Club Debate: Conservatives versus Environmentalists

Jessica Bourse

Students enthusiastically tapped their pens on tables, agreeing with the statements spoken before them. The speakers, having taken opposing positions, were now turning up the heat on environmental issues.

The debate between the Conservative Club and Project: Earth Tomorrow was held April 10 from noon to 1 p.m. The two topics discussed were global warming and free market solutions versus government programs.

The first issue debated concerned government intervention and free market solutions to protect the environment. Taking the proponent argument, supporting government intervention, was John Shier, 19, undecided major. On the opposing side, Anderson Au, 20, accounting major, took the negative argument, in support of free market solutions.

Shier stated that on various Web sites, such as USAspending.gov and the Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov), only $428 million out of $518 billion was spent on protecting the environment. He also mentioned the Clean Air Act and the improvement in Los Angeles’ air quality since the 1970s, when the act was first ratified. The evidence was in the total number of days per year since then that were estimated as “smog-free.”

Au stated that the free market was a better regulator than the government because “the government acts like a bureaucracy, while the free market and the people solve their own problems. once the government makes an error, it takes years to correct. The free market corrects its errors sooner,” said Au.

Au gave an example using whale oil and kerosene, suggesting that the free market was what saved the whales, not the government. Au said that it was the people who decided that whale oil wasn’t efficient enough, so they turned to kerosene as an alternative.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was created in December of 1946 and still exists to this day. Its main cause is to oversee the administration of whaling throughout the world, which includes: protecting endangered species of whales, creating whale sanctuaries, prohibiting the slaughter of calves and/or females accompanied by calves, and limiting the number and sizes of whales killed. Nothing in their purpose statement mentions anything about kerosene.

Shier rebutted and repeated his main point, “We should invest in the environment as a people through the government. businesses (free market) think money, not morality.”

Au rebutted with, “The government doesn’t enforce morality. The Constitution does not enforce morality. If the concern for the environment was so great, then the people should think of something to fix it. The free market solves problems.”

The second half of the debate revolved around the issue of global warming, and whether or not humans are to blame. Taking the proponent argument, that man is causing global warming, was Tina Davtyan, 20, political science/environmental studies major. Au took the negative argument, maintaining that humans were not the cause of global warming.

Davtyan explained that human activities, such as driving, using electricity to power our homes, and the burning of fossil fuels are the biggest factors in what’s causing the rapid increase in global warming.

“The atmosphere is like a blanket that traps heat for earth,” said Davtyan, “with the increase in human activity, the thickness of the blanket increases and less heat can escape. scientists conclude that the slightest change in Earth’s temperature can mean catastrophe for the planet.”

Au argued that mankind’s impact on Earth’s climate change was insignificant. He referenced Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore and his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which featured a large graph, mapping the patterns of temperature change and levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Au stated that in the graph, temperature rose before carbon dioxide, instead of the way it was presented in the film.

The chart, found in Gore’s book, also entitled “An Inconvenient Truth,” which hit number one on The New York Times Paperback Non-Fiction bestseller list, is credited to Science Magazine.

Catherine Powers, professor of oceanography, explained what global warming is and how it is caused.

“Global warming is happening and it is a natural part of the?Earth’s?history,” said Powers, “Earth’s climate has oscillated between glacial and inter-glacial periods for the past 600 million years and has had at least three major glaciations lasting several million years. Yes, the Earth has been gradually warming for the past 15,000 years but the rate at which it is warming has increased in the past 150 years, a time that coincides with an increase in our consumption of fossil fuels.”

“The sun is responsible for 80 percent of Earth’s climate,” said Au, “NASA reported that our sun has become 30 to 50 percent brighter. The ice caps on Mars are melting. must be those SUV-driving aliens.”

“The presence of ice caps on Mars is seasonal,” said Powers, “and the polar ice caps, which are composed of dry ice, or frozen carbon dioxide, come and go with the seasons.”?

Davtyan defended the correlation between rising temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide, maintaining that the modernization of technology has increased the carbon dioxide level.

Au rebutted and stated that while humans do produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, approximately “four gigatons,” oceans create just as much carbon dioxide, at approximately “three gigatons.”

Davtyan closed her argument and ended the debate, “Earth is fragile. Small increases (in temperature) created big changes.”