Students discuss climate change with advocate
Roshni Karwal encouraged students to think beyond the bulb when discussing practical solutions to tackle climate change.
Karwal, climate change advocate for the Climate Reality Project, discussed renewable energy in Murray Hall on the College Avenue campus last Tuesday at “Conquering Carbon: A Climate Reality Project Presentation.”
The event was co-hosted by Rutgers Peacemakers and Rutgers University Association of International Relations.
As a representative at the United Nations Climate Change Summit, Karwal also introduced the grim reality of carbon emissions and proposed solutions.
Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Singapore, she observed the increasingly alarming weather patterns that climate change causes.
“On every island I’ve lived on, there is calamity,” she said.
As a former journalist covering Japan’s nuclear leak crisis, Karwal observed the catastrophe in person and shared her input. She said many aspects go into maintaining a nuclear plant, which is a larger responsibility than solar power.
Patrick Parlej, co-founder and president of Rutgers Peacemakers, said this generation has to deal with the growing threat posed by climate change.
But Karwal said Rutgers students are highly engaged in environmental concerns by thinking deeply and asking big questions.
Parlej, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, brought Karwal to speak to help decipher the issue and what steps students could take.
“Armed with tools and statistics of what is happening and what we can do to help, we are definitely taking actions and seeking future collaboration with Climate Reality Project,” he said.
Fahad Akhtar, the club’s co-founder and treasurer, said the goal of the program is to introduce students to a global issue that directly affects them.
Akhtar, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said people used to talk about Russian incursions on Ukraine, a situation that most people had little influence over.
“But climate change is right there affecting each one of us … it is something we can gain understanding and propose better solutions,” he said.
The United States is one of the greatest producers of carbon emission. According to the Climate Reality Project, 40 percent of the emission comes from the power sector, including power plants and the coal industry.
As the world’s leading country and biggest contributor to carbon emission, it is imperative that the U.S. takes action to modernize power plants, Karwal said.
“Solar energy and wind energy remain my favorite two solution[s] for the future … They are effective but easier to harness, compared to alternatives like nuclear energy,” she said.
Also present at the discussion was Ace Romano Rodriguez, a representative of the United Nations Economics and Social Council. He pointed out the necessity of renewable energy, including solar power.
“There is plenty of open land in the Middle East and it is always sunny … The United Arab Emirates is building the Masdar City near Abu Dhabi, where the city will completely rely on solar energy,” he said.
Some countries have made considerable progress in utilizing solar power. China installed 12 gigawatts of solar panels in 2013 that accounts for nearly one-third of the world market. Vatican City is by now completely powered by carbon-free energy.
Under President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, the U.S. expects to reduce power sector’s carbon pollution by 30 percent before 2020.
“More solar power has been installed in the last 18 months than in the past 30 years, powering 2.2 million homes,” Karwal said.
Contrary to some public opinions, the transition toward renewable energy in the power sector in the U.S. boosts employment, she said.
The growing solar market created approximately 18,000 new jobs in 2013, Karwal said.
Grant King, a Rutgers Business School first-year student, said solar power is “wonderful.”
King said his father is a solar specialist in NRG Energy Inc., a Fortune 500 American energy company.
“It is a simple and straightforward solution, [by which] high-up climate change claims drop onto the panels on our roofs,” he said.
Sidharth Ghoshal, a School of Art and Sciences first-year student, also brought up a discussion on nuclear energy as a possible substitute.
Nuclear power is the most efficient alternative energy, but it involves risk, he said. A slight mishandling can cause a big catastrophe, such as the 2010 nuclear power plant leak in Fukushima, Japan.
“[The plant] could have done a lot but didn’t, under the assumption that it is so unlikely to happen,” he said.