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Experts Talk Global Warming in Plain Language

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October 12, 2005 | by Megan Fellman

[video | introduction by conference moderator David Lentz] (2MB)

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Earth is in a warming cycle. But how much of the climate change, if any, is man-made and how much is simply due to the earth’s natural cycles of heating and cooling?

Fueled by warm ocean waters, hurricanes Katrina and Rita recently brought this debate to the forefront, and a recent article in the journal Science suggests a link between global warming and increasing intensity of hurricanes.

A distinguished panel of experts will discuss -- in plain English, for nonscientists -- the scientific and social issues involved in ecological aspects of global warming at a public outreach program, “Global Warming: A Threat to Biodiversity,” Saturday, Oct. 22, at Northwestern University.

The free conference will be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Owen L. Coon Forum, 2001 Sheridan Road, Evanston. Doors open at 8:30 a.m.

Scientific studies show strong evidence of a rise in average temperature in many parts of the globe and that the rise is related largely to an increase in atmospheric “greenhouse gases,” such as carbon dioxide, a product of burning fossil fuels. While the average temperature increase has been only a couple of degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, there is abundant evidence that it has had a significant impact on living things.

Designed to help the public think about and better understand global warming and its impact on humans and other living creatures, the Northwestern conference will examine questions such as: Should we be concerned about an increase in global temperature of only a few degrees? If global warming is real, how much of it is due to human activity? Are particular animals or plants more susceptible to global warming? What will happen if we do nothing? Is it already too late? 

The specific topics and speakers follow:

• “Global Warming: Fact or Fiction?” Fred T. Mackenzie, professor of oceanography and geology and geophysics, University of Hawaii

• “Climate Change and the Oceans,” Richard A. Feely, program leader, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

• “Sustaining the Variety of Life,” Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology, Duke University

• “Climate Change and Biodiversity: A Public Policy Imperative,” Thomas E. Lovejoy, president, H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment

• “Conservation for the 21st Century: Getting Us Through the Bottleneck,” David Lentz (moderator), vice president of scientific affairs, Chicago Botanic Garden

Audience members will have an opportunity to pose their own questions to the panel following the individual presentations.

The “Global Warming: A Threat to Biodiversity” conference is the fifth in a series of annual public outreach programs focusing on developments in the life sciences. The series is designed to stimulate thinking about the impact of scientific research in the realms of ethics, law and public policy.

The conference is organized by Northwestern’s department of neurobiology and physiology.

For additional information, call (847) 491-5521 or visit the conference Web site at http://www.northwestern.edu/science-outreach, which includes speaker bios and directions to the event.