“Apologies for the strange accent,” Dr. Geoff Levermore began as he addressed a group of Augustana students and community members Monday evening in the Gilbert Science Center.
Levermore, emeritus professor of the University of Manchester and contributor to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the IPCC and former vice president Al Gore, interspersed humor into his presentation on “Climate Change, IPCC and the Built Environment.”
“I often teach some of the most boring lectures at my university, so I often have to tell a few jokes just to keep people awake,” Levermore said.
Despite the occasional joke, the majority of Levermore’s presentation took a serious tone when addressing the significance of the built environment’s effect on climate change.
“My biggest takeaway would be awareness of environmental issues, and I think that I will be more aware of actions that I can take to help combat climate change,” senior Ali Goers said.
Levermore conducted climate change research as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was established in 1988 to “assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”
The IPCC uses only peer-reviewed publications and reports findings without taking a view, Levermore said, and the group plans to release its fifth assessment report before the end of this year.
According to Levermore, buildings are one of the most significant contributors to climate change, accounting for about 33 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“I found his presentation somewhat alarming and was surprised by the extreme effect that our actions are having on the environment,” Goers said.
Additionally, Levermore used the Urban Heat Island effect to explain the tendency for urban areas to maintain higher temperatures at night than rural areas due to the high concentration of buildings.
“Buildings have the greatest potential to conserve,” Levermore said.
In his presentation, Levermore referenced the Sioux Falls Seminary as an example of an energy efficient building. The seminary was built in 2009 with a focus “to better steward the environment,” according to the Sioux Falls Seminary website. Even the parking lot of the building emphasizes being an environmental “steward” with special parking spaces reserved for energy efficient vehicles.
Creating energy efficiencies in the built environment is a focus in many areas outside Sioux Falls as well. Regulations such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) set forth standards and rating systems to assess how environmentally responsible buildings are.
In addition to all of his scientific evidence, Levermore also emphasized the ethical implications of climate change.
“We are all neighbors in the world,” he said. “We all share the atmosphere, rich and poor.”
He called specifically on Augustana students to enact change, referencing the mantra, “Go Viking” as it relates to the Augustana’s focus on discovering new ideas in order to “create an even better tomorrow.”
“The sign of an intelligent society is that it looks ahead,” Levermore said.