Thursday, January 24, 2008

UI to participate in national teach-in on global warming

UI to participate in national teach-in on global warming

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It may be hard to remember now, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when scientists and others concerned about global warming had difficulty drawing attention to the issue.

That’s certainly not the case anymore.

With the popular success of the film An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change receiving the Nobel Prize last year, and constant media attention to one aspect of the problem or another, there can be no doubt that people are generally aware of the issue. Indeed, if awareness of the problem were enough, we would be more than halfway home on this one.

But simple awareness cannot provide a foundation of public support strong enough for effective action on a problem as large or complex as global warming.

In order to promote a deeper public understanding of the issues associated with climate change, next week members of the campus community at the University of Illinois will take part in a nationwide teach-in dubbed, Focus the Nation. In the words of the event’s organizers, the goal of the teach-in here and at other schools is “to move America beyond fatalism to a determination to face up to this civilizational challenge, the challenge of our generation.”

At noon on Tuesday, January 29, U of I professor Clifford Singer will give a brownbag lecture titled, “Inconvenient Truths about An Inconvenient Truth.” Singer’s goal is to correct some of the mistakes in the way global warming has been presented to the public because he believes sound public policy regarding climate change must develop from a sound understanding of the science related to the issue. In his talk, Singer will also analyze some of the more popular and palatable approaches that have been put forward for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and explain why he thinks the best solutions to the problem are not among those.

Two other events that are part of Focus the Nation will take place on Wednesday, January 30th. That evening, the Center for Global Studies at the U of I will sponsor a panel discussion in the auditorium of the Urbana Free Library. The purpose of the discussion will be to present an overview of the current science on global warming along with some consideration of the range of proposed solutions to the problem. Panel members include Michael Schlesinger, a professor of atmospheric sciences and member of Illinois Governor Blagojevich’s Climate Change advisory board, Andrew Leakey, a researcher who studies the links between plants and climate change, and William Sullivan, Director of the U of I’s Environmental Council.

Also on the evening the 30th, the U of I student chapter of the organization, Engineers Without Borders will host a free screening of An Inconvenient Truth, along with a moderated discussion to follow.

All three components of the Focus the Nation teach-in are free and open to the public. More information is available through the U of I Environmental Council’s website at