Environmental science professor debunks students' pro-Green New Deal protest

Students at Kent State University marched through campus holding signs that will dictate their age in 2046, the year they claim the climate will increase by two degrees Celsius.

Campus Reform spoke with an expert from the University of Virginia who refuted the group's claim.

The Sunrise Movement at Kent State University organized a protest early November as a call to action against rising climate temperatures. 

Nearly 20 students attended the march, looping through campus and chanting in support of environmental policies and carrying signs that note the ages they will be in the year 2046.

According to the Day of Action Guide, published on the group’s social media, the signs illustrated “the urgency of our demands,” as 2046 is “the approximate year we will hit 2 degrees celsius of warming.” This is expected to lead to “irreversible climate damage based on today’s emission trajectory”.

The protest was planned on November 10 to stand in solidarity with the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference which was held from October 31 to November 13. Rescheduled from November 2020 due to COVID-19, the conference aimed to “work with all involved to increase climate ambition, build resilience and lower emissions.”

Campus Reform spoke with Grace Springer, event organizer and Sunrise Movement Action Lead, about the purpose of the protest and the impact the students expect to create on campus. 

“Sunrise Movement has been a group on campus since the beginning of last summer, and because of COVID we haven’t had too many opportunities to do stuff like [the protest], to get together in person and actually show our support for climate policies,” Springer said. 

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Springer spoke of the importance of making and carrying the signs, claiming that they were to show the age they will be in 2046, the “estimated year that we will reach two degrees of global warming based on today’s carbon emissions.”

“By holding those signs and by showing up on Wednesday, we were really sending a message that this is an issue that could affect our entire lives, and if we don’t start working on it right now then it will be too late.”

Campus Reform looked into these claims by discussing the topic with Patrick Michaels, former director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. 

Michaels was also a research professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia and a contributing author and reviewer of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Concerning the trajectory of climate warming, Michaels stated that the two-degree claim “assumes that all the warming that has occurred since 1850 was caused by human activity.” 

He disputed this claim as false, referring to a period of warming between 1910 and 1945 that increased temperatures by nearly half-a-degree Celsius. 

“When that started, we had barely raised the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at all. If that warming was caused by CO2, it would be several degrees warmer now that it is. So they’re protesting based upon a false premise that they should have done more research about,” Michaels stated. 

As to the impact that students hoped to achieve on campus, Springer noted the mission of the Sunrise Movement is to work toward “a green new deal.”

“The Green New Deal is a piece of legislation that basically revolutionizes our economy and to make it zero carbon emissions and completely green energy,” she explained. 

Other intentions of the movement are to “push” local governments toward “more progressive climate legislation”.

The Sunrise Movement describes themselves as the “climate revolution,” through which they advocate for making climate change a top priority issue, creating new jobs, and ending the influence of fossil fuel executives in politics.

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The focus of the group’s ambition, however, remains the establishment of a “Green New Deal”. Sunrise defines the deal as a:

Michaels told Campus Reform that such legislation would be insufficient to resolve environmental issues.

“I would imagine these people actually think that solar energy and windmills can power a continent like Africa. They’re sorely mistaken. The sun’s below the horizon half the time, and it’s near the horizon for several hours a day, and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. You cannot power a society that way, we learned that in Texas last winter,” Michaels said.

He continued by noting that President Biden’s Build Back Better plan should be watched by the public concerning environmental issues.

“That thing is loaded with solar energy and with windmills and all kinds of technologies that don’t work,” Michaels said. “It is my suspicion that Joe Manchin from West Virginia is not going to vote for it, and therefore it’s going to die in the Senate. But, the fact is that we are on the verge of really absurd policies.” 

Campus Reform reached out to Sunrise Movement for comment. Kent State declined to comment. This article will be updated accordingly.