Friday, October 26, 2007

Globalizing American Ingenuity

One of the most important things I think to remember about this global climate change problem is that it is global. America, as the world leader in CO2 emissions, must take a more pro-active stance in fighting this worldwide problem. I think that part of the problem in America is that we aren’t seeing the affects as much as other countries so it hasn’t hit home as much so to say. Katrina was the first major event due in part by global warming and many count it out as something that would have happened anyway or blames something else as its catalyst. While they may be right to some extent, there are many events in other parts of the world that are directly correlated to global warming and many other places that will suffer far greater if a warmer future is what is in store for them.


On the bus just this morning I overheard a conversation between a women and a young Australian student. She mentioned to him that it wasn’t too nice a day because it was raining. He quickly responded to her that in much of Australia rain was such a good thing because they had been in a drought for nearly a decade. He explained that in many places there was water rationing because the increased heat from global warming has caused precipitation to drop and wells to run dry. He is not the first person I’ve heard this from. An Australian principal, Andy Best, said the same thing a few weeks ago. He told about how his hometown was having problems with water and subsequently with food supply. His hometown was not very far south of the major city of Sydney. Australia has picked up the reigns locally and nationally and is working hard at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. They have independent companies that for free will go into a homes and reduce the amount of energy they use even as detailed as changing light bulbs. This not only saves the homeowner money, but also helps to reduce the reliance on power and subsequently fossil fuels. Australia is trying to change, but where is America?

Another place that will be greatly affected by global warming is the country of Bangladesh. With nearly most of its country less than 100 feet above sea level, a rise in sea level could destroy nearly their entire country. There country has 150 million people, about half that of the United States. Other islands in the south pacific and the Caribbean such as Haiti and Cuba, could be devastated as well. And Cuba is a place that deserves least to be ransacked by global warming.

Cuba has been called the leader in organic farming. They are likely one of the only sustainable countries in the world. They have made it a point to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and to reinstitute organic farming procedures and curtail their use of pesticides. In 2005 they had 5,000,000 of the light bulbs in the country replaced with low energy light bulbs cutting their lighting energy requirement by a third for the country as a whole. The Cuban government just recently began the Solar Institute in Santiago to find ways that they can take advantage of the suns power. This is a country where they are trying to eliminate tractors and use animals in their agrarian lifestyles. This is a country, where approximately 30% of all there energy comes from biomass, mainly sugar mills. Cuba is a country where they have, with the government at the helm, successfully increased their forested lands by 4% and that’s only the beginning. 55% of their forests are protected and 15% are used for scientific studies. I reiterate that Cuba is the only sustainable country in the world, yet with a slight increase in sea level they would lose 15 to 25% of their entire country.

These are certainly not the only countries that will be affected by global warming. All countries will be affected, yes including America. We are currently the largest agitator of global warming and it is time that we start acknowledging that and change our ways. There are many ways that we can do this even the American way: with a profit. Our country is gifted with the greatest higher education system in the world and with properly focused energy this gift could lead us to the forefront of this new technology making it cheap and accessible. It may seem like it is such an undertaking, and it is, but like John Hennessey, the president of Stanford, said it is “a series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.” Now is when we should take American ingenuity global and heal not only our position as a leader, but the world itself.

-Michael Johnson, Cornell University Student

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Believe...

I came into this project with a vaguely understood yet strongly rooted opinion on global warming. While the extent of my research and education on the science behind climate change and human impact on climate change is shallow, I’ve found myself surrounded by enough of the well educated in the issue to confidently say I “believe” in global warming. That is, I think the climate is changing, that the significant portion of that change is due to human activity, and that if nothing is done it will very negatively affect us in return. I’ve become so comfortable with this being fact that it surprises me when every so often I encounter another peer who claims not to “believe” in global warming. While we’ve certainly conquered the opinion of the scientific community, I think we still have a while to go on the convincing front before any solution to the problem will come easily. In my opinion, the greatest ground must be covered through political means, and political battles are won, at least in America, through gaining the support of the majority. I’ve come to the conclusion that even most “believers” don’t seem to have the sense of urgency necessary to push for the creation of the legislation I believe we will need to solve the problem of climate change.

However. I know that making the switch from a passive “believer” in global warming to an active worker in reducing it isn’t difficult because I’ve found myself making the change over the past few months. I think the inspiration to change in the individual is best when it comes from somewhere close. I found myself imitating my parents’ changing of their light bulbs to more energy efficient ones, and my local grocery store’s use of reusable bags. So, after beginning to dive more deeply into the issue of climate change through this project in combination with personal experiences over the last few months, I’ve found that the big change that I know needs to happen will come from the culmination of the work of individuals fueled by inspiration from their personal lives and local community.

