The Wheaton College Annual Science Symposium featured speaker Dr. Wallace S. Broecker on Mon. March 20. Broecker is the Newberry professor of geology at Columbia University, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a committee member of the Earth Institute.
The 84-year-old has been regarded as “The Grandfather of Climate Science” and is well-known among the scientific community for coining the phrase “global warming.” His March lecture addressed the question: “What Can We Do About Fossil Fuel Carbon Dioxide?” A more informal and intimate Q&A session preceded the lecture and was moderated by Stephen Moshier, professor of geology and department chair at Wheaton. Just over 15 students, professors and friends attended the Q&A session, with dozens more attending the evening lecture.
“As CO2 is building up, the interest is building up. But the progress is zero; we really haven’t done much,” said Broecker. He continued to stress the importance of CO2 removal in the near future and the imminent risks marginalized communities will face based on evidence of altered rainfall patterns and ice cap melting. He said, “We’re going to learn all kinds of things from this. We’re manipulating the planet. This is dangerous stuff, but we’re going to learn a lot.”
In summer 2016, senior Claire Carlson met Broecker during the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program through the National Science Foundation. At Broecker’s prompting, she communicated with her geology professors to help bring him to Wheaton’s campus to talk about the issue of global warming and the imminent call to action.
“As stewards of the earth, we have a responsibility to recognize our mistakes and make every effort to clean them up,” said Carlson after the lecture. “We also ought to work hard to alleviate human suffering, and try to stem the tide of suffering that global warming will cause.”
Broecker continues to study the ocean’s role in climate change, which he began researching over fifty-five years ago. He attended Wheaton College for three years before transferring to Columbia University in New York for his senior year to work as a research assistant for J. Laurence Kulp, a geochemistry professor at the school and the “Billy Graham” of his field, according to Broecker. Broecker has published a myriad of articles and books on the topic, and is decorated with dozens of medals and awards for his work.