16 October 2008

Dr. Michael Oppenheimer on the Colbert Report

Okay, it's from February of last year. But it's just as relevant today.

learning events @ AMNH

Some great opportunities to learn more about the world that's changing around us are coming up at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in conjunction with the new Climate Change exhibit.

Future events @ AMNH

The museum plans to host several programs related to the exhibit including:

  • International Polar Weekend celebration (February 7-8, 2009)
  • World Water Day celebration (March 21, 2009)
  • A series of interactive exhibits introducing kids ages 9-12 to the science of climate change and possible solutions to global warming
  • A series of panel discussions bringing together world experts to discuss and debate the implications of climate change for our future (starting in January)
  • Additional programs focusing on the effects of global warming on the wine and coffee industries

Upcoming programs for adults

These selected programs examine both personal and industrial responsibilities regarding sustainability.

FutureFashion: Connecting an Industry to Sustainable Practices
Thursday, October 23, 6:30pm
$15 ($13.50 Members)

Industry experts, Julie Gilhart, Fashion Director of Barneys; Scott Hahn, President of Loomstate; and others, participate in a discussion with Leslie Hoffman, executive director, Earth Pledge, and Greg Loosvelt, Earth Pledge’s carbon footprint assessment expert, about ways the fashion industry is working to reduce its environmental footprint. Learn about Earth Pledge's FutureFashion initiative, which encourages sustainability by working within the fashion industry to promote renewable, reusable, and nonpolluting materials and processes. On exhibit will be one-of-a-kind creations made as part of this collaboration by a few top designers, including Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, and Rodarte.

Global Kitchen: Wine and Climate Change
Tuesday, October 28, 6:30 pm

What consequences will global warming have on the wine industry? In this discussion and wine tasting, climatologist Gregory V. Jones, Southern Oregon University; author and blogger Tyler Colman, DrVino.com and Wine Politics; and Evan Spingarn, wine importer and distributor, will address such topics as redrawing the wine map, wines and their cultural identities, and calculating wine’s carbon footprint.

Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival
Friday-Saturday, November 14-16
$10 ($9 Members)

This sidebar to the international documentary film festival will include two sessions on climate change and global culture. Post-screening discussions with filmmakers and specialists will follow these films. Selected works will circulate in the Traveling Film Series domestically and internationally.

Peace with Seals
Saturday, November 15
Directed by Miloslav Novak. Peace with Seals (Mir s Tuleni) tells the story of biologist Emanuele Coppola’s hunt for the Mediterranean monk seal. Conversations with marine biologists and philosophers, as well as the beachgoers on the Mediterranean shores, who have supplanted the seals, lead him to believe that the only monk seals left are those preserved in Coppola’s extensive collection of archival footage. (U.S. Premiere)

Recipes for Disaster
Sunday, November 16
Directed by John Webster. Recipes for Disaster features the filmmaker and his family in a quest to reduce their carbon footprints by going one year without using oil-based byproducts. Their goal of “green living” seems manageable at first, but surviving without everyday essentials, like goods packaged in plastic, becomes increasingly challenging. (U.S. Premiere)

March Point
Sunday, November 16
Filmmaker and producer in person
Directed by Annie Silverstein. Intent on finding solutions to the pollution caused by two oil refineries in their native land, three teenage members of the Swinomish Tribe arm themselves with cameras and travel across the country to meet the politicians who can help. Following the screening will be a discussion with the filmmaker and producer. (NY premiere)
Co-presenter: National Museum of the American Indian

Upcoming programs for kids and families

Adventures In Science: Climate Change Sundays
11 am–12:30 pm
(for 4th and 5th graders)
1:30–3 pm
(for 6th and 7th graders)
$30 each; $75 for all three

In conjunction with our new exhibition, these hands-on workshops introduce young audiences to the science of climate change and potential solutions. Participate in all three sessions and earn a certificate.

What Is the Difference Between Climate and Weather?
Sunday, October 19

When people ask about the weather, we know what they mean: is it sunny, rainy, or hot? But what does climate mean, and how is it different from weather? In this workshop, we’ll use fun activities to compare their differences and similarities and learn why climate is so important.

What Is Climate Change?
Sunday, October 26

Is Earth really getting hotter? Will a polar bear one day be your neighbor? Using the new exhibition Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future, we will examine the elements of climate change, its impact on Earth, and what that means for animals like polar bears, penguins—and us!

What Can We Do about Climate Change?
Sunday, November 2

We know that Earth’s climate is changing—but what can you do about it? Is recycling enough? What exactly are greenhouse gases? Discover just how much energy you use in your daily life, and learn ways you can reduce your personal impact on the planet and help others to do the same.

