“Connecticut’s Role in the Fight Against Global
Warming” was the topic of Wesleyan’s Earth Day celebration April 18.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal delivered the keynote
address to a Memorial Chapel-full of students, faculty, staff and members of
the local community.
the 23rd elected AG of the state, had worked as a federal prosecutor for
several cases against environmental polluters. He has also addressed issues
on interstate air pollution, clean energy solutions and the environment of
Connecticut, with an emphasis on rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. CO2 is
the principal greenhouse gas emitted as a result of burning of coal, oil,
and natural gas.
“You know CO2 is a great threat to the future of our planet,” Blumenthal
said during the presentation to more than 150 audience members, including
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and President Doug Bennet. “It will
have the greatest impact on lower-income countries, but it’s going to have
dire effects on the United States, and especially a state like Connecticut,
and our shoreline. CO2 is odorless, tasteless and invisible, and the
challenge here is to continue advancing to make sure people understand the
way this pollutant affects our daily lives.”
Blumenthal stressed the importance of using renewable resources such as
solar and wind power, and even natural gas – rather than burning oil – for
“cleaner” energy sources. He spoke on energy efficiency standards, stating
that they are a “no brainer,” and “must be at the heart of the state’s CO2
Blumenthal mentioned the Clean Air Act, amended in 1990, which says CO2 is
classified as a pollutant that needs to be regulated. In a recent U.S.
Supreme Court ruling on carbon dioxide emissions, the Environmental
Protection Agency was found guilty of violating the Clean Air Act.
Blumenthal said he’s already noticing changes in the automotive and power
“I think they’re beginning to get it,” he said. “They know they are not
going to be permitted to function in an unregulated world. The question is,
‘How soon can we provide new technologies and make it a common ground?” We
may see a whole new wave of technology because the interest will be there.”
Graduate Liberal Studies Program student Nicole Conti Lee says she was
impressed with Wesleyans Earth Day talk. Lee, who was raised in Africa and
Italy, and moved to the United States in 1996, says European countries are
far more advanced when dealing with the global warming crisis than the
United States. She hopes Blumenthal's message will become widespread across
the state, New England and the country at large.
“I think that most people are aware of the situation, but it was great
Wesleyan was able to bring in the attorney general to hear what he has to
say,” she said. “The amount of CO2 being produced from mansions and SUVs is
unthinkable, and I really think that people have to step it up in this
country as a general rule.”
Johan (Joop) Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Sciences and
department chair, explained the flip side of the CO2 issue.
“The classification of CO2 as a pollutant is heavily attacked by 'climate
contrarians' who argue that CO2 can not be a pollutant because it is an
essential nutrient for plants. The question then becomes is CO2 a pollutant,
a contaminant or something else? Here we come into gray terrain of
nomenclature - more CO2 means a warmer climate with potentially severe
impacts for many organisms, but on the other hand more CO2 is also
beneficial to many plants," Varekamp says. "This classification conundrum is
not easily settled, but many environmental and scientific organizations,
including the IPCC, regard the current global climate warming deleterious
for the global ecosystem and humans. They all thus argue that CO2 should be
considered a pollutant."
his talk, the Attorney General answered questions from the audience.
Questions on carbon tax, natural gas, considerations on rail and electric
cars, a proposed gas-based energy center on Long Island, Connecticut Clean
Energy Fund, Connecticut’s electric grid and opponent’s views were all posed
and discussed. Conversation continued at a reception in Zelnick Pavilion
following the keynote address.
Blumenthal applauded the Wesleyan’s efforts in education, programs and
actions to help reduce global warming. He told the audience it was up to
them to educate others on the ongoing fight.
“I think we all have an obligation to leave this world better than the way
we found it,” he said. “Can one state or one country make a difference by
example? People, as individuals, that come together can make a difference.”
The presentation was sponsored by The Robert Schumann Lecture Series in the
Environmental Studies Certificate Program.