Borenstein discusses climate change with UConn students

One person dies from climate change every 3.5 minute according to the World Health Organization, reported Seth Borenstein, an Associated Press science writer and New York University adjunct professor, to a packed auditorium at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Thursday afternoon.

The focus of Borenstein’s presentation was global warming. His lecture was full of scientific data confirming the increasing problem the planet faces and how little press coverage it receives.

In March 2014, the biggest news story Asia was the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared. During that same time, the United Nation’s scientific panel met in Japan to discuss the growing climate change.

Only two people were sent from news organizations in the United States to cover the panel discussion in Japan.

The World Health Organization reports 150,000 deaths annually from climate change. To put that number in perspective, from 1968 to 2012, 150,000 people died from terrorism.

A question that many asked themselves at the lecture was how can scientists attribute someone’s death to climate change. Borenstein said, “The number [150,000] is an estimate.” He notes that these deaths may be linked from natural disasters. For example, there’s a hurricane, then because of it the power in the stop lights are out and someone gets into a car accident due to the outage.

Borenstein referenced an AP-GfK poll found 37 percent of Americans are not confident that the average temperature of the world is rising, mostly because of man-made, heat-trapping greenhouse gases. This is opposed to 33 percent who are confident and 28 percent somewhat confident.

The poll also found that only 27 percent of the general population is confident that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old compared to 36 percent who said it is not.

“It’s an increasing issue the public needs to be aware of. It was surprising to see the statistics about how many people doubt [science]. That will stick with me,” Billy McAllister, a 4th-semester accounting major, said.

Following the end of the presentation, there was a Q & A portion that many students took advantage of.

When asked about if people are becoming “scientifically illiterate,” Borenstein said, “[There’s] a confirmation bias issue. People want to see what confirms their worldview. If you tell them facts or show data that doesn’t confirm with their worldview they’ll say its wrong. They don’t want to accept science that contradicts their mindset.”

“You can pick and choose your media, like Facebook, to get things to confirm your prejudices. We’re not an open-minded society like we think we are,” he said.

Overall, students were able to walk away learning about the severity of climate change as well as be entertained by a speaker who joked that “More Americans have married Kim Kardashian than contracted ebola.”

“It was good, really funny and engaging. The actual facts caught my attention,” Gymar Vargas, 6th-semester biological sciences major, said.


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