Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Signs of global warming evident

Eben Burnham-Snyder, a concerned environmentalist, spoke to University of Wisconsin business students Wednesday about global warming and American oil dependency.

Burnham-Snyder, a senior communications associate for the Natural Resources Defense Council and a UW alumnus, opened his presentation with a clip from the television show "Futurama" meant to serve as an oversimplified demonstration of global warming.

The clip featured "Mr. Sunbeam" being beaten by greenhouse-gas aliens and humans dropping giant ice cubes in the ocean, "simply solving the problem once and for all."


Burnham-Snyder said global warming is a legitimate worldwide threat.

"The debate is over," he remarked. "There is a clear consensus position that global warming is happening, it is real, humans are causing it … and we do have to act now to solve it."

As the term implies, global warming affects all areas of the world, regardless of the climate.

Burnham-Snyder suggested Glacier National Park in Montana acquire a new name soon because within two decades, there will be no more glaciers at Glacier National Park.

Other unprecedented incidents of melting due to global warming are occurring on Mount Kilimanjaro and the Greenland ice cap.

And in warmer climates, global warming increases the intensity of hurricanes, as evidence of this was particularly clear in the 2005 hurricane season.

Noting a 50 percent increase in hurricane intensity over the past 30 years, Burnham-Snyder said the most recent hurricane season was "by all accounts … the worst hurricane season we have ever seen."

In addition, global warming has raised the ocean temperatures approximately one degree over the past century, and while one degree may not seem drastic to some, Burnham-Snyder said it was comparable to "BALCO steroids for hurricanes."

Global warming is projected to cause droughts in the Midwest in upcoming decades, which would be a detriment to the regional farming economy.

The Midwest may even see dustbowl conditions within the next century, according to Burnham-Snyder.

UW sophomore Sarah Casper said the world population should not ignore such palpable effects of global warming.

"Rather than waiting to see what could happen, we should be safe and take preventative measures," she said.

Another ubiquitous topic covered was American oil consumption — largely correlated with national security.

Burnham-Snyder said the United States is by far the largest consumer of oil, expending as much as China, Japan, Russia, Germany and India combined, adding the United States is getting the majority of its oil from the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries, which poses a security risk because of the vast instability of the Middle East.

"We live in a global political climate where you have Iran and North Korea trying to get as much of … whatever they can to make weapons-grade nuclear stuff, and we have … nukes that are out there in former Soviet states. We have terrorists trying to get material," he said. "This is maybe not the best time to make more of it."

UW sophomore Marya Orf noted that while American oil consumption is a problem that needs to be addressed, it will be a gradual process.

"It's a very tough issue because we can't just stop using fossil fuels even though we know they are the main contributor, so we definitely need to make some compromises," she said.

On the home front, vast oil consumption affects gas prices.

Burnham-Snyder has spoken to analysts, which include "everybody from Merrill Lynch to the Pentagon," who have said gas-price projections are not favorable.

"For those of you who think that gas prices are going to go down again … we are not going to see gas [prices] go under … what it is hovering at right now," Burnham-Snyder remarked. "In fact, it will probably go up."

UW sophomore Leslie Peltason supports the application of alternate fuel sources and lower oil consumption.

"I think they should market cars that run on battery rather than [gas] so our environment is more clean and safe," she said.

Burnham-Snyder added renewable fuels — which include wind, solar and ethanol energy — have "huge potential" for use but have not become a large presence in the market because only 5 percent of the $16 billion in federal subsidies dedicated to energy went to renewable energy.

The remaining 95 percent went to oil, coal and gas energy.

"The playing field is so uneven that there is no way that some of these [renewable energy] companies — as great as their technology is — can catch up," he said.

Many developing countries rely on America to use renewable-fuel technology more frequently in order to make it more affordable, according to Burnham-Snyder.

"We are the No. 1 agricultural country in the world," he noted. "What's stopping us?"

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