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Ambassadors spotlight climate change

January 25, 2008

Ambassadors spotlight climate change

Growing up in Oregon, recycling was part of junior Kate Wilson’s everyday life.“It was the norm for me,” she said. “I was always passionate about it, but I never knew why recycling was important.”

During J-Term, Wilson is among the 16 students involved in the Climate Change Ambassadors program. The group meets over dinner once a week to learn the facts about global climate change and devise creative ways to share that knowledge with the PLU and surrounding communities.

One way to combat global climate change is to recycle. Another is to skip driving and walk or bike instead. Understanding how these choices affect the environment has strengthened Wilson’s commitment to be a good steward, and she believes spreading this knowledge is key to combating global climate change.

“I think this issue will get more and more serious in the coming years,” Wilson said. “We need to start doing something now.”

Junior Luke Weinbrecht agrees. He didn’t recycle until he came to PLU, but now he’s passionate about protecting the environment and sharing his knowledge with others. The geosciences and chemistry major plans to teach high school science.

Under the guidance of Claire Todd, visiting assistant professor of geosciences and environmental studies, those in the program have spent a large portion of J-Term reviewing the evidence for recent climate change. They have been reviewing data collected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the last 20 years.

In 1988, the United Nations and World Meteorological Society created the IPCC, an international group of scientists who collected and evaluated data on climate change from around the globe. The group’s most recent report was released in 2007. In it, the scientists agree that global warming is unmistakable, and they are 90 percent confident that the majority of the warming is due to human actions, Todd explained.

Unlike the scientists, much of the American public isn’t quite convinced.

Senior Andrea Calcagno believes that’s because global climate change isn’t really affecting the average American yet. While temperatures may be a bit warmer and the snowfall a bit less, the nation as a whole hasn’t experienced any drastic consequence.

“I would say a lot of people don’t take climate change as seriously as it needs to be taken,” she said.

During the first part of J-Term, ambassadors talked with their friends and family to determine what the general pubic knows about the topic. Calcagno found most people knew bits and pieces, but that most of their information was colored by the media or political rhetoric.

“What we get from the media or politics is not always right,” she said. “We need to educate others about the truth … to change the language so they can comprehend it and encourage them to change their life.”

Currently, the ambassadors are working to ways to educate the community and motivate them to take action. Projects in the works include a documentary film, YouTube videos, presentations for local schools and university courses, and marketing campaigns motivating students, faculty and staff to change their lifestyle.

“Even if global climate change is not happening, we are in a warming period,” Weinbrecht said. “We’re still releasing toxic chemicals into the world, and that needs to stop.”

The ambassador program will continue through spring semester, with funding provided by the Wiancko Charitable Foundation. For more information, contact Todd at or ext. 5163.

University Communications staff writer Megan Haley compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact her at ext. 8691 or at Photo by University Photographer Jordan Hartman.