Campus Environmental Center hosts climate change panel

AddThis

Will Wynn, former mayor of Austin, moderates a panel presented by the Campus Environmental Center to discuss issues of sustainability and environmental policy at the Texas Union Theatre on Wednesday evening.

Photo Credit: Debby Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Hoping to advance environmental policy and sustainability awareness, experts discussed the relationship between climate change and economics at a panel Wednesday evening.

The Campus Environmental Center, the only UT-sponsored environmental student-run organization, hosted “Climate Change in Texas: Risks and Opportunities,” featuring former Austin Mayor Will Wynn.

As chairman on the Board of Directors of Austin Energy for nine years, Wynn said he has seen the momentum of climate change and global warming fluctuate. Wynn also highlighted the dichotomy between Texas as the worst carbon-emitting state and yet the state that offers the most renewable energy, attributable to wind power.

“There’s a revenue source for some land out in West Texas that wasn’t particularly profitable otherwise,” Wynn said. “That’s a good example, though. You can make an economic argument, set aside the environmental debate and show somebody how it’s beneficial economically. That’s really [what] the big opportunity and challenge is for in Texas — to figure out and sell the economic benefits of environmental protection and just know it in our heart that we're also helping the environment.”

Others on the panel included Ramon Alvarez, senior scientist at the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund; Zach Baumer, climate program manager for the city of Austin; and Kerry Cook, professor at the department of geological sciences.

Cook said by 2050, Austin’s climate will increase by three degrees Fahrenheit and precipitation will decrease by 10 percent in the winter and 15 percent in the summer.

“We have a huge challenge in front of us to perform interdisciplinary research when we have different jargon, different ways of approaching and different ways of thinking about this,” Cook said. “We are trying to educate the next generation of scientists more broadly so they can all communicate effectively.”

Collin Poirot, political communication, Plan II honors and history senior and assistant director of the Campus Environmental Center, said the importance of this discussion is highlighted by the fact that people don’t know what to believe.

“Adapting to climate change means that you have to make some changes, it doesn’t mean you have to lose money or shut down your business,” Poirot said. “It just means you have to change the way you go about your business, and people don’t want to have to do that.”

Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2013 as Panel hopes to raise citizen involvement