University of Vermont

Students on the Lawn

Climate Reality Project Presentation

by Patrick Mathon '16, LEED Green Associate, Clean Energy Fund Outreach Intern


The Climate Reality Project educates people on the pressing issue and impacts of climate change.  Since Al Gore founded the Climate Reality Project in 2006, he has traveled across the world to train leaders and volunteers in advocacy for climate change education.  To date, there are over 6,000 volunteers who are trained to give presentations to large groups of people.  

On Wednesday, April 16, Champlain College was lucky enough to host one of these trained volunteers, Chad Nichols, for a Climate Reality Project Presentation.  Trained in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2013, Nichols presented Burlington’s first ever viewing of The Climate Reality Project.  His presentation was well attended by students, faculty, staff, and community members from around the area.

The evening began with Christina Erickson, Champlain College’s Sustainability Director, highlighting a few of the recent environmental accomplishments at Champlain College, City of Burlington, and the University of Vermont.  From there, Nichols spoke about the drastic effect of greenhouse gas emissions on rising global temperature, depleting crops and increases in food prices, and the severity of recent natural disasters.  Nichols incorporated astonishing statistics into his presentation, such as nine of the ten warmest years in history have occurred in the past decade.  

What is the effect of this?  What were once fertile lands well suited for agriculture are now becoming dry and arid.  These droughts have an extremely negative impact on the ecological and agricultural health of these regions, leading to less crops and a substantial spike in food prices.  Likewise, as CO2 levels and temperatures rise, the oceans evaporate more moisture into the air.  This, in turn, raises the temperature of the oceans.  Extreme storms, such as Hurricane Sandy and Irene, are related to these warmer ocean temperatures and the increased energy they bring forth.  I found this portion of Nichols’ talk to be both informational and empowering.  These talks serve to educate both students and community members on the incredibly important issue of climate change. He demonstrated the pressing timeline we are facing in reducing our carbon footprint, and provided us with the increased confidence to speak about such issues.

Despite all of the overwhelming facts and statistics of climate change offered by Nichols, he did point out some encouraging facts.  From 2005 to 2012, wind and solar energy use in the U.S. increased by over 600% and 1000%, respectively.  Additionally, the declining cost of solar panels will continue to drive sales and increase use.  I immediately thought of UVM’s leadership in clean energy initiatives, including the implementation of the Aiken Solar Trackers, Central Heating Plant solar panels, and the wind turbine at East Ave and Main St.

Nichols ended his presentation with a word of advice to raise awareness of climate change: speak up, educate yourself and others, and don’t give up.  This presentation reiterated an innate feeling of responsibility; a reminder that the future is in our hands and we must make decisions with climate change as the top priority.  I strongly recommend attending Nichols’ next presentation of The Climate Reality Project on Friday, May 2 at City Hall in Burlington, VT, starting at 12:00pm.