image title

ASU scientists 'not surprised' by dire UN climate change report

August 13, 2021

Plus advice on what you can do to help reduce carbon emissions

This past Monday, the United Nations released its latest report on climate change: Global warming, unequivocally human-caused, cannot be stopped. The worst effects — drought, destructive storms, fires, and floods — will continue unabated. But the worst effects can be stopped at a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius if humanity takes unprecedented efforts to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and remove what has been emitted there.

Leading scientists at Arizona State University were not startled by what they read.

“In a way I was not surprised,” said Peter Schlosser, one of the world’s leading Earth scientists, with expertise in the hydrosphere and how humans affect the planet’s natural state. “We know from a scientific perspective that global warming is progressing. ... We also see actually the effects of climate change more frequently on many places of the planet and two signature impacts of climate change, wildfires and flooding.”

Schlosser pointed to disasters of the last two years: catastrophic wildfires in Australia – so big they had an impact on how the atmosphere works. Massive flooding in Germany. The biggest wildfire in California history. Heat in the Pacific Northwest easily rivaling the temperatures of an Arizona summer.

“More people are starting to experience directly the effects of climate change,” said Schlosser, who leads the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU, a laboratory launched to harness the innovative capacity of academia and develop options for sound management of the planet.

Theoretical physicist Klaus Lackner leads the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at ASU, where he has designed and built a machine that sucks carbon dioxide out of the air and stores it, removing carbon from the atmosphere permanently.

“I think this is the decade where (climate change) is going to go off scale,” Lackner said. “So sticking with the analogy, you had the seeds in the '90s. You had the little weeds looking out from under the corn in the zeros. In the teens the weeds were just about as tall as the corn. And this year, this decade, they both stick out. ...

“Now you will get things you have never seen,” he said.

Lackner said there’s nothing in the report that hasn’t been covered before, but “it puts it all in one place.”

And, he added, it won't pull itself back, not on a timescale that is personally relevant.

In preindustrial times, there were 180 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere. Now it’s at 420 parts per million.

“We are still accelerating,” he said. “We are not slowing down.”

Drastic changes will have to be made, Schlosser said — and soon.

“Let's say around 2050, we have to be at net zero emissions,” he said. “Now that does not just mean that we have to transform the energy system, completely getting off fossils, but we also have to take some of the CO2 back out of the atmosphere, which is actually one of the strengths of ASU to work in that area to send off negative carbon emissions. We're leading in thinking about these issues and coming up with the idea that you can do it. So we have options to act in a way that will limit climate change.”

However, that will take a global commitment of historic proportions, dwarfing Allied cooperation during World War II. So far that hasn’t begun to happen. Life everywhere has continued apace since the Paris Accords of 2015.

But Lackner thinks it’s possible.

“We now have finally come to the point that we think we can put on the brakes hard enough,” he said. “I think before the century is out, we will pull back on it. I think it is possible. ... I think here you can make the same case that by becoming a daily experience for everybody, we all look for a way of fixing it. And that's very different than having a small group saying, 'We need to change your lifestyle — wear a hair shirt and tighten your belt.' Until now this was mainly a problem for people who came from a strong environmental perspective and challenged the consumer lifestyle. And as a consequence, nobody listened.”

What can the average citizen do? Schlosser had some advice.

Pay attention to what the report says and realize it is not theoretical or abstract. Your children and grandchildren will be affected by it.

Get an electric car earlier if you can. Switch lightbulbs to LEDs. Buy high-efficiency appliances. Consider how you travel and how often. Switch to solar panels. Energy savings might account for a third to 40% of the problem, according to Schlosser. Vote for who sets the environmental agenda and look at what that agenda looks like.

Look at it like going on a diet. If you run 6 miles, you take off 750 calories, but if you eat a slice of pizza you put it back on.

“So there is a variety of options for us,” Schlosser said. “Some very direct — we make the decision and by the way we purchase, we contribute to more or less emissions.”

It’s important to be reminded of the whole picture, he said.

“It reminds us what we have to do is to keep climate change at a certain level at this point,” he said. “No matter what we do, we cannot stop temperature rise at the level of where we are right now.”

More on Medium

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory responds to the U.N. report, saying that to avoid additional, more extreme climate-related events, we no longer have decades to make choices to change what we can and should do to mitigate climate change — we must act now and act more boldly than previously envisioned in any of the current commitments. Read more on Medium.

Top image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

image title

Do sports police femininity?

August 13, 2021

Project Humanities fall-kickoff lecture sheds new light on the debate over transgender athletes in sports

When it comes to the topic of transgender athletes competing in sports, people have a lot to say. But it's more than just talk. This debate is expressed through popular culture, policies and politics.

