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Heated discussion

Meteorologist Glenn ‘Hurricane’ Schwartz talks global warming

Created date

May 25th, 2010
PA0610_GlobalWarming
PA0610_GlobalWarming

What better time to learn about global warming than the 40th anniversary of Earth Day? On April 22, 2010, approximately 150 Ann s Choice residents gathered to do just that, listening to Glenn Hurricane Schwartz s take and offering their own opinions on the subject. by the Ann s Choice Science Round Table, of which there are 68 members, the discussion on global warming was by far the group s most successful event, and much of that had to do with Schwartz s celebrity; there were many of his fans in the audience. Overall, the talk was warmly received, and Schwartz the chief meteorologist at Philadelphia s NBC 10 created an environment where people could openly express their opinions, all the while keeping the discussion rooted in the facts of science.

Speaking scientifically

Although Schwartz usually doesn t make return appearances (he did a talk atAnn s Choicea few years ago), he decided to come back because he found the residents to be intelligent and engaged. In the audience was a full range of opinions on global warming skeptics, believers, people who were on the fence, and those who believed in global warming but didn t know what could be done about it. Schwartz s goal was to reveal the facts. Jerry Freimark, leader of the Science Round Table, which hosts monthly lectures, introduced the man who needs no introduction by stating, To me, the weather s not official until I hear it out of the mouth of Glenn Hurricane Schwartz. Schwartz had the audience engaged from the moment he stepped to the front of the performing arts center in Liberty Commons Clubhouse. A large projection screen behind him read Global Warming, Visual Evidence, as he joked with the crowd about how he got his nickname (as the first weather chaser on the Weather Channel) and why he wears the signature purple bowtie, which he admitted doesn t help with his social life but adds to his credibility as a scientist. Then he got right down to business. Visual evidence of global warming included a slideshow of glaciers from around the world and how they are receding. Side-by-side photos of the Shephard Glacier from Glacier National Park from 1913 and 2005 showed that the once all-encompassing glacier is almost completely gone; in its stead lies fertile green grass.

Among the facts he highlighted:

90% of the glaciers in the world are retreating, and their thickness is dropping. The greenhouse effect is real. (This phenomenon refers to the rise in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases in the atmosphere water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane trap energy from the sun.) If not for the greenhouse effect, the average temperature of the planet would be 60 degrees cooler, and it would be uninhabitable, just like Venus, which has a runaway greenhouse effect. Though 97% of scientists agree that global warming is a serious issue, there are 3% who do not, and that creates confusion among the general public. The debate used to be about science. Now it s about politics, said Schwartz. Al Gore is the face of global warming, and he s a communicator of science, not a scientist. Unfortunately, about one-third of the population is going to believe the exact opposite of what he says simply because they don t like Al Gore. Throughout the talk, Schwartz was very mindful of keeping the discussion rooted in facts; whenever it drifted to the political, philosophical, or even spiritual, he brought it right back to the science. And it wasn t until the end that he revealed his own skepticism which existed 20 years ago; but with all the data emerging, he admitted he couldn t deny it any longer the climate is warming and humans, in fact, have something to do with it. He is still unsure what we can do, if anything, to reverse what s already been done.

Many questions, few answers

One gentleman suggested that global warming was a bunch of hocus because Greenland used to be inhabited but then got covered by so much snow that no one can live there. Schwartz responded with the science: You can t just look at one country, one winter, one snowstorm, and refute the whole thing. That s weather, [but] what we re talking about here is climate change; there s a big difference. The fact is that the glaciers are still melting, the planet is still warming, and a two-degree increase in the average temperature can be catastrophic. The people who live atAnn s Choicethat attended the lecture said they benefited greatly from the discussion. I enjoyed it very much, and I learned something, Marge Freimark said. Eric and Virginia Caldeira, whose son is a climatologist at Carnegie Institution at Stanford, have always been supporters of the 97% of scientists who believe global warming is a problem, but they agreed it was interesting to hear all sides of the issue. While opinions differed on global warming, there was one question on everybody s mind: Would we ever see another winter like the Snowmageddon (or Snowpocalypse) of 2010? Schwartz assured everyone that there has never been a winter like that in the recorded history of Philadelphia, and statistically speaking, not even the residents grandchildren will have to endure another one like that.
Ann's Choice is an Erickson retirement community in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Erickson manages a network of 19 communities nationwide that combine a maintenance-free, active lifestyle with social activities, amenities, and medical offerings proven to improve both physical and mental health.

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