-Fiona Kirkpatrick, Cornell University Student





Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Reality of Climate Change

Before starting this project, I’d always considered myself to be somewhat a crusader against global warming; I acknowledged it and was staunchly against it. The reality is that I, like most Americans, did not do nearly enough because I was largely uninformed. Prior to this year, all I had really done was make sure that all the light bulbs in our house were fluorescent. I still felt virtuous though; I saw Global Warming as a dim, distant, and somewhat inevitable circumstance and somehow thought that changing the light bulbs in my house was the only thing I could do.

However, as the incredible enormity of climate change becomes more and more evident to me, I’m also beginning to understand that there is so much we can change to really deal with this problem. I’ve made a few changes already; I don’t get plastic shopping bags anymore; if I know I’m going to be shopping I bring canvas bags. I also don’t drive, but this is more because I didn’t bring a car to Ithaca. However, these small changes aren’t going to be enough.

The biggest change that needs to happen is for the government to enact legislation to reduce CO2 emissions. The reality is that Global Warming is not simply scientific concern; the disastrous effects of climate change (as already seen with Hurricane Katrina and other similar natural disasters over the past few years) have a huge economic cost. So, if the United States government doesn’t deal with the problem now, we will have to deal with economic problems further down the line. One of the things I will be investigating over the next several weeks is why Congress has not passed legislation to prevent global warming, and how environmental advocates might work to get necessary legislation passed in the future.

In an October 11th speech at a climate change conference hosted by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy in San Francisco, Senator Diane Feinstein stated that, “Today, the vast majority of Americans agree that global warming is real – and that it is one of the most profound challenges of our time.” I’m not sure if this is necessarily true, but I believe it is imperative that we approach Global Warming from this perspective. Energy that was previously focused on convincing the American people of the reality of climate change needs to be shifted to taking immediate action. Therefore, another aspect of this project for me will be researching different ways that individuals can reduce their own carbon footprint and contribute to the reduction of worldwide CO2 emissions.

I’m excited to begin working with the Museum of the Earth on this climate change project. It will be an opportunity to educate myself and contribute to the community.

-Elena Moreno, Cornell University Student

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Change is an Odd Experience...

Studying climate change is an odd experience. It means that we have to change our frame of mind with respect to the actions we take and how we look at the planet. The manner we look at the planet in climate change studies compared to our daily lives has always amazed me. It is strange to go from my day to day schedule, worried about getting to classes on time, to investigating a planet that is billions of years old with natural climate cycles that range from seasons to periods of glaciation lasting 100,000 years. Looking at the Earth like this always reminds me of both how insignificant we are in the scheme of things and how powerful a collective human effort is. Even with all the technological improvements we have, we cannot do anything to stop a hurricane or earthquake. Yet at the same time, we have a profound impact on other parts of the Earth system, as seen in global warming. It is because of this feeling that the Earth does not change that we do not always notice how powerful our actions are. It is difficult to fight the idea that the Earth does not change when it is much easier to throw things away than to recycle and reuse them. Living on Earth is much like living with the freedoms we as Americans enjoy. Our government is set up to react to ideas and to change if necessary. Balances keep all of these ideas in check to sustain the system by making sure no one person is given too much power. Likewise, we cannot simply approach the Earth and the climate change we are experiencing with a single-minded approach. Adapting a “business as usual” approach is unacceptable because it does too little; attempting to fix every problem at once is unfeasible because of the cost. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. By approaching the problem in a way that is sensible to each of us we can protect our personal interests while using our planet’s resources responsibly.



-Tyler Huth, Cornell University Student

Monday, October 22, 2007

First Impressions

Hi, my name is Max Royster and I am one of the Cornell students working with the Museum of the Earth this semester on their Climate Change 101 series. Sitting here in front of the computer screen, the prospect of writing my first blog seems daunting. Because I am going to learn much more about climate change this semester, I guess I’ll start with outlining my current opinions on Global Warming.

The first time I can remember hearing anything about global warming or climate change was all the way back in the third grade. I remember that the back page of an issue of Weekly Reader had a small, one paragraph blurb about pollution, the “greenhouse effect,” and the possibility of climate change. As a child most of the article went over my head and I went on living my life, giving no further thought to the prospect of human actions causing global change.

