Roanoke College Professor Studies Effects of Global Warming

Dr. Frank Munley traveled to Laos to study climate change.

Dr. Frank Munley thinks humans are the main culprit of global warming, and looking at his data, who could refute his claim? Munley also thinks that the earth is in serious danger.

Munley, an associate professor of physics at Roanoke College, gave several presentations in 2005 in Laos, a communist state in Southeast Asia, that is focusing more attention to environmental issues. His speech, "The Science of Global Warming," centered around challenges posed against global warming over the past 100 years and why humans are the reason global warming is becoming such a hot issue. He also presented lectures on global warming last year at Radford University and Roanoke.

Many think that Laos is an odd place to conduct environmental research; however, Munley thought that Laos was as good as any other location to conduct research.

"Laos is a very interesting place," Munley said. "The old communist leaders are dying off, and the young leaders are more aware of environmental issues. Laos is growing in modernity like China did years ago. It is a beautiful country that has a great future in tourism. There are great mountains, natural resources, rivers and a jungle backdrop. It is definitely remote."

In Laos, Munley discovered that human interaction with the earth is causing more harm than good. Humans, he said, are ignoring how their actions and behavior affect the resources available.

"The production of greenhouse gases caused by fossil fuels is the main reason global warming is gaining speed," Munley said. "A hundred years ago, scientists thought that the ocean could absorb carbon monoxide. However, in 1988, they measured that CO2 in the air is rising."

So, why would anyone want to voluntarily submit himself to such disturbing data about the earth's future?

"It is very interesting from a scientific standpoint," Munley said with enthusiasm. "Quantifying the climate effects through physics and geophysics is very interesting. I used isotope analyses to reconstruct ancient temperatures to better understand what climate would be without the industrial age. We go back 10,000 years before the use of fossil fuels, and fortunately, our climate hasn't changed that much."

However, Munley does not let humans off the radar so easily.

"If we go back even farther, say 400,000 years, the earth's temperature has changed very quickly by great amounts," he said.

There have been great glacial and interglacial temperature rises in the past; if temperature rises would occur in the near future-like during the glacial age-modern civilization would become extinct, Munley said.

"Humans must be aware of their impact on Earth," he said. "We are disturbing the existence of mammals and also causing great pollution in big cities."

Munley points to past data to explain the impacts humans have on the world.

"In 1950, London experienced great pollution impacts," Munley said. "Hundreds died because of the vast amount of pollution created. So much waste was made that it had no where to go and, consequently, the pollution hovered in the air."

Also, Munley looks to nuclear products as a source of devastation. He said that if a nuclear war occurred, it would destroy civilization as we know it. Munley is deeply concerned that there is far too much carbon monoxide in the atmosphere and that it is pushing the earth's temperature higher.

"We are tickling the tail of dragon," Munley said. "An unstable climate will make life difficult."

The key change that humans must make, said Munley, is reducing the use of fossil fuels in industries. This fuel reduction will be both energy efficient and economically efficient.

"We have nothing to lose by reducing the use of fossil fuels and everything to gain," Munley said.

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