WXXI AM News

Climate Change

When you think about the effects of climate change, perhaps your mind goes to drastic weather events, air pollution, or rising sea levels, but what about threats to human health and nutrition?

Research shows that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are decreasing the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. This research isn't new. In fact, a small, but growing group of scientists has been stressing how CO2 can significantly impact plant growth and nutrition since the 1990s, but no one seemed to be listening. That’s all changing as more evidence becomes available.

We dive into some of the research, and discuss how climate change can affect our food supply and our health, both in the short and long term. Our guests:

  • Jane Andrews, nutrition and labeling manager for Wegmans Food Markets
  • Dr. Ted Barnett, M.D., founder and medical director of Rochester Lifestyle Medicine; founder and board chair of the Rochester Lifestyle Medicine Institute; and co-coordinator of the Rochester Area Vegan Society
  • Sue Hughes-Smith, member of the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition
  • Walter Nelson, horticulture program leader at Cornell Cooperative Extension 
  • Bob King, certified crop advisor with the American Society of Agronomy, and senior agriculture specialist in the Agriculture and Life Sciences Institute at Monroe Community College
  • Ruth Blackwell, owner of Mud Creek Farm

Sustainability is a word we hear often in the news and as we discuss subjects like climate change, but if you were asked to define sustainability, what exactly would you say? 

The authors of a new book argue that most people understand how important sustainability is, but few can define it. Randall Curren is a professor at the University of Rochester, and he's one of the co-authors of a book called Living Well Now and in the Future: Why Sustainability Matters. The book explains the obstacles that prevent us from being more sustainable, and offers some ideas for how to create opportunities to live better together now and ensure other generations live well in the future.

We talk about fossil fuel use, transportation, meat consumption, climate change, public policy, and more with author Randall Curren.

Wegmans

Wegmans is experimenting with new, heartier produce, and new ways of growing it, on over 200 acres of organic farmland and orchards, and they plan to pass that knowledge on to local farmers.

On the top of a hill, on a plot overlooking Canandaigua Lake, Wegmans Organic Farm and Orchard is growing 1800 cherry tomato plants. Some varieties are more popular than others.

Nate August, the farm's manager, pulls at a golf-ball sized Sakura tomato. He says customers haven't been wild about these bigger varieties. Turn out, people like tinier tomatoes.

freeimages.com/Flavio Takemoto

The organization representing more than 600 public school boards across the state says how science is taught in the classroom will influence how a generation of students think about climate change.

Starting this fall, new standards for teaching science go into effect in New York.  They put a much more specific emphasis on the role of human activity in global warming.

Click on the LISTEN link above to hear an interview with Dave Albert, spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association.

New research coming out of the University of Rochester shows humans are contributing more methane to the environment than scientists previously thought — as much as 25 percent more. Plus, despite what scientists previously thought, the risk of global warming triggering a release of natural methane is low. Researchers say that means reducing the use of fossil fuels could be even more important in the fight against climate change. 

Paleo-climatologist Vas Petrenko led the studies in Antarctica that resulted in these findings. He joins us in studio to discuss the research and how it could influence future environmental policies. Our guests:

  • Vas Petrenko, paleo-climatologist and assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester
  • Peter Neff, postdoctoral associate and member of the Petrenko ice core research group

Al Gore is back at the center of the climate conversation. Is that a good thing? Some progressives fear that Gore -- perhaps unintentionally -- turned the climate issue into a political debate. Pragmatically, they worry that he'll push more fence-sitters into the denial camp. But Gore's fans say that he has helped give the issue the urgency it requires. Our guests will discuss it:

Rochester City Council endorsed the city’s Climate Action Plan in May. The plan’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2010 levels by 2030.

We discussed the draft plan in November when the document was available for public comment. Now that the plan has been approved, members of local climate action groups say their input was not taken into full consideration. They want more information about how the plan will be enacted: How will programs be funded? Will the plan create jobs? Will it impact the city’s poverty issues?

Last month, Mayor Lovely Warren  joined the Mayors National Climate Change Agenda, which has pledged to strengthen local efforts to protect the environment. We discuss how the Climate Action Plan fits in with this goal and if proposed efforts will have enough of an impact on combating climate change. Our guests:

As a child, singer Bethany Yarrow was surrounded by a family of activists who loved folk music. That's because her father is Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary. As an adult, her musical tastes drifted to other genres, but eventually, she went back to her roots and was inspired by how folk music can convey important messages.

She and her partner, cellist Rufus Capadoccia, have performed and participated in demonstrations all over the world in support of causes like the environmental movement, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and more.

Yarrow is in town for a performance in the Finger Lakes, but first, she's our guest on Connections. We talk to her about her activism and music with meaning.

It has been almost two weeks since President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. What will it mean for our country?

Our guests weigh in on how the decision will affect the environment, the economy, diplomacy, and the future of alternative energy. In studio:

Steve Curwood is the host and executive producer of Living on Earth. His pilot of the show aired in the 1990, and now, 27 years later, he says the majority of the climate issues that he addressed on that first program -- the state of the oceans, energy choices, environmental justice -- have become more significant problems. Curwood says the only issue that has improved is the public understanding of climate change. 

This hour, Curwood joins us for a conversation about social equity, climate resilience, and green development in Rochester. Our guests:

Pages