Clean Energy: Making a Difference for Tomorrow

Professor John Abraham, PhD, discusses climate change solutions.

John Abraham has a way with words that grab attention. But when you’re dealing with a topic with a massive, global impact, the words aren‘t very hard to find. In his words: “Climate change is literally killing people.” 

St. Thomas’ thermal sciences professor in the School of Engineering is internationally known and respected for his ongoing research on climate monitoring. His most recent research, which appears in the January 2022 edition of Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, reveals that each of the last nine decades has been warmer than the prior decade.   

A father of four daughters, Abraham is doing his part to save the planet for future generations. He and his wife joined Xcel Energy’s Windsource program more than two decades ago, receiving all their electricity from wind. They installed solar panels on their house and drive an electric car. 

Mechanical Engineering Professor John Abraham.
Photo by Mark Brown

Through collective efforts, Abraham believes we can stop global warming and save lives so that his daughters and future grandchildren may have an opportunity “to enjoy the splendor of this planet.” 

What does your research tell us about climate change?
My measurements are showing, unequivocally, that the world’s oceans are heating up. Warm oceans greatly speed up the evaporation process. The humidity that originates in the ocean is the fuel for storms. So, as the oceans warm, storms become stronger with heavier rainfalls in some areas and hurricanes in others. Even more importantly, 93% of the heat associated with global warming ends up in the oceans. So, if you want to understand global warming, you really have to measure ocean temperatures.

Why are the sustainability efforts by St. Thomas important when climate change is a global issue?  
With St. Thomas’ highly efficient buildings and operation, our university has shown that we can have gorgeous, comfortable buildings that also use energy more wisely, waste less and use more clean, renewable energy. These efforts make a tremendous difference.  

Since St. Thomas has put a focus on stewardship, people in the community take notice. When they see a major university leading the charge, those people find ways to reduce waste in their own lives. St. Thomas also has become a standard that other institutions 
look up to.   

We also are teaching leaders of the future who will help us navigate the nexus between energy, sustainability and climate change. St. Thomas is doing its part in supplying talented young graduates to this 
profitable workforce. 

What do you suggest people can do right now that will make a difference tomorrow? 
There are two things people can do. First, people can let their elected officials know that climate change is important to them. I’ve been told that if one person contacts an elected official, it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. But if five people contact an elected official, it is a groundswell. Collectively, we can push our representatives to take stronger action to put incentives and legislation in place that are sustainability focused. 

Second, people can reduce their own use of fossil fuels. Solar or wind power can easily be purchased through your power supplier or privately. Clean energy, particularly wind and solar, have come down in price so much that they are now cheaper than coal. As an individual, people can tap into this trend and reduce their own emissions. Of course, doing things like recycling helps too! 

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