The organization currently represents 5.8 million students and holds its universities accountable for creating a seven-part action plan to reduce carbon emissions, with a long-term goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Bowling Green State University is one out of four baccalaureate Ohio universities that have not signed. BGSU President Carol Cartwright has been asked twice by Gary Silverman, director of the center for environmental programs and operations, to sign the commitment. However, Silverman said Cartwright did not respond to either of his requests.
Some BGSU students attended a meeting with President Barack Obama at the 2011 Power Shift Conference in Washington D.C. Photo by Gabriel Morgan.
“The university needs to step up,” Silverman said. “We’re not doing it in comprehensive way. It’s invisible to a lot of students.”
Cartwright says she did not sign the commitment because she cannot guarantee that the university will reach the goal of zero carbon emissions in the future.
“I do not make promises that I cannot keep,” Cartwright said. “The initiative calls for a number of specific actions that simply won’t work for a university like BGSU and that we would be unable to implement.”
Tanks outside of the RemTec plant on North Enterprise Road. Photo by Nikia Washington
The United Nations Environment Programme released that by 2035, an estimated 150 million diagnoses of various diseases caused by the hole in the ozone will have been avoided. In 1989 the Montreal Protocol ordered a phase out of certain ODS, in order to save the ozone, having a direct correlation with the dismissal of these diseases. RemTec International is a local company assisting in the phase out.
The ozone layer is a layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs ultraviolet rays from the sun, protecting the Earth’s surface. Over the past century, ozone-depleting substances have created a hole in the ozone layer, allowing ultraviolet rays to reach the Earth’s surface, harming the human population and the environment. UV rays cause cancer and other health problems.
The Montreal protocol, which went into effect in 1989, is an international treaty that prohibits the production of refrigerants, particularly CFCs such as freon, that deplete the ozone layer. These refrigerants are commonly found in older refrigerator and air conditioner tanks.
Former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan was quoted on the U.S. Department of State website saying this was perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date. The EPAs website states that today, over 190 countries are participating in the Montreal Protocol.
Headquartered is Bowling Green, Ohio, RemTec International is one of 35 companies nationwide that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards to recycle refrigerants, said Tim Kearny, vice president of RemTec.
Originally, the company started out as a manufacturer of fire extinguishers, Kearny said.
“In the late 80s, early 90s it was determined that some of the agents being used were ozone-depleting substances,” said Kearny. There was then a move to recycle these materials. RemTec bought equipment to recycle ozone-depleting materials, and soon they were receiving more calls for recycling than for fire extinguishers.
“Our main focus is on ozone-depleting gases,” said Scott Warner, plant manager of RemTec.
Warner, a Bowling Green State University graduate, said the company works closely with the federal and local environmental agencies, and the facility is an EPA-approved facility.
According to RemTec’s website, the company provides three main services: buy back and recovery, destruction, and cylinder certification.
The buy back and recovery program buys uses refrigeration tanks containing old refrigerants from their clientele. Warner explained the company then refurbishes and reclaims the refrigerants to sell to consumers who still use older model technologies that can use the chemicals. The Montreal Protocol states that these CFCs can no longer be produced for new technologies, but allows the use of recycled CFCs to be used for older models that are only compatible with these types of refrigerants.
“The biggest user is the U.S. military,” Kearny said. “They have a lot of old equipment that still needs these refrigerants.”
“We make sure the product isn’t able to escape,” Warner said.
Although most times the refrigerants are recycled, there are circumstances in which they must be destroyed. RemTec’s website states that in some cases, the ozone-depleting substances cannot be recycled because they can no longer be used legally or are extremely deteriorated. Warner said the destruction consist of removing these refrigerants from the tanks and destroying them on site, through either burning or destruction by use of other chemicals.
RemTec’s Bowling Green office is located on Haskins Road. Photo by Nikia Washington.
Warner said that RemTec operates on a closed booth system, meaning they function in a way that the chemicals should not escape.
However, the Toxic Release Inventory shows that during the past four years, RemTec has released more than 10,000 pounds a year of toxic waste. All of the waste were chemical gases, including 54 pounds of freon, one of the ozone-depleting substances.
Kearny said the chemicals listed on the TRI report are refrigerants.
“There is no human harm,” Kearney said of these releases. He did say, however, they cause can cause harm to the upper atmosphere, which is the exact issue they are trying to prevent.
Phillippa Cannon of the Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. EPA Region 5 said TRI data is not sufficient to calculate potential effects on human health or the environment.
RemTec has four additional locations around the globe: Italy, Canada, Australia and California. RemTec’s website identifies Australia’s location as a destruction and processing plant, and the other locations as sales offices. Other than headquarters, Bowling Green also has a manufacturing division.
“More than manufacturing, we focus on reclaiming and reselling,” Warner said. Kearney said it is mainly titled the “manufacturing division” because of the previous production of fire extinguishers.
Warner said RemTec moved its office from Holland, Ohio, 12 years ago to Bowling Green, where the company had room to expand.
“We have a lot of local ties to Bowling Green,” Warner said. Some of the company’s staff are BGSU graduates, including Warner and Marcus. RemTec also chose to relocate to Bowling Green because the utilities were cheaper.
How the Montreal Protocol Works
The Montreal Protocol functions in a series of phases. Phase one was to phase out class one substances, CFCs and halons. The United States completely ended the production of these gases in 1996, but they were produced globally until December 2010.
Truck brings in refrigeration tanks to RemTec plant. Photo by Nikia Washington.
“The class one substances have now all been completely banned from production,” said Kearny.
Phase two consists of the phase out of class two substances, HCFCs, which were replacements for CFCs. These are said to be completely banned by year 2030.
“The United States is accelerating that phase,” Kearny said. “Hopefully by 2020 [HCFCs] will be down to zero production.”
