Deana Gonzales

December 2, 2019

Ithaca Local Spreads International Climate Change Awareness in Community Lecture

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Conversations about climate change were occurring around the world with former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. Over 1,600 lectures on the “24 Hours of Reality: Truth in Action” were presented in communities last week to have a personalized approach in having conversations about the Earth’s future.

Hosted at the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Thomas J. Hirasuna Ph.D. ’91, a volunteer climate leader for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, presented the lecture for the Ithaca community. Personally trained by Al Gore and a trained engineer, Hirasuna hopes to spread climate change awareness and prompt the Ithaca community to take action.

Hirasuna notes that the average global temperature has been increasing to alarming records. According to him, 18 of the 19 hottest years have occurred since 2001. The hottest has been the last five years and this past July was the hottest month ever.

According to Hirasuna, the most vulnerable populations to heat are the “poor and homeless, the elderly, infants and children, those with pre-existing medical conditions like cardiac and respiratory conditions, the mentally-ill, and agricultural workers and those who work outside. It actually causes more deaths than a lot of the other extreme weather conditions combined.”

With the increase in average global temperature, more natural disasters are occurring such as hurricanes. “Warmer oceans lead to more intense hurricanes, hurricanes intensify much more rapidly, warmer air holds more moisture leading to heavier downpours, [and] storm surges increase due to sea-level rise,” Hirasuna said.

“[Hurricane Harvey] intensified in a short amount of time. It went from a tropical depression to Category 4 hurricane just in 2 days. […] Hurricane Maria intensified from a category 1 to category 5 in less than 18 hours,” Hirasuna said.

Another consequence is the increase of fire incidents in even unexpected locations, such as Alaska. Longer and warmer seasons can also disrupt the ecosystems, making it easier for infectious diseases to spread.

Hirasuna provides some potential solutions for combating climate change such as switching to renewable energy. “In 2018, renewables provided more power to Germany in energy than coal. […] More than two-thirds of the global population live in countries where solar and wind are the cheapest sources of renewable generation,” Hirasuna said.

Renewable energy development can provide more employment opportunities where, “on the employment front, globally, 11 million people worked directly or indirectly for the renewable energy sector. Solar energy jobs have grown six times faster in the overall economy in the last five years.”

If you don’t know where to get started in becoming more energy-efficient, Hirasuna suggests Ithacans to start with Get Your GreenBack Tompkins. For a more global perspective, people can look at Project Drawdown which is “a study [that] looked at all sorts of existing solutions and their effect on reducing carbon, what it costs, and what the cost-benefit would be,” Hirasuna  said.

People can also choose to buy offsets, which are, “run by groups that will put projects together and they’ll use the money that people put in to fund projects that are relieving the problems, and there are many of these organizations that are working on this. […] Locally, we have a Finger Lakes Climate Fund,” Hirasuna said. He also warns Ithacans that because there are potential scams that exist, people should make sure an organization is legitimate before purchasing offsets.

While it is important for people to reduce their own carbon footprint, it is even more important for them to vote. “For the type of legislative speed and power [we need,] we have to get governments to do this because despite individuals’ efforts, governments set overall policy and it’s the only way to get things to move at the speed we need,” Hirasuna said.
On September 20, Hirasuna attended the Ithaca Global Climate strike in the Commons that was organized by the Sunrise Movement Ithaca. “Their youth has inspired me, it was mainly students in the organization, and they also helped craft the Green New Deal in Ithaca. They have some goals that they are working towards and a lot of these are in common with Climate Reality as well,” Hirasuna said.