Essentially, it boils down to this question: Do “fairness” and “inclusivity” hold the same weight in sports?

According to the International Olympic Committee, “participation in sport is a human right.” Translation: yes. But not everyone agrees.

On Thursday, Arizona State University's Project Humanities hosted a virtual platform for a professional transgender athlete and a scholar to offer their lived experience and research perspectives connected to this hot-button topic.

“As Project Humanities celebrates its 10-year anniversary, we continue to explore topics that divide many, topics that many actually avoid, and topics that still others choose not to understand,” said Neal A. Lester, professor of English and Project Humanities director. “Project Humanities has had conversations about transgender identities before and sees this as another opportunity to conjoin a persistent focus on justice, diversity and humanity. The lived experience of others may or may not align with our own, but each is worthy of being voiced and heard.”

The livestreamed event, titled “Dispelling the Myths: Transgender Athletes and Sport,” commenced the initiative's fall event series. It addressed the myths and misconceptions about trans and intersex female athletes in women’s sport. It also explored connections between testosterone and sport performance and looked at the current anti-transgender political and social climate.

The Aug. 12 event panel featured Veronica Ivy, a competitive cyclist, Canadian philosophy professor and transgender rights activist, as well as Scott Brooks, an associate professor with the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and associate director of ASU’s Global Sport Institute.

Three people on a Zoom conversation

Project Humanities Director Neal Lester (top right) introduces panelists Veronica Ivy and Scott Brooks for the Aug. 12 presentation of "Dispelling the Myths: Transgender Athletes and Sport." The livestreamed event kicked off the Project Humanities' 2021 fall lecture series.

Ivy kicked off the event discussing fairness in sports, what it has been like to compete as a trans athlete, the science of testosterone and performance, and discriminatory policies.

“I have a dream that one day we will be celebrating exceptional women no matter what their gendered history is, and we are nowhere near that,” said Ivy, who advises several international and national sports committees and federations on inclusion. “It bothers me when I see interviews of other successful athletes and the interview is about celebrating their performance when my interviews are always about defending my right to exist.”

Ivy said even though this topic has been debated and is constantly in the spotlight, important facts seem to get lost in the fray. She said both the International Court of Arbitration and the International Olympic Committee, both headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, and considered the “Supreme Court of Sports,” has straightforward polices in place for trans athletes that allow them to participate in sports without discrimination.

“The practice of sport is a human right,” said Ivy, who noted that the Olympics has had a trans athlete policy in place since 2004. “We need to stop policing femininity, period. We do not do this for men, only for women, and we need to stop.”

Ivy also stated that there is no empirical data on the relationship between natural testosterone and performance, and that science introduced by detractors is often “shady” and false.

“Medically all of my records say female. Trans girls are actually female,” Ivy said. “Trans women are women. Trans boys are male, and we all need to get over this.”

Ivy said she regularly competes against elite cisgenderCisgender refers to people whose gender identity matches the one they were assigned at birth. women of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes she wins. Sometimes she loses.

“We’re all playing by the same rules under the same conditions of fairness,” Ivy said. “Everybody has different degrees of testosterone, and some women have more testosterone than men.”

Brooks said the notion that trans athletes are taking over women’s sports reminded him of a Sports Illustrated cover story from 1997, which insinuated white athletes were a dying breed.

“It (the article) was about these poor white boys who are having to take on these Black boys who are these ‘freak’ athletes,” Brooks said. “So, it struck me how it’s the same argument being used. … When we get to the heart of it, we talk about fear.”

Ivy said she has suffered from PTSD and anxiety as a result of harassment from those who believe that her participation in women’s sports is unfair, going so far as to call them "stalkers."

“It’s messed me up, I’ll be perfectly honest,” she said. “Going to competition is like a trigger for me. I have to do so much mental preparation and so much emotional work just to show up.”

Ivy did say progress was made in the recent Tokyo Olympics in which trans athletes saw competition in such sports as BMX, weightlifting, soccer and skateboarding. Midfielder Quinn became the first openly transgender and nonbinary athlete to medal at the Olympics when the Canadian women's soccer team won gold.

Lester said Ivy’s presentation changed a lot of minds and hearts, and helped bring understanding across the board.

“The survey feedback and personal responses to this opening fall event have been very encouraging,” Lester said. “Reading the powerful and engaging chat comments and getting messages of hope from attendees who are themselves transgender or the parents of transgender children is inspiring.” 

Top photo: Veronica Ivy is a transgender track cycling champion athlete. Photo courtesy of Veronica Ivy

Reporter , ASU News