Conference on Climate Science Coming to UCSC

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Set in the middle of a forest and surrounded by wildlife, UCSC is a school dedicated to environmental awareness. In efforts to keep its students and the community involved in pressing issues regarding the environment, UCSC will host a conference on climate change, titled “Climate Science and Policy Through the Looking Glass” on the weekend of Feb. 28.

Co-sponsored by the Division of Social Sciences and the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, the conference is planned to be held in the College Nine/Ten Multipurpose Room. Scientists, policymakers and climate experts will come to Santa Cruz to take part in the discussion of the changing climate and its effects.

The conference will not only give people the opportunity to be informed about pressing climate change concerns, but the opportunity to hear about it from some of the most educated persons on the issues.

The conference will kick off on Friday and will present the Fred Keeley Lecture on Environmental Policy, named after Keeley, an environmental advocate and treasurer of the county of Santa Cruz. Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist, will give the lecture this year. She has done research regarding ozone destruction and played a significant role in explaining the large ozone hole over Antarctica. The conference continues Saturday, where attendees will be given the opportunity to attend three panels — Current State of Climate Science Research: What Do We Know, Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change, and Adapting to the Future Effects of Climate Change.

In the last century the global average temperature increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, many scientists anticipate that Earth’s average temperatures will increase between 2 and 12 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Statistics like these have brought climate issues to the forefront of public attention.

Senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Jeffrey Kiehl has been working on the issue of climate change and the effects of greenhouse gases for over thirty years.

“Given the changes that we are experiencing now and especially the changes that are predicted to occur in the next few decades due to greenhouse gases and global warming, I feel that this is the most serious issue that humanity is certainly facing and will face in this century,” Kiehl said.

The first panel, Current State of Climate Science Research, will feature speakers like Kiehl who will examine how the water cycle will be affected by climate change and how scientists use modern technology to study climate change.

A warmer climate means more evaporation and a greater demand for water, which subsequently leads to an increase in droughts, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Droughts have been more expansive in the last ten years in the United States — the year 2013 was the driest year on record for many parts of California. In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency.

“Some of the things I am going to talk about are related to how the water cycle will be affected by a warming world,” Kiehl said. “In particular, droughts and extreme precipitation and the challenges that still exist in developing better ways in predicting how water availability is going to change in the future.”

The first panel will also feature Gavin A. Schmidt, a climatologist and climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, who like Kiehl has spent a lot of research on modeling systems.

“How we make models and how we test them is the backbone of what we do,” Schmidt said. “I will be discussing how we build credibility and how we use evidence from models to interpret data.”
The conference will also offer possible solutions to reduce the problems caused by climate change. During the second panel — Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change — Steven Cohen, Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, will be addressing the need for an increase in the use of renewable energies. In addition to writing books on environmental policy and sustainability, Cohen served as a policy analyst in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and served on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology.

“We really need to spend more effort to develop the technology for durable energy, particularly solar and battery technology,” Cohen said. “Rather than trying to raise the prices of fossil fuels, I think we need to lower the price of renewable energy. In essence, renewable energy would knock fossil fuels off the market.”

Mike Mielke, Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Vice President for Environmental Programs & Policy, works on improving state and federal policy regarding climate change, which is pertinent when considering how to adapt to future climate changes — the topic of the third panel, Adapting to the Future Effects of Climate Change. Mielke spoke about how relevant these conversations are in light of the changes taking place throughout the world.

“This is the biggest issue facing us and people should do what they can to inform themselves about the biggest issue facing humankind,” Mielke said.

A changing climate means a changing world. Jeffrey Kiehl, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, noted the importance for students and younger people to get involved with these climate issues, as it is the changing world they will be inheriting.

“It is extremely important for younger generations to understand what is happening to the world and what is happening to the climate system,” Kiehl said. “It’s my commitment to taking the message of this important issue scientifically and socially out to a broad audience.”