Wow. Times have certainly changed. Over the past 10 years, (I can’t believe third grade was 10 years ago!) global warming has undergone the transition from an obscure and widely contested speculation to an almost universally accepted theory. During this time global warming has gone from being unworthy of media attention to front page material and the subject of numerous TV specials and documentaries. Perhaps one of the most famous is Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. Along with millions of other Americans, I saw this film and left depressed. I mean, I wasn’t sure the world was going to be around much longer. At least not in the way I was used to it. In fact, most of the coverage global warming gets in the media nowadays is of the doomsday type. Now is our situation really all that bad?

Based on what I know now, I think the answer is both yes and no. I say no because the earth’s climate been fluctuating for earth’s entire existence. In fact, right now our climate is colder than it has been for a lot of earth’s history. So it makes sense that the climate will change and get warmer. It seems to me that the earth’s climatic and circulatory systems have been around for a heck of a lot longer than humans and that they’ve dealt with a lot more serious things that we can throw at them. For example, the meteor impact that ended the age of the dinosaurs. That event was large enough to wipe out a significant percentage of life on earth and the climate still recovered. It seems to me that humans won’t really be able to do any lasting damage to the earth as a whole.

The reason I say that yes, climate change is a big deal is because climate change can cause a great deal for humans. While we probably won’t change the world forever, we can change it enough to make it our lives more difficult. Rising sea level is one of the first things that comes to mind. Sure, sea level rise isn’t the end of the world but if you think about the fact that much of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, a rising sea level can be a very bad thing. There are many other ways that global warming is going to affect us in the next century and while they may not be the terrible catastrophes that the media sometimes makes them out to be, they are certainly worth noticing.

-Max Royster, Cornell University Student

Friday, October 19, 2007

True Progress...

I read the other day that one of the most significant (relatively) recent
natural climate change events occurred over something like 10,000 years
and experienced a drop of 9° in mean global temperature. Some of the more
average scientific models of the next 100 years place the temperature
change at about 5°. Think about that, without even doing the math that
change is way, way, way faster than any natural process, with the
exception of maybe a meteor or some sort of alien invasion.
 
I’ve always been a little more climate-conscious, environmentally
conscious I should say, than most people that I know. My family spends a
large amount of time working and playing at a local organic farm set up by
the Rockefeller family, so “organic” has been in our vocabulary since the
beginning. Currently, as I am very much a college student and very much
not a farmer, my exposure to the natural world is largely second-hand.
This is not to say that I no longer care about the issues facing the
future, I probably wouldn’t be taking Earth Science if I didn’t. In fact
I’m considering an Earth Science major specifically because I think that I
have a role to play in this planet’s future.
 
I have a lot of trouble with the fact that people tend to discount climate
change as some crazy liberal scare tactic designed to kill the economy and
hurt George Bush. This issue is so much more important than politicians
that the two should not even be used in the same sentence, much less
directly tied to each other. The fact that a correlation exists between a
life-altering global issue and the personal agenda of some individual is
ridiculous.
 
While working with PRI on this project I would really like to convey a few
of these views (maybe some of the less radical ones) to the people who
actually make a difference. A team of scientists or university students
can change a little in the world, but it takes the entire world to make
true progress, especially on an issue so decidedly global in nature.
 
-Lloyd Ellman, Cornell University Student

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jumping to Conclusions...

Global Warming. When majority of the worlds “educated” population hears
those words, we immediately jump to conclusions, and I am certainly no
exception. Information on this topic is far from limited, but it’s not
exactly put in front of our noses either. As seemingly straightforward as
Global Warming is, it’s a tough topic to handle. Misrepresentations can
often distort your perception of the truth. Take for example the weather
we had during the whole month of September and into October here in
Ithaca. It reached 80 degrees on days when we’ve grown accustomed to
bundling up in our down jackets and hats. To many people, this can only
have one explanation: Global Warming. Oy, now we’re in a tough spot.
Yes, the earth will get warmer and we will experience longer summers and
shorter winters, but it’s far too soon for us to notice anything as
drastic that. So these kinds of assumptions put informers in a tough
spot. We can’t just put out a statement that Global Warming isn’t the
cause of the increase in heat, but we also can’t put out a statement that
it is either-- both of these would be incorrect. So should we launch into
a lengthy explanation about the weather patterns moving off of Canada? I
could probably be swayed either way on that one. After all, we could all
learn from our mistakes, and clearing up a few common misconceptions is
never a bad idea. Throughout the term I want to provide the public with a
more reliable and informative information on climate change. Even though
this unusually hot weather is not directly related to Global Warming, we
are affected by the changing climate in so many different ways, and it is
my goal to provide information so that citizens of Ithaca and even the
rest of the world can do their part so that our children and our
children’s children can enjoy the world as we are able to enjoy it today.

