Macalester Sustainability Office
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Mary Heskel: Will Plants Save the World?

On Thursday, November 8th, Mary Heskel, a Macalester Biology professor, spoke about plants role in climate change. The title of her talk was, “Will plants save us from climate change?” It turns out this is not such a simple question. She discussed the recently released UN report that stated that if we do not keep the global climate change under 2°, there will be drastic changes the ecosystem, such as extreme weather, destruction of the coral reef and vast drought which would greatly affect crop yield. This is incredibly alarming. Many people believe that since plants photosynthesize, perhaps they could prevent this. However, there is lots of uncertainty with this claim. This is because the way that plants and ecosystems function in the future may change. While plants do produce oxygen through photosynthesis, they also produce much carbon dioxide through respiration. In fact, they produce much more than man-made pollution. Therefore, the way that plants function under different environments is very important. Plants respire differently across seasons, and depending on the temperature and level of CO2 in the environment. Therefore, the way they respond in the future will be vital to understanding what will happen with climate change.

Sam Zieve