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Communicating and Learning About Global Climate Change: Opening Remarks John P. Holdren Director, The Woods Hole Research Center Teresa & John Heinz Professor.

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Presentation on theme: "Communicating and Learning About Global Climate Change: Opening Remarks John P. Holdren Director, The Woods Hole Research Center Teresa & John Heinz Professor."— Presentation transcript:

1 Communicating and Learning About Global Climate Change: Opening Remarks John P. Holdren Director, The Woods Hole Research Center Teresa & John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy, Harvard University President, American Association for the Advancement of Science Global Climate Change Town Meeting Annual Meeting of the AAAS San Francisco, 17 February 2007

2 The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now. from the Climate Change Statement of the AAAS Board, released

3 Global climate change is the most dangerous environmental problem humans have ever created. It is also the most difficult environmental problem humans have ever created. But there is much that individuals, firms, & governments can do to reduce the danger.

4 Climate change: complex & interdisciplinary SCIENCE –what climate is and how it works; –how global climate has been changing and why; –how its likely to change in the decades ahead; –what the impacts are likely to be on farms, forests, fisheries, health, property, ecosystems… TECHNOLOGY –the role of humans & their technology in causing climate change; –technological options for mitigating climate change; –technological options for adapting to it.

5 Complex & interdisciplinary (continued) ECONOMICS –population growth & economic growth as climate- change drivers –costs of abatement, adaptation, and impacts –consequences of alternative regimes of action & inaction for economic growth, employment, trade POLITICS & POLICY –policy options and their impact on outcomes –actors and interests in the climate debate…and the evolution of perceptions & interests over time –finding a global climate-policy framework that is adequate, equitable, and attainable –uncertainty and prudence in public policy on climate

6 Climate change as a teaching opportunity The physics & geometry of Earths orientation to the sun

7 Climate change as a teaching opportunity PHYSICS: Interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter

8 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Physics: energy flows in the atmosphere

9 Physics: water, ice, and sea-level rise Climate change as a teaching opportunity

10 CHEMISTRY carbon in fossil fuels and combustion coal CH oil CH 2 natural gas CH 4 + a bit more so, e.g., burning oil entails… CH 2 + 3/2 O 2 CO 2 + H 2 O

11 Climate change as a teaching opportunity BIOCHEMISTRY photosynthesis 6 CO H 2 O C 6 H 12 O H 2 O + 6 O 2 (Trees are made of CO 2 and water!) respiration C 6 H 12 O O 2 6 CO H 2 O anaerobic decomposition C 6 H 12 O 6 3 CO CH 4

12 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Earth science: the carbon cycle

13 True color MODIS composite image – late March 2000 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Geography: remote sensing

14 Mato Grosso State, Brazil, 2004 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Geography: land-use & deforestation

15 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Earth science: winds & jet streams

16 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Earth science: ocean currents

17 Earth science: how hurricanes work Climate change as a teaching opportunity

18 Earth science: climate & life over geologic time

19 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Probability and statistics of climate & weather

20 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Ecology: interaction of organisms with a changing environment

21 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Geography: climate-related health impacts World Health Organization estimates of climate-change-related increases in mortality for the year 2000

22 Climate change as a teaching opportunity Engineering: technology for CO 2 capture

23 Geology: formations that can store CO 2 Climate change as a teaching opportunity

24 Systems analysis / integrated assessment Climate change as a teaching opportunity

25 Source: National Science Board, Science & Engineering Indicators 2004, Ch 7. Sociology: public-opinion polling Climate change as a teaching opportunity

26 Political science: leadership


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