By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma is no stranger to extreme weather, but many say those extremes are even greater than before.
Norman resident and biologist Kathy Rand is convinced those climate irregularities are a result of climate change caused by pollution, especially CO2 emissions.
Rand was one of several Norman residents who rallied at the State Capitol on Tuesday to raise awareness.
“Climate change is the most serious challenge that the world is likely to face in our lifetimes,” Rand said at the rally Tuesday. “We now have an opportunity and moral obligation to act and create the political will to shift from polluting energy to clean energy,”
Rand is co-leader of the Norman chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.
“You can’t just walk away from the atmosphere,” she said. “Our actions in the next few years will have a huge effect on ourselves and future generations. One of the problems with CO2 is that it stays in the atmosphere for roughly a thousand years.”
Hundreds of climate scientists around the world have documented climate change, Rand said, and yet much of the U.S. is still in denial about the problem. Rand has become passionate about waking people up to find solutions for future generations.
Rand has lived in Oklahoma since 1989 and in Norman since 2001. She and her husband came to the Sooner state from the University of Wisconsin. She has a Ph.D. in biology.
“When we moved to Oklahoma City, we both had offers at Oklahoma Medical Foundation,” she said.
It soon became clear that her son needed extra care, and she stepped out of the work force to focus on raising her family and two sons, who had some special needs.
“For the past 24 years, I was working very intensely to make sure they would make it when they grew up,” she said. “Now I’m able to rethink how I’m going to spend my time to make a difference.”
Rand became involved with the Norman Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby in 2012.
“I found out about them because I was watching one of U.N. climate meetings online,” she said. “I was also following Twitter at the time and seeing what was tweeted out, and I ran across Citizens Climate Lobby.”
Oklahoma’s economy is driven by oil and gas. Some of the state’s elected leaders refer to climate change (aka global warming) as a hoax, but Rand said it’s important to continue to raise the issue.
“We’re facing climate change just like everybody else,” she said. “We’ve had serious problems with heat and the drought and the wildfires.”
Rand is convinced ordinary people are becoming aware of the problem.
“I think people are listening,” she said. “I think people are realizing that climate change is real. People look around and see the difference in when plants bloom. Extreme weather events have been happening everywhere, so there’s really no escaping it. The science on it is clear and has been clear for a long time.”
Rand believes it’s important to reach out to policymakers.
“We need to speak to everyone if we want to change policies — we need members of the Senate and members of Congress if we want to solve the problem,” she said.
Jim Long, chair of the Sierra Club Red Earth Group, said several Norman and Moore members attended the rally Tuesday at the Capitol. Red Earth member Joel Olson, a retired NOAA meteorologist from Moore, also spoke.
“Global Warming is a fact and can be measured,” Olson said. “The number that describes it is called the annual global mean temperature. And every year since 1976, year after year for 37 years, the mean temperature has been above average.”
Olson said global warming is a result of releasing too much CO2 into the air.
“It now contains 400 parts per million, and we must get it down to 350 if we want the climate to remain comfortable,” he said.
The “Beyond Coal” campaign strives to retire a third of the nation’s more than 500 coal plants by 2020 and replace the majority of them with clean energy solutions like wind, solar and geothermal.
The effort to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, which many believe to be the largest contributor to climate change, has produced results in Oklahoma. Instead of investing in infrastructure for aging coal plants, some utilities are opting to phase them out and replace them with cleaner energy sources.
“A transition to clean energy is a sensible solution that will spur innovation, create more jobs, strengthen our economy and secure safer, healthier communities,” said Whitney Pearson, Sierra Club organizer.
Speakers representing organizations at the Capitol on Tuesday included The Peace House, Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby and Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance.
“The science is clear and irrefutable. Climate disruption is acknowledged by 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists, who agree that human activity is the primary driver,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, with The Peace House. “We have solutions available to address climate change. Many of us are already working to implement the solutions we need, and we invite our state leaders to get on board or get left behind.”
While Tuesday was national Earth Day, Norman will celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day on Sunday with special activities at Reaves Park from noon to 5 p.m.
Government, nonprofit and private organizations will provide free, hands-on activities, demonstrations and exhibits celebrating Earth’s natural resources and a healthy community.
Children are encouraged to bring their bikes to Reaves Park for the bike rodeo.
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