Confronting Climate Change

March 12 and 17-19, 2016

Monsanto Auditorium

Bond Life Sciences Center

View Videos from the 2016 LSSP Symposium


Richard Alley

Richard Alley

Richard Alley is a professor at The Pennsylvania State University, an environmental scientist, author, and one of the contributors to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. With over 250 scientific publications, he has been asked to provide advice to the highest levels of government. He is widely credited with showing that the earth has experienced abrupt climate change in the past - and likely will again, based on his meticulous study of ice cores from Greenland and West Antarctic. He hosted the recent PBS miniseries Earth: The Operators’ Manual, and has been called a cross between Woody Allen and Carl Sagan for his enthusiastic efforts to communicate the excitement and importance of science to everyone.

Big Challenges and Bigger Opportunities: Confronting Climate Change

Saturday, March 12th, 2016, 10:30 am

Wise use of the scholarship on energy and climate change can improve the economy as well as the environment. We gain great good from the energy in fossil fuels, but we are burning them roughly a million times faster than nature saved them for us, so we must change. If we delay the change, the CO2 will cause warming through unavoidable physics. Costs are projected to rise faster than temperatures, with each degree of warming costing more than the previous degree. We have already experienced the first degree of warming, and committed to much or all of the second, so we are discussing whether to cause the more-expensive degrees to follow. Uncertainties motivate greater actions to reduce warming, as costs of emitting CO2 may be slightly less, slightly more, or a lot more than expected, with little chance of being a lot less. Adapting to the committed warming and avoiding further warming can be done in beneficial ways. And, we are the first generation that knows how to use existing technologies to build a sustainable energy system that can power everyone almost forever, economically, environmentally and ethically.

Andrew Revkin

Andrew Revkin

Andrew Revkin is a journalist, author and educator who has been covering science and the environment, from the North Pole to the White House, for more than three decades, mainly for The New York Times. As the Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University, he teaches courses in online and environmental communication and documentary film. He has written on global warming science and solutions and energy issues since the 1980s. Drawing on his experience with his New York Times blog, Dot Earth, which Time Magazine named one of the top 25 blogs in 2013, Revkin has spoken to audiences around the world, including at the United Nations and Vatican, about the role of communication innovation in forging progress on a turbulent planet. In spare moments he is a performing songwriter and he often accompanied Pete Seeger at regional shows.

A Journalist’s Anthropocene Journey

Thursday, March 17th, 2016, 7:00 pm

Andrew Revkin, a veteran environmental writer, author and educator, retraces his unique 30-year journey charting the dawn of this era known increasingly as the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch in which Earth’s climate and environment is primarily being shaped by humans. Revkin is more than a prize-winning chronicler of the science of global change. In his 1992 climate book, he presciently proposed this: “Perhaps earth scientists of the future will name this new post-Holocene era for its causative element—for us. We are entering an age that might someday be referred to as, say, the Anthrocene. After all, it is a geological age of our own making.” He had no idea that this would happen just eight years later, as the chemistry Nobelist Paul Crutzen and the biologist Eugene Stoermer proposed that Earth had entered the Anthropocene (a more scientifically grounded term). Not long after that book was published, he joined the staff of The New York Times, reporting on climate change from the North Pole to the White House. Now teaching at Pace University, he continues to write his Dot Earth blog on the Opinion side of The Times. He’ll describe the pitfalls and opportunities that are emerging as the media environment goes through changes as disruptive as those in the global environment.

Marcia McNutt

Marcia McNutt

Marcia is the Editor-in-chief of Science and its family of journals and is currently nominated to be the next President of the National Academy of Sciences. Formerly of MIT and Stanford, she led the NAS study that evaluated options for slowing global climate change. As the first female director of the U.S. Geological Survey, she directed the investigation of the extent of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She is also known for her research on exceptions to plate tectonics, the currently accepted model of how Earth’s surface works. Her studies of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occurring far from tectonic plate boundaries, where such activity is predicted to take place, deepened geologists’ understanding of Earth’s crust.

Climate Intervention: Promise and Peril

Friday, March 18th, 2016, 4:00 pm

The recent Paris climate agreement raises the chances that nations will rise to the challenge of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, the question remains as to whether emissions can be curbed quickly enough to prevent unacceptable consequences from climate change, beyond what humankind and the ecosystems upon which we depend can reasonably tolerate. It is important, therefore, to understand what the prospects are for various forms of emergency climate intervention, such as carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere and safely storing it for long periods of time underground or modifying Earth’s albedo (its reflectivity of sunlight) to cool the planet. CDR can be accomplished via industrial, geomechanical, and agricultural methods of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but all are slow, currently expensive, and have difficulty scaling up to the problem at hand. Albedo modification, such as spraying aerosols into the stratosphere, is relatively cheap and works quickly, but is fraught with known and unknown environmental, political, economic, legal, ethical, and other risks. The bottom line is that the safest, cheapest, and surest route to an acceptable climate state is to aggressively curb greenhouse gas emissions now.

Wes Jackson

Wes Jackson

Wes Jackson is the founder and president of The Land Institute, a science-based organization that researches and promotes sustainable agriculture. He was a Pew Conservation Scholar in 1990, a MacArthur Fellow in 1992, and received the Right Livelihood Award in 2000. He is also the author of several books, including New Roots for Agriculture, Becoming Native to This Place, Consulting the Genius of the Place, and most recently Nature as Measure.

Natural Systems Agriculture: New Discoveries, New Opportunities

Saturday, March 19th, 2016, 9:00 am

In 1776 our Declaration of Independence stated that we are all created equal. The Constitution allowed legal chattel slavery. Faced with the high moral of the Declaration and the legal in the Constitution, the war came.

