Expert panel discusses oil addiction, global warming

Beyond ethics, there is also raw self-interest in stopping global warming for future generations, said former three-term U.S. Senator Bob Graham at a town hall meeting on Oct. 16.

“Self-interest ought to cause Florida to accept a national leadership role as a state in terms of beginning to deal with global warming,” said Graham, who was also governor of the at-sea-level state from 1979 to 1987. “This is going to have to be dealt with on an international basis, but somebody’s got to start.”

Graham was one of several panelists to speak at the event in the Storer Auditorium. About 60 people attended the meeting, one of several such events across the county part of the “Re-Energize America” campaign sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The event also marked the first of many Graham hopes for the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at UM, a group aimed at increasing civic participation among college students and sponsoring policy events, such as the town hall meeting.

At the meeting, Graham called the country’s energy policy “horrible” and said steps must be taken to immediately begin reversing the effects of global warming, which he said could put Florida back under water.

“I think there is an ethical issue,” Graham said. “One of the ethical issues is, ‘How can we defend not taking prudent action when the consequences of failing to do so are so enormous?’ And second, ‘Isn’t it unethical for us to transfer the consequences of this warming of the climate to our children and particularly our grandchildren?'”

Brenda Girton-Mitchell, associate secretary general of the National Council on Churches, a group comprised of 35 Christian denominations, said the issues discussed resonate with people of faith because of what is written in Genesis about humankind’s dominion over the earth.

“On issues of the environment we’re finding great cooperation and collaboration and understanding of the need based on biblical principles to work to protect, to honor, to respect and to be good stewards to all of life, all of nature,” she said in an interview with The Miami Hurricane.

She said her organization’s efforts include helping to spread the message and educating people about the importance of protecting the environment.

“The church has a chance to bring a moral voice to this conversation, to produce materials that will help people to study based on what the word of God says [and] to connect theology with the way they behave,” she said during the meeting.

James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida, spoke about the science and business-sense of pursuing alternate means to power the world, such as photovoltaic cells on roofs.

“Energy isn’t just big oil or the government – it’s everybody,” he said in an interview with The Hurricane. He also said, “There isn’t one magic bullet that’s going to solve our problems.”

During his remarks on the panel, Fenton showed a presentation that presented facts and figures about energy consumption and how Florida can make progress, such as practicing conservation and using photovoltaic cells to heat water.

A similar slide show, presented by Adrianna Quintero of the NRDC, focused on a more global scale in her discussion of global warming and alternative energy solutions.

“No matter your political beliefs, it affects us all,” she said, outlining a series of specific ideas to curb fossil fuel consumption. She added, “We can end our addiction [to oil] and turn the corner in 10 years.”

Greg Linch may be contacted at