Bernton had his own panel from 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. in which he talked about carbon emissions situated in China, and connected it to the United States. His session, situated at the third floor of the Marquette Alumni Memorial Union, included the participation of his friend and assistant in his China research Zhu Ye, graduate student.
During their time in China, Bernton and Ye faced some challenges. “This was a true adventure,” stated Bernton jokingly. “During our research trip, we stayed at a camp with a temperature of 20 below Fahrenheit.”
Bernton went to China researching a specific problem and was in awe for what he found. A number of coal plants are being established throughout China in order to transform low-grade coal into a cleaner-burning methane gas that can be transferred through pipes around the cities. This process helps create cleanliness in the daily living lives of people in the city. Nevertheless, Bernton realized that using this type of technology would only make it worst for the environment around the world because the plants themselves would produce a greater number of carbon emissions than the ones that burn coal to create electricity.
According to Bernton’s report, China leads the world in yearly carbon emissions and produced more than 10 billion metric tons of carbon in 2014. In 2012, China was responsible for 29 percent of global carbon emissions. That is compared to the almost 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide that the U.S. produced in 2014 and the less than 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide that India produced.
The problem that these plants may create for the future is the production of carbon dioxide emissions themselves. If China continues to use these coal plants, the forecast of carbon dioxide emissions for the year 2040 will be over 14 billion metric tons.
Ye, who is working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was an O’Brien Intern last year, joined Bernton half an hour after the start of the session. She presented the audience with a movie created and edited by them, in which they explained the problems presented by the plants.
Bernton mentioned three things that were important about his research, and two that are really important and worth mentioning. First of all Bernton said that carbon capture is possible. “ Carbon can be stored underground for centuries, but it will increase the price of fossil fuel,” said Bernton.
Second, Bernton explained that a solution to the carbon emissions could be the production of solar energy. “Solar energy isn’t generating much energy, but it’s on a roll,” he said.
Bernton and Ye were later joined on their session by two Marquette University professors; Barrett McCormick, professor of Political Science, and Dr. Daniel Meissner, associate professor for the department of history. Together, the four of them also discussed different important topics relating to China, like social media and how it has been restricted to citizens in order to prevent exposures to the rest of the world.
During their research process, it was hectic enough to try to get information from the facilities because of the little permission they were given. Sill, even with all of the restrictions, Bernton and Ye were able to succeed during their time at China.
I was never sure if I was going to be able to understand the topics and ideas that Bernton was about to portray, but after listening to him and Ye talk about their experience, I changed my mind. I truly found it interesting to learn about the carbon dioxide emissions and the existence of these plants in China. It was a shock to find out how, by trying to help out, China now faces a long-term problem that could eventually affect the rest of the world.