What words do you think of when you think of global warming?
That was the first question Planet Expert and Associate Professor at Texas Tech Katharine Hayhoe asked an audience of teenagers on Friday morning. She then asked them to pull out their cell phones and text their answers.
Dr. Hayhoe gave the first address of Earth Day Texas 2016 to a group of Dallas high school students in the Embarcadero building, and she did so with a handy SMS program that allows the audience to interact with the presentation. When Dr. Hayhoe would ask the audience when they thought scientists had first theorized that carbon emissions were warming the planet, she wasn’t asking rhetorically. Students texted the PollEverywhere app and their answers appeared on the projector behind Hayhoe’s head.
Both Hayhoe and her fellow Professor Jennifer Vanos utilized the poll program in their fifteen-minute presentations, transforming an already lively crowd into participants in a scientific discussion. And yes, the program screens out profanity. (I admit, until Hayhoe let me in on that aspect of the tool, I was incredulous that so many teenagers could resist seeing their favorite four-letter words in four-foot print.)
Dr. Hayhoe gave her presentation on the state of climate change: what it is, how long we’ve known about it and what it will take to reduce it. Dr. Vanos then took the stage to describe its effects on human health. Question: Do you know how hot astroturf gets on a 100°F day? Vanos visited a local football field to find out.
Using a set of (homemade) tools that would make Dr. Who jealous, Vanos and her team discovered that the turf underneath their feet was a searing 175°F! (Vanos did a little dance onstage as she described how she had to hop from foot to foot while setting up her gear.) The astroturf was in fact so hot that players’ shoes were melting to the field.
As Dr. Hayhoe explained to the audience, climate change is dangerous not because it creates new, unknown types of weather, but because it exacerbates the effects of natural conditions. In Dallas, for example, the area is prone to both floods and heat waves – but as the average temperature rises, those floods and heat waves will become more intense.
“What do you do when it gets really hot?” Dr. Vanos asked the audience. “Not much.” The best case scenario is that you just laze around and find some shade. The worst case scenario is heat exhaustion and death.
Planet Experts recorded an exclusive interview with both Drs. Vanos and Hayhoe after their presentation, which we will upload later this weekend! Until then, check out our first-person reports from Earth Day Texas 2016:
Earth Day Texas 2016 Series
- From Tiny Houses to Solar Speedsters
- Even Earth Day Is Bigger in Texas
- How Do You Make Climate Change Relevant to Kids?
- El Paso Students Built This Solar Car in 39 Days
- Lessons in Sustainability, or Why I’m Terrified of Hawks
- Teddy Roosevelt IV at Earth Day Texas: ‘We’ve Got to Be More Sustainable’
- Dr. Jenni Vanos Explains How Climate Change Affects Our Health