In our time we are faced with a Moral-Legal split. Land use is number two as a source of greenhouse gases and annual grain agriculture is a major contributor. Beyond that, our soils continue to erode and be degraded with industrial chemicals sponsored by fossil fuels. Not moral, but clearly legal. It extends to the legality of ripping the tops off mountains, drilling in the arctic, creating dead zones, all the while destroying rural community life by sending our cultural seed stock to the cities. The problem of agriculture itself goes back 10,000 years and more to the eastern end of the Mediterranean where early revolutionaries featured annual grains. These grains now cover some 70 percent of agricultural acreage and provide some 70 percent of human directed calories. For the annual grains to germinate, nature’s ecosystems had to be subdued with the hoe and plow. Industrial agriculture raised the stakes. After nearly four decades of research involving scientists on five continents, we can imagine perennial grain polycultures replacing annual grain monocultures in the foreseeable future. Performing more like nature’s prairie, they will also sequester carbon and make conservation a consequence of production. Agriculture becomes a major contributor to halt global warming and the high moral and the legal become one.

Marshall Shepherd

Marshall Shepherd

Marshall Shepherd is a Professor of Geography and the Director of the Atmospheric Science Program at the University of Georgia. He was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS), the nation’s largest and oldest professional/science society in the atmospheric and related sciences. He is also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s What We Know climate panel, which is dedicated to communicating the facts behind climate change to the public. He routinely appears on CBS Face The Nation, NOVA, The Today Show, CNN, Fox News, The Weather Channel and several others. His TedXAtlanta Talk on “Slaying Climate Zombies” is highly regarded and cited. In February 2013, Dr. Shepherd briefed the U.S. Senate on climate change and extreme weather. He is also the author of the forthcoming book The Urban Climate System.

Zombies, Sports, and Cola: Implications for Weather and Climate Communication

Saturday, March 19th, 2016, 10:30 am

Weather and climate discussions are as common in hallways, social media, and civic clubs as they are in scientific conferences. Unfortunately, they are often “clouded” by myths, perceptions, and misinformation. In this presentation, I will look at the challenges of communicating weather and climate as well as offer some pathways forward.

George Luber

George Luber

George Luber is an epidemiologist and the Associate Director for Climate Change in the Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects at the National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to managing the Climate and Health Program at CDC, he is a co-chair of the Climate Change and Human Health Interagency Workgroup at the US Global Change Research Program, a convening lead author for the US National Climate Assessment, and a member of the American Anthropological Association’s Presidential Task Force on Climate Change.

The Health Consequences of a Changing Climate

Saturday, March 19th, 2016, 2:00 pm

At an ever-increasing rate, evidence is accumulating that the earth’s climate system is warming and that the health consequences of this warming are already impacting our communities. From the direct effects of weather and temperature extremes on illness and death to the potential for changes in disease ecology and geography brought about by “state shifts” in the earth’s biosphere, climate change will be a defining issue for public health in the 21st Century. This presentation will review the evidence on climate change and its impacts on health, and discuss emergent or future threats to health as a result.

Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes is a professor at Harvard University, as well as a respected essayist and author. Her 2004 essay “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” has been widely cited, both in the United States and abroad, and her 2010 book, "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming”, co-authored with Erik M. Conway, was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Time Book Prize, and received the 2011 Watson-Davis Prize from the History of Science Society.

Climate Change Denial: Where Do We Go from Here?

Saturday, March 19th, 2016, 3:30 pm

Polls show that citizens around the globe overwhelmingly accept the scientific evidence that our climate is changing for reasons that are largely human-caused, but our political leadership lags behind. On the national level, the US has made little substantial headway in controlling the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, nor in accelerating the transition to non-carbon based sources of energy. Yet there is good news on the horizon: many provinces, states, and cities are moving forward with carbon-reduction policies. Can action on this level make a difference? Do we have the technology we need to solve this problem, or do we need a breakthrough? This lecture suggests that the answer to both these questions is yes. However, we have to accept that governance is necessary; we will not solve the energy-climate problem simply by trusting in the “magic of the marketplace” to get us there.

Daniel Crawford

Daniel Crawford

Daniel Crawford grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where he began studying the cello at the age of 9. He recently graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in Geography and Environmental Sciences. At the University, Daniel held a position as a research assistant studying tree rings and climate, where he had the opportunity to work with Professor Scott St. George to turn climate data into music. He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and plans to pursue his study of tree rings in graduate school in the near future. Two of Daniel’s compositions will be performed at the Symposium:

1. A Song of our Warming Planet

Composed by Daniel Crawford, performed by Daniel Crawford before the presentations by Andrew Revkin and Naomi Oreskes

Climate scientists have a standard toolbox to communicate their data, but the cello usually isn’t one of them. In this composition, each note represents a year, ordered from 1880 to 2015. The pitch of each note reflects the average temperature of the planet relative to the 1951–1980 baseline. Low notes represent relatively cool years, while high notes signify relatively warmer ones. The data comes from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, a compilation of global, annual surface air temperatures.

2. Planetary Bands, Warming Worlds

Composed by Daniel Crawford, Performed by MU Graduate String Quartet before the presentation by Marcia McNutt

Written for a string quartet, this piece highlights different climates around the world by turning 135 years of thermometer measurements into music. The cello matches the temperature of the Equatorial Zone (0°-24°N), the viola tracks the Mid-Latitudes (24°-44°N), while the two violins separately match the temperature of the High Latitudes (44°-64°N) and the Arctic (64°-90°N).