-Kelsey Gleason, Cornell University Student

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lights, Camera, Emissions

Cornell Chronicle
October 12, 2007
CU in the City Column by Brenda Tobias, Director of NYC Communications

Cornell Cooperative Extension educators in NYC are currently working with the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting in a project to field test B20 (20 percent biodiesel) in the location trailers on film and TV shoots in New York City. Graduate students from City College of New York and Columbia University will assist in measuring the difference in pollutants generated by B20-powered trailers and those using standard petroleum diesel, with the results published and used by city government to improve air quality and assist in meeting Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "30 by 30 Plan" to cut carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030.

-Reprinted with permission.

Focused on the Skies...

Having been interested in the weather for as long as I can remember, my eyes have been focused on the skies and the world at large long before Al Gore began talking publicly about global warming. When I took an introductory class in meteorology three years ago, I heard a lot on the topic. Also, working in a bookstore for two years allowed me to see all kinds of books and movies related to the topic of climate change. When Inconvenient Truth first came out, the book started to fly off of the shelves. I reviewed Inconvenient Truth for Teens when it appeared on the scene as well. So, suffice to say, I have had exposure to the topic.

However, I have only had passing knowledge with it. Certainly I knew about it and that serious consequences were coming. Yet I did not know the details. In elementary school, we were drilled in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra, and we were told that by doing our part, we could really make a difference. Sometimes that was not enough for me. I wanted to know how something so small as putting my juice bottle from lunch into the recyclables would do something about changing the planet’s climate. Somehow the explanation of “If we all did this one thing...” was not enough. I did it anyway; I knew it was a good thing to do and would help, somehow. I am as curious as a cat and stubborn as a donkey, perhaps even more so, and so I was always asking how this one thing would change the world.

Because of this project, my curiosity is starting to find answers and relief. It is amazing what those small things can do. Would you believe that we recycle nearly 64 billion tons of our waste a year[1]? Think about it. If that little mantra had not gotten drilled into our heads as a nation, we would not be recycling an amount roughly equivalent to nearly 29 million space shuttles[2]! That’s an insane amount of stuff. I guess every little bit helps after all.

My group’s task is to research reducing our carbon footprint. After having researched the policies that have been put in place, the opportunities grabbed, and the opportunities missed, I can see how the whole situation can be misjudged and misunderstood when someone has been misinformed. It is only now that people are starting to get a grasp on global warming. If we can keep educating ourselves, keep reading anything we can, go see exhibits, go see movies, perhaps we can bring it to a level we can all understand and make the decisions we must make clearer.

I heard someone say that the recent warm spell was due to global warming. I hope that they understood what they were saying. Something important to keep in mind when talking about climate change and global warming is that it doesn’t happen in a week, or even a month. The time scale for this change is on the scale of decades. Yes, the warming trend is part of the climate change and global warming that we have been hearing about. No, the recent heat wave is not attributed solely to global warming. Weather does change. Heat waves come and go. The severity and frequency could be contributed to global warming, though. The drought down south is not necessarily an indicator of global warming. The strength or weakness of the current La NiƱa, a part of what is called the Southern Pacific Oscillation and which is partially causing the lack of rain in the southeast, could be. Weather is a day-to-day phenomenon. Climate, on the other hand, is a long-term thing and much easier to predict as a whole.

The climate change predicted is real. I do not know how real, but I know it is there. Education is going to be part of the equation here. Maybe if we are all more aware, maybe we can handle this. Maybe if we recycle that juice bottle from lunch, we can really make a difference, step-by-step.



[1] http://earth911.org/recycling/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle

-Laura Santamaria, Cornell University Student

Monday, October 15, 2007

Just A Drop in the Ocean...

Climate change and global warming has been an increasingly hot topic. However, it is no longer just a discussion for scientists and researchers. It has become prevalent to everyday discussions between adults and even teens and children. Everyone wants to know what is going to happen, when it will happen, and what they can do to prevent it. Unfortunately, only one of these questions can be answered sufficiently (what can we do). However, the Climate Change 101 series in conjunction with PRI and Cornell’s EAS220 class will let the public know what we have learned and what we will learn about global warming.