Chemicals made to replace ozone-depleting HCFCs, HFCs, have been found to be greenhouse gases that cause global warming, presenting the next issue to be tackled.
In the future, RemTec will focus on working with the Montreal Protocol to eliminate these gases from the Earth’s atmosphere.
Kearney said work is currently being done on products which do not promote global warming or ozone depletion and can be used as a refrigerant, likely to be available in the next two years.
Hertsgaard coined the term “Generation Hot” using the date in 1988 that NASA scientist James Hansen warned the U.S. Senate about global warming. There are nearly 2 billion people around the world who were born after June of 1988.
“You all are fated to spend the rest of your lives coping with the hottest climate that our civilization has ever known,” he said to the audience of the lecture.
Hot was released Jan. 19 and has received rave reviews from various publications such as The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and The Boston Globe.
Hertsgaard said he got the idea for the book following an interview with Sir David King in London in October 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Hertsgaard said King is the most influential person on climate change, besides former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
After the interview, Hertsgaard was walking through London and heard children’s voices in a park, which reminded him that he was a father, and that his daughter Chiara would have to live through climate change. He was determined to use his journalistic abilities to find out what it would take to survive. Chiara was the inspiration for Hot.
Hertsgaard said that when he first began his research, climate change was said to
Hertsgaard with daughter Chiara, the inspiration for his book. (Contributed Photo)
be a very dangerous but very distant problem, and it was not expected to hit until the year 2100. Scientists also thought it was a preventable problem. Climate change ended up arriving 100 years earlier than expected because the Earth was more sensitive to greenhouse gases than scientists originally thought.
Hertsgaard also said many people use the terms “global warming” and “climate change” interchangeably, when they actually refer to two different things. Global warming is the rise in temperature caused by excess greenhouse gases, he said. This temperature change causes climate change which includes “extreme weather” such as an increase in precipitation or a stronger drought. Even if people immediately stopped everything that is causing climate change, temperatures would still continue to rise for another 50 years, he said.
In the United States, many people do not believe that climate change is happening and think it is one big hoax. Hertsgaard said this mindset only occurs in the U.S., and the Republicans are the single political party in the world that does not believe in it. Climate change is as controversial as gravity in the scientific community.
“Man-made climate change is happening now, and it’s dangerous,” he said.
The United States is the No. 1 climate polluter, yet it does not have a global climate treaty. According to Hertsgaard, the U.S. would if “Washington wasn’t dragging their feet.” The Netherlands has a 200 year plan to cope with climate change.
Hertsgaard explained that the industrial countries started the
Mark Hertsgaard speaking at the Edward Lamb Peace Lecture at BGSU. (Photo by Hannah Mingus)
problem, and now everyone has to pay. Capitalism is environmentally blind and doesn’t think long term which is the government’s job, he said.
The audience of Hertsgaard’s lecture mainly consisted of Bowling Green students, who were members of Generation Hot.
Sophomore Meghan Duran-Whitmore attended the lecture as part of her international health class. She said she learned the difference between global warming and climate change. She also left feeling angry at prior generations.
“I’m mad at the people before Generation Hot,” she said. “They didn’t have any respect for the people coming after them. They just did what they wanted, and now we have to pay.”
According to the New York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency enforced its first greenhouse gas regulations on Jan. 2, 2011. These new laws will mainly focus on building new facilities and modifying already existing plants. In the next 10 years, the regulations will “impose efficiency and emissions requirements on nearly every industry and every region.”
EPA’s report on climate change, says the “eight warmest years on record have all occurred since 2001, with the warmest year being 2005.”
Hertsgaard ended his lecture, by offering a bit of hope to the audience, especially to the members of Generation Hot.
“I am hopeful but only because I insist on being hopeful,” he said. “Hope is faith. Hope is believing. Hope is an active verb. Hope is a choice to believe that you can make something different, even when it looks dark. …I am hopeful because when I look out to the members of Generation Hot I see so much potential.”
“Passionate and somber…[HOT's] urgent message is one that citizens and governments cannot afford to ignore.” —Boston Globe
“Informative and vividly reported book…passionate.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Climate change is well underway, writes Hertsgaard, and we must begin to adapt to it even as we work to stop it….The author’s stated goal is to make readers feel hopeful so that they will act, but he is candid about his own lapses into despair. . . . Hopefully, this book will prompt readers to action. Starkly clear and of utmost importance.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“In Hot, one of America’s finest journalists confronts one of the world’s most urgent problems. Hertsgaard cuts through the denial and disinformation about climate change, offering a clear, tough-minded view of our predicament. More important, he shows that the worst harms of global warming are not inevitable and outlines the steps that can help to avert disaster. Hot bravely takes aim at perhaps the greatest climate threat of all: apathy.” —Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation
“I know what you’re thinking: The problem is so massive I can’t bear to read any more about it. But you’re wrong. Mark Hertsgaard not only makes the workings of climate change clear, vivid and comprehensible but gives us some reasons for hope. Some of the ways to fight or adapt to global warming are simpler—and more unexpected—than you would think, and some of the places where these lessons are being applied you never would have guessed. Hot is a lively, personal, very human piece of reportage about an issue that will ever more be at the very center of our lives.” —Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost
“Like the fairy tales that Mark reads to his daughter, Chiara, Hot is full of out-sized challenges and glimmers of hope. In this brilliant postcard from the year 2060, Mark explores a world that will be defined, for better or worse, by decisions made today as we conduct a massive planetary science experiment—one that future generations will grade us on.” —Terry Tamminen, Secretary of the California EPA for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger“Passionate and somber…[HOT's] urgent message is one that citizens and governments cannot afford to ignore.” —Boston Globe