Responsible Drilling Alliance

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Climate Change For Dummies

Professor Richard Alley speaking at TEDxPSU. Photo from

If you missed PSU Geoscience Professor Richard Alley’s enlightening and highly entertaining lecture at Lycoming College last week, you can catch a short version of it from his TEDxPSU talk in April of last year, Good News on Energy and the Environment.

Alley’s message was simple: we can get off the fossil fuel treadmill. We know how to build a sustainable system now. By doing so, we not only get a cleaner environment that is more ethical, we get a better economy. He opened the talk by warning those in attendance, “I’m going to scare you,” and went on to explain some of the devastating problems coming our way from a hotter world. Alley reiterated that the scholarship and economics are clear: the sooner we get off fossil fuels, the better.

The avowed Republican humorously laid out the problem with those who deny human-caused climate change, including our own US Senator Toomey and the current occupier of the Oval Office; it is their lack of a basic understanding of science. He illustrated this by pulling out his cell phone and asking the audience what it is made of? The answer: a little bit of sand for the glass and the silica for the chip, a little bit of oil for the plastic, the right rocks, science, engineering, design, and marketing. He told us Einstein is in the phone, the GPS system would get lost without the theory of relativity. Niels Bohr is in the phone; without knowledge of quantum mechanics we couldn’t have designed the computer chip. He suggested that if we were to dump some sand, some oil, some rocks with the right rare earth minerals on the floor of the Congress that monkeys would type Shakespeare before our elected legislators could build a cell phone – the same phone some of his constituents call him on to tell him scientists don’t know what they are talking about.

Alley explained we’ve had proof since WWII what was discovered scientifically in 1886; burning fossil fuels traps heat in the atmosphere. The average American burns 20 tons of CO2 a year. That fact, Alley said, changes the climate. It’s not rocket science.


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