Missouri Sierra Club held a Science Roundtable in St. Louis on May 18, 2017. I attended the event with Sister Sharon O’Grady, who serves on the Eco-Zeal Team for the Province of Mid-North America. The panel-style event built upon the recent March for Science and People’s Climate March in Washington, DC.
The purpose of the science roundtable was to call upon the public to support the local scientific community and discuss how climate change is impacting the St. Louis region. Some of the impacts include flooding, the likely increase of heat waves and vector-borne diseases and public health effects, such as increased asthma rates and mercury poisoning from water that is polluted by coal-fired plants.
Dr. Huldah Blamoville, clinician with St. Louis Children’s Hospital and SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, was one of the three panelists. She reported that one out of ten Missourians suffers from asthma. The journal Scientific American has shown how climate change affects the release of pollen, which is a key trigger for the lung disease.
Science Roundtable discusses water
Dr. Benjamin de Foy, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, St. Louis University, discussed how mercury travels across the globe. He said 90% of the world’s mercury-polluted waters can be attributed to coal-fired plants. Emissions from burning coal for heat and energy are main contributors to the climate crisis. Eating fish from these poisonous waters is a growing concern in Missouri and worldwide.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters through Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act.
President Donald Trump has taken a sledgehammer to the EPA and signed an executive order in March to dismantle its protections. Under the White House’s latest budget proposals, released May 23, 2017, Trump’s plan would eliminate several major regional programs, including those aimed at restoring the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.
Dr. Lea-Rachel Kosnik is an Environmental Economist with the University of Missouri St. Louis, where her main areas of expertise include environmental economics, energy economics and behavioral economics.
She brings financial concerns into the climate change dialogue. For example, Dr. Kosnik said the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act has a cost benefit of 22:1, with benefits (primarily in terms of human health) far outpacing the cost to administer and enforce it.
“The Clean Air Act is a huge economic investment on public health,” Dr. Kosnik said.
Local scientists join the conversation
The event moderator invited a number of local scientists and community leaders who were seated in the audience to speak on matters related to climate change. Sr. Sharon said that of all the panelists and speakers she found Dr. Kosnik’s remarks most enlightening.
She said that in listening to Dr. Kosnik she realized that if people don’t see how climate change affects them personally, within the immediacy of their present lives, they have little motivation to do anything about it. Dr Kosnik gave examples, saying that if gas were to cost five dollars a gallon, then people would carpool, buy smaller cars and take public transportation.
Sr. Sharon said the presenters also made her realize that while people love their children and grandchildren, they are not always willing to make changes in their lifestyle choices to ensure a better future for them.
She went on to say that the round table conversation could inform Good Shepherd dialogue and our response to climate change in a number of ways.
With that in mind, Sr. Sharon said hearing Dr. Kosnik speak made her think about her own and Good Shepherd’s response to climate change. In wrapping up her presentation, Dr. Kosnik said she would like to drive home the message that we are in this together.
“We are all affected by the same air and water quality. We’re in this together and we all need to do our part as individuals while also working together to find solutions,” she said.
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