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A Physics Professor Teams Up With Musicians To Fight Climate Change

Garth Lenz


  Hurricane Harvey and Irma broke storm records in the U.S. A USU Physics professor who studies climate change is joining with a northern Utah string quartet to encourage public discourse about the connections between recent natural disasters and sustainability.

While he is a physicist, Dr. Robert Davies is also an advocate. He mixes his passion for sustainable living with his love for music by working with a university quartet on a collaboration known as The Crossroads Project.


The Crossroads Project is about sort of the whole breadth of human sustainability of which climate change is certainly a piece, and probably the most acute piece," said Davies.


Through a series of vignettes, The Crossroads Project alternates between narrations about climate change followed by a movement of music played by the Fry Street Quartet.The first three segments cover the way life is sustained on earth. The last section of the collaboration contrasts how nature works and, Davies said, the unsustainable ways that many people are living.


“And the reason is because if we disrupt the climate system too much, the physics of the system tells us that the risk of pushing ourselves into a climate state very different from the one we are in now, very different from the one that humans are adapted, that risk is very high,” he said.


Weather helps create the intensity of recent storms like Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Davies said increased intensity may be due to rising temperatures.


“Weather arises from the redistribution of energy within the earth system," he said. As the earth system retains more energy which is what is happening, this is how we’re changing the climate. We're trapping more energy into the earth system and that energy then is changing the way that ocean’s circulate and the atmosphere circulates and as a result that changes our weather patterns.


"When they do form, it’s not clear if climate change will change the number of hurricanes and typhoons that you get but what is quite clear is that it will change their intensity so you do get a tropical storm that forms it will be on average more intense and in fact that has been born out over the last several decades.”


Through diet and travel choices coupled with system changes, Davies said people may be able to save the diverse ecosystem.