Some people think that there contributions are so small that there is no way they could make a difference. However, if everyone has this mindset, nothing would get done. It is vital for people to understand what global warming might do so that they could recognize the importance of their contributions.

I would like to focus this blog on discussing the impact of global warming on a transnational level, focusing on the world as a whole rather than any particular region. Obviously, global warming denotes that the temperature will increase. However, this increase is not uniform but rather higher at the poles and lower towards this equator. This is why temperature change can be tricky; if global average temperature were to rise by 3.5 degrees Celsius over the next century, the temperature at the poles could rise by as much as 10 degrees. This would have a significant effect on the polar ice caps, which could devastate the coastal communities with sea level rise, as well as adversely affect the salinity of the oceans, thus affecting the ocean circulations. As you can see, one effect leads to another, which leads to another, etc…

Global warming may affect the severity of weather. It is fairly common sense that hurricanes thrive in warm waters. If the sea surface temperature rises, one could expect more intense hurricanes and possibly, an increase in the number of them. Also, weather extremes will be magnified. Places that currently see droughts will see more severe droughts and locations of heavy rain will experience even greater monsoons.

As a result of the weather, climates will change. Everything will be shifted northward. For example, the future climate here in Ithaca may be similar to that of current Atlanta. This not only affects the way people dress. It affects the agriculture and agribusiness of the area, the disease that is carried through certain climates, and even the livestock and ecosystems of the area. This includes land and ocean ecosystems.

There are many more important effects of global warming. Over the next several weeks, we will attempt to explain these effects, as well as give tips as to what people can do to help. Remember, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” (Mother Teresa)

-Michael Bennett, Cornell University Student

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reconciling Ones Ideals...

In beginning this project, and especially in focusing on energy conservation and the carbon footprint, I have come to realize how difficult it can be to reconcile ones ideals with the world in which we live. It will be absolutely necessary in the coming years for individuals to make minor lifestyle changes so that we, as a species may reduce the harm we are inflicting upon our planet. And yet, even given the urgency and the current focus given to the issue of global climate change, it can be still be difficult to make the small changes in our own lives that we know to be necessary. I have found myself to be quite unwilling to replace my incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents, even though I know how much energy I could save, because fluorescent lights seem ugly by comparison. It’s easy too for me to linger in the shower in the morning, though I always try to save water. The problem I find is that though individual action is necessary, acting as an individual can be very difficult. This is where community action becomes very important.

When entire communities come together to reduce their carbon footprint, the actions of individuals become much more readily apparent. With encouragement from their neighbors and the knowledge that they are part of a much larger group working to slow global climate change it becomes clear that the benefits of the actions of individual families far outweigh the minor sacrifices necessary to effect change. Many communities already are working to help their members make minor changes to reduce their energy usage, but I hope that over time everyone will see the necessity of decreasing the environmental impact of our lifestyle.

-Win Wharton, Cornell University Student

The Seeds of Change

When PRI and its Museum of the Earth started to talk about "blogging" about Climate Change we weren't sure what to do, how to do it, or where to begin. We knew that we wanted it to be organic and come from a place of discovery and learning.

Sitting around a table discussing this idea with our education and exhibits staff we came up with the idea to work with students. As part of Dr. Alexandra Moore's Earth Systems class at Cornell she and her students have offered to do research on climate change to create 'flip books' and the like for the Museum's permanent Climate and Energy exhibit. Part of this class is also to blog about the students experiences on their research, feelings on climate change, and what they are learning.

Today is the first of the students posts. There will be more to follow in the next weeks!

-Billy Kepner

Friday, October 12, 2007

Our Partnership with Museum of the Earth

I live in Ithaca, work at Cornell, and currently am the instructor for a course called “The Earth System,” (see http://www.geo.cornell.edu/hawaii/220/). My students, TA, and I are partnering with the Museum of the Earth on the Museum’s Global Change project. We are going to record our thoughts as we examine the processes responsible for climate change – both natural and anthropogenic – and the steps that we as a human society can take to ameliorate our impact on our home planet.

