.

“We’re hoping that there will be some way to bring together all the different parts of USC that are concerned with climate change and get us together to work together to do multidisciplinary research,” said Larry Pyror, an associate professor of environmental journalism in Annenberg. “And at least be aware of what all the departments are doing so that we don’t act in isolation.”

The booths were located in the Annenberg library and had representatives from organizations that pertained to the environment — Aquarium of the Pacific, for instance, ran booths that showed how global climate change affects the ocean. The table representing the Aquarium of the Pacific held a demonstration that visualized the amount of time it takes for different items to disintegrate.

One panel at the event highlighted the science behind global climate change and featured scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Panelists Christopher Borstad Ph.D, Josh Fisher Ph.D., Chip Miller Ph.D. and Jorge Vazquez Ph.D. discussed the environment based on their scientific background and ongoing studies. They emphasized the importance of working with the rest of the world in an effort to mitigate global climate change.

“A lot of the issues we’re all talking about here today to understand the science behind climate change is going to involve international collaboration,” said Vazquez, who primarily studies the oceans and ice in both North and South America.

Vazquez has collaborated with other scientists throughout the world to create a global map of the temperature of the ocean, demonstrating how hurricanes cool the water off as they move. In speaking about collaboration, Vazquez noted that the best possible solution emerged from the shared information among satellites.

Other speakers spoke about their experiences in the field. Borstad, who studies the mechanics of glaciers and how they crack, told the audience that he uses his senses to notice the changing world around him, not just his scientific observations.

“I soon learned after about the first day [of staring at the glacier] that it’s better to use your ears than your eyes because ice makes a lot of noise when it fractures,” Borstad said.

Global climate change — as seen in the work of the panelists and environmental scientists around the world — is a hot-button topic for some. But beyond examining the political pitfalls of environmental discourse, panelists pointed out that it’s a matter of personal ethics.

“It does start with yourself — with how you conduct your life and how aware you become of how the climate and the environment work,” Pryor said.

Pryor added that it is vital that people comprehend how ecological systems work in order to make a change. Without an understanding of the current state of global climate change and how research is conducted, it’s impossible for the community to come together and make amends, Pryor said.

“How can we make intelligent estimates if we don’t know how numbers are generated?” Pryor said.

The panelists at ClimatePalooza also encouraged students to start conversations on the Internet. During the discussion, the audience was even urged to ask the panelists questions via Twitter.

“Media will provide us a way to have worldwide conversations,” Pryor said.

Global climate change entails an array of things, an array of countries and an array of people, all of which ClimatePalooza covered during its event at Annenberg.

“It’s clear that we’ve entered into what many people call the geological era where humans dominate,” said Miller, who studies the carbon in the atmosphere.

Pryor said people should be responsible for educating themselves about the rise in global warming.

“We all have to try to understand the mechanisms that are leading to these changes,” Pryor said. “We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and to listen to the scientists.”

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