By Miriam Raftery
To hear the full interview, originally aired on February 20, 2017 on KNSJ, click the orange audio link above, and scroll down for highlights.
March 2, 2017 (San Diego) – Walter Oechel, PhD, is an internationally recognized expert for his pioneering research on ecosystems and global climate change. Oechel is Director of the Global Change Research Group at San Diego State University, where he is also a distinguished professor of biology.
In a recent interview on KNSJ, East County Magazine spoke with Professor Oechel about his pioneering work, which revealed that the Arctic tundra is now releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, instead of storing CO2, a major greenhouse gas.
His research has focused especially on field manipulation and measurement of climate change effects on ecosystem energy, water and carbon fluxes in Arctic, chaparral and peatland ecosystems. Oechel was the first to show that Arctic ecosystems, a repository of atmospheric CO2, could become a source to the atmosphere.
In fact, the North Slope of Alaska, which was a carbon sink for storing atmospheric CO2 through the Holocene, has became a source now emitting CO2 to the atmosphere, starting around the mid-1970s.
Oechel says the changes are obvious to long-time arctic researchers, who once wore parkas due to bitter cold, but now show up in “shorts and flip-flops ,” even wading in the Arctic Sea.
He voiced serious concerns over how the current political climate is harming science and putting our futures at risk. Perhaps most shocking, Oechel spoke about debating a prominent climate change denier on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., and the startling admission by his opponent after the staged event was over.