I am struck, initially, by the number of my students who refer to climate change awareness as a recent phenomenon. Certainly mass-media awareness is recent, catalyzed in large part by Al Gore, his film, book, and public appearances – and by this morning’s Nobel Prize. But awareness within the scientific community extends back much farther than that. The physics and chemistry of atmospheric gasses and their interaction with sunlight has long been understood. When I was a college student myself (I won’t tell you when, but it was “back in the day”) my class in environmental science covered the greenhouse effect and other consequences of anthropogenic fossil fuel use. Still farther back in the mid-19thc. the Swedish chemist Arrhenius studied fossil fuel burning as part of the industrial revolution, and cautioned against rising temperatures as a result of pollutant-driven atmospheric warming. Continuous monitoring of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been carried out for 50 years. Twenty years ago long-term records of climate and atmospheric composition were extracted from cores drilled in Antarctic ice, spectacularly confirming the lock-step correlation between global temperature and greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane. Why then is widespread awareness so recent? In part because the issues are complex. Understanding correlation, causation, and consequence requires careful untangling of interconnected processes. And because the Earth is a system of interacting parts, consequence, in particular, is difficult to assess with the high degree of confidence that would make for easy decision-making. This leaves us vulnerable. Without being an expert in the field of climate science it is easy to be confused (unwittingly) or misled (deliberately) by the enormous amount of available information and the competing claims of various interest groups. And some of those who would deliberately mislead are truly unscrupulous in their misrepresentation of climate facts, further confounding what is already complicated.

So where do the complexity and contradictory claims leave us? Perhaps to walk away disgusted by politically partisan bickering. Perhaps to simply throw up our hands and hope that someone, somewhere, figures it all out. Perhaps to assume that science and technology will rescue us as they always have in the past. Or perhaps to inform ourselves; to make the effort to sort fact from fiction; to take on the responsibility of understanding our role as planetary residents; to collaborate with others in our community to assess the problem and to design and implement its solutions. And that’s where I am. Ready to roll up my sleeves and help those in the communities in which I live and work to understand the solid and uncontested facts; to sift through potential consequences; to make well-informed decisions. Fifteen of us are embarking on this project together, excited by the opportunity and optimistic about the outcome!

-Alexandra Moore, Ph.D.
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Cornell University

A Not-So-Inconvenient Meeting


As part of our expanding global change program, Director of Education Rob Ross attended a January conference in Nashville on improving public understanding of this important topic. The conference featured a full day of Al Gore and climatologist Michael MacCracken explaining an expanded version of the slide show that was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. A not-so inconvenient meeting followed.... Less than a year later after their meeting, Al Gore has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Coincidence? You decide!

Former Vice President, Al Gore is Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR 2007

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.

Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.

Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.

Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world’s leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.

Oslo, 12 October 2007

-The Norwegian Nobel Institute

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The First Step

Welcome to the first Climate Change 101 Blog!

The Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth are really excited to begin this discussion with our community about climate change and what we can ALL do to make a difference.

As I sit here writing this blog I think it’s important to let you know that I am not one of the scientists, educators, or researchers here at PRI. I’m the marketing guy. I wanted to do the first post 1) because it’s cool and 2) because this blog is being set up to form a discussion between PRI and the community. Like you, I have heard many things about Climate Change and I have been frightened. When I saw Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” I remember leaving the theater thinking that the world was close to ending. After talking with PRI’s staff I have come to the conclusion that we really should not be afraid, but concerned. There are lots of little things that we all can do to make a difference, and lessen our own carbon footprint and impact on the earth.

So, because I wasn’t sure what global warming and climate change were I thought it would be best to start at the beginning. Here is what “Webster’s” has to say about it:

Global Warming

Noun

: An increase in the earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures widely predicted to occur due to an increase in the greenhouse effect resulting especially from pollution.

Huh? Here is a more “user friendly” definition: Current global warming is a slow but steady warming of the entire earth, caused by human use of fossil fuels (like coal, gas, and oil.) When we burn these fuels, they emit a gas called carbon dioxide into the air, which wraps like a blanket around the whole earth. This blanket (or insulation) traps heat, which would have bounced off the earth's surface back into space, in the earth's atmosphere. In a sentence--We get warm.

It’s PRI’s hope that we can use this blog as a forum. You can ask questions and we will help provide the answers. We are working with students and educators from Cornell University to help in this project as well as PRI’s own scientists and educators. We are going to discuss carbon offsets, how to lessen our carbon footprint, and a variety of other topics including how climate change is going to affect us here in Ithaca.

At the end of every post you will find some tips on how we can work to make a difference and slow the process!

Tip: Use reusable grocery bags. If everyone in the U.S. stopped using plastic bags we would conserve 12-millon barrels of crude oil a year. It’s a good start!

Any questions? email: cwk47@cornell.edu

Look for "Climate Change 101" a 12-part series in the Ithaca Journal on the last Wednesday of every month!