To register for these programs, call 212-769-5200 or visit www.amnh.org.

climate change exhibit @ AMNH

This past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to get a sneak preview of the new exhibit Climate Change: The Threat to Life and a New Energy Future that opens this Saturday, October 18th, at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

The day started in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians with opening remarks from the primary contributors,* which in hindsight seems apropos, considering the culture of native people in this region is being threatened by climate change.

From there we were led to the 3rd floor for the big show, on the way passing through the Warburg Hall of New York State Environment (I love the retro decor of wood paneling and white script lettering that surrounds the dioramas -- I hope they never renovate!), North American Forests, and the Hall of Biodiversity.

The exhibit

I don't want to give away the full show, because I think you should all see it for yourselves (it's in NYC until next August, then it moves on to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Mexico, and South America). To give you a sense of the importance and comprehensiveness of the event, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, professor of Geosciences at Princeton, basically said that in lieu of his intro to climate change course, his students should just come to the museum to observe the exhibit.

The beginning of the end

The overwhelming theme of the entrance to the exhibit is black, perhaps signifying the dark descent into our addiction with black gold (in this case coal). On the wall, a fiery red LED line overlaid on a black and white collage demonstrates the rise in world population, economic growth, fossil fuel use and correlating atmospheric carbon dioxide.

This image only represents recent history. The line starts well below the knees and during the last century skyrockets to well about your head. ©AMNH/D. Finnin

Back in 1550, the great forest of Europe were vastly diminished, wood being the primary source of energy. Reluctantly, people took to burning coal for energy.

Here's a comparison between world conditions in 1600 (when coal use was gaining momentum) and 2000 (8 years ago):

In 1600
estimated world population: 545 to 579 million
estimated size of world economy: $77 billion
estimated atmospheric CO2: 274 parts per million

In 2000
estimated world population: 6.07 billion
estimated size of world economy: $41 trillion
estimated atmospheric CO2: 369 parts per million

If my math is correct, in 400 years, the world population increased to about 12 times its size and atmostpheric carbon dioxide increased by 35%! How could anyone refute that humans have greatly contributed to the warming of our planet?

[Click image to read text]

Ellen V. Futter, president, AMNH

Hey kids, coal is not cool!

Theresa Maher, age 9, and Brian Maher, age 11, from Massachusetts, examine a model of one metric ton of coal in the Climate Change exhibition—a dramatic icon of human energy consumption that represents the amount of coal needed to power an average home for two months, emitting about 2.5 metric tons of CO2. ©AMNH/D. Finnin

Goodbye downtown Manhattan

This model of lower Manhattan demonstrates what will happen when sea levels rise. ©AMNH/D. Finnin

Some alarming facts

  • Earth’s average temperature has risen about 1.8°F over the past 100 years and it will rise much more as long as CO2 emissions continue to increase at current rates
  • Even if emissions were to stabilize today, temperature would continue to rise for several decades due to the delayed response of the climate system
  • Sea level has risen about 7 inches over the last 100 years, mostly due to the expansion of water as it warms. Every foot of sea-level rise translates to 100 feet of shoreline loss on the Eastern U.S. coast. Predictions vary, but future sea-level rise could range from 7 inches to more than 40 inches by 2100
  • The primary effects of sea-level rise are increased flooding during storm surges and coastal erosion and submergence. Some of the world’s largest, most densely populated cities are located in these regions; indeed, 634 million people live within 33 vertical feet of sea level

Look on the bright side

The exhibit is only about 88% doom and gloom. Okay, I'm exaggerating -- it struck a balance between human contribution to the problem, the science of climate change, the ecosystems affected, and potential solutions to slow down the process.

Cleaner energy options are examined, and each resource (solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal) was allotted a percentage of the full energy pie. Other solutions offered were individual ways we can reduce our carbon footprint. There's even an interactive pledge wall where you can join others in committing to specific actions to improve your ecological impact.

Visit the exhibit

Timed tickets to the exhibit -- which is on view until August 16, 2009 -- include museum admission. Prices are $24 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and $14 for children. Tickets can be reserved in advance by calling 212-769-5200 or visiting www.amnh.org. (Service charge may apply.)

*Ellen V. Futter, president of AMNH; Michael Novacek, SVP/provost of Science/curator of the Paleontology division; Edmond Mathez, curator of the exhibition; and Michael Oppenheimer, professor of Geosciences and International Affairs (an abbreviated title) at Princeton University

(Thanks again, Andre & Jenni!)