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To mark US Climate Action Week, Career Communications Group, the publisher of Black Engineer magazine, hosted a panel discussion on how minority communities can begin to address the climate crisis with science and technology leading the way. Anthony Kinslow II, the founding CEO of Gemini Energy Solutions, moderated the discussion.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Anthony (seen with headphones) earned a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from  North Carolina A&T State University, a leading historically Black college and university (HBCU).

Following his master’s degree in sustainable design and construction from Stanford University, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering also from Stanford, where he created an improved way to remotely identify energy efficiency measures in single-family homes.

Through Anthony’s leadership, Gemini  Energy Solutions works to implement strategies for overcoming cultural and socio-economic barriers that are preventing Americans from being engaged in energy efficiency. Gemini partners with municipalities – such as San Francisco International Airport and Memphis, TN – to support their efforts to meet their climate change goals and increase economic resiliency through energy efficiency.

Speakers on the panel included: Brig. Gen. David Turner, who retired from active duty in 2014. As South Atlantic Division commander, Gen. Turner oversaw the planning and construction of projects to protect America’s water resources and enhance the environment.

Dana Clare Redden is CEO of Solar Stewards, which creates opportunities for a clean energy economy. Their program provides a tool kit for affordable housing, universities, schools, non-profits, and municipalities. The company combines environmental and social attributes to help private-sector leaders make strategic clean energy commitments that benefit traditionally marginalized communities.

Dr. Regan Patterson is an environmental engineer and environmental justice researcher at Regan Patterson Consulting. She provides expert witness and mentorship services to organizations and scholars working to achieve environmental justice and community-engaged work to help clients push for livable and just communities.

Click here to watch on YouTube.

In related news, NOAA Communications has announced that despite pandemic shutdowns, carbon dioxide and methane surged in 2020.

Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at any time in the past 3.6 million years.

Levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic response, NOAA said.

The global surface average for carbon dioxide (CO2), calculated from measurements collected at NOAA’s remote sampling locations, was 412.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2020, rising by 2.6 ppm during the year.

The global rate of increase was the fifth-highest in NOAA’s 63-year record, following 1987, 1998, 2015, and 2016. The annual mean at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii was 414.4 ppm during 2020.

The economic recession was estimated to have reduced carbon emissions by about 7 percent during 2020.

Without the economic slowdown, the 2020 increase would have been the highest on record, according to Pieter Tans, senior scientist at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory. Since 2000, the global CO2 average has grown by 43.5 ppm, an increase of 12 percent.

The atmospheric burden of CO2 is now comparable to where it was during the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period around 3.6 million years ago when concentrations of carbon dioxide ranged from about 380 to 450 parts per million.

During that time sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra.

“Human activity is driving climate change,” said Colm Sweeney, assistant deputy director of the Global Monitoring Lab. “If we want to mitigate the worst impacts, it’s going to take a deliberate focus on reducing fossil fuels emissions to near zero – and even then we’ll need to look for ways to further remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.”

The Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML) makes highly accurate measurements of the three major greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, from four baseline observatories in Hawaii, Alaska, American Samoa, and the South Pole, and from samples collected by volunteers at more than 50 other cooperative sampling sites around the world.

Analysis of samples from 2020 also showed a significant jump in the atmospheric burden of methane, which is far less abundant but 28 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat over a 100-year time frame. NOAA’s preliminary analysis showed the annual increase in atmospheric methane for 2020 was 14.7 parts per billion (ppb), which is the largest annual increase recorded since systematic measurements began in 1983.

The global average burden of methane for December 2020, the last month for which data has been analyzed, was 1892.3 ppb. That would represent an increase of about 119 ppb, or 6 percent, since 2000.

Methane in the atmosphere is generated by many different sources, such as fossil fuel development and use, decay of organic matter in wetlands, and as a byproduct of livestock farming.

Determining which specific sources are responsible for variations in methane annual increase is difficult.

Preliminary analysis of carbon isotopic composition of methane in the NOAA air samples done by the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado indicates that it is likely that a primary driver of the increased methane burden comes from biological sources of methane such as wetlands or livestock rather than thermogenic sources like oil and gas production and use.

“Although increased fossil emissions may not be fully responsible for the recent growth in methane levels, reducing fossil methane emissions is an important step toward mitigating climate change,” said GML research chemist Ed Dlugokencky.

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