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The Conference on World Affairs brought a number of panelists to discuss the actions needed to save wildlife species from becoming extinct due to climate change.
Moderator Ferd Grauer and panelists Peter H Hildebrand, Larry Schweiger, Jayni Chase, and Terrence McNally led one of these discussions in the Old Main Chapel on Apr. 5 at 11:00 am.
The panelists began the talk by introducing themselves and lending their knowledge on the issue of climate change and the impact that the loss of species will have on the earth’s ecosystem.
Panelist Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, informed the audience of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prediction that 40 to 70 percent of wildlife species will be extinct in the next few decades due to habitat loss and pollution.
“We are making a huge mistake if we think we can lose half the species on the planet and not be impacted directly,” Schweiger said.
Peter H. Hildebrand, atmospheric scientist and director of the Earth Sciences Directorate at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said that one of the root causes of the issue is people’s reluctance to change.
In regards to scientific research on climate change and its impact on the ecosystem, Hildebrand said that the public majority is not willing to provide the funds.
“People don’t want to understand what they don’t want to know about,” Hildebrand said. “They don’t want to spend money on research.”
Hildebrand cited research as an essential element for initiating programs to reduce pollution and the stop the progression of climate change.
“We could cut energy consumption in half without hurting our lifestyle a bit,” Hildebrand said.
A CU student asked the panel, ”What are the major obstacles standing in the way of legislation that will oppose climate change?”
As a Washington lobbyist for the National Wildlife Federation, Schweiger cited large oil and coal corporations that control the U.S. economic system as an obstacle standing in the way of legislation.
“Washington is not supportive of wildlife preservation funding,” Schweiger said.
He said without both funding and personal efforts, wildlife species would inevitably face extinction.
“We need a carbon program,” Schweiger said. “We can’t just say we’re going to stop this tomorrow.”
Pat Billig, a resident of Boulder and member for the Open Space and Mountain Board of Trustees, said that she found the discussion of corporate control of government spending a major issue.
“The discussion on corporations was a good example of how the big corporations in this country are not granted towards public good,” Billig said. “It’s more oriented towards short-term shareholder good as opposed to long-term public good.”
She said that the potential for reducing the carbon footprint is there, but not considered because large corporations and their shareholders want immediate profit.
“What I was reminded of the most is how little information and science impacts a lot of the decisions that are made,” Billig said. “That blocks us from doing the right thing.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Nora Keating at Nora.firstname.lastname@example.org.