Global warming to be addressed at public forum

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 5, 2006 – Choices and Challenges, an annual forum at Virginia Tech with a reputation for tackling controversial issues, will continue the trend with the literally heated and topical subject of global warming.

Entitled “Changing Climate, Uncertain Future: Facing Global Warming,” this day-long series of panels and discussions will be held on Thursday, Nov. 2, at the Lyric Theater in downtown Blacksburg and at Virginia Tech’s Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown. This forum is open to the public at no charge.

In the 1980s, scientists and environmental advocates began to call attention to the fact that human beings are changing the Earth’s atmosphere, and, as a consequence, changing global climate – with unknown but potentially dire consequences. Today, scientists anticipate that the world is going to become a hotter place. Weather is likely to be more severe and less predictable. Some regions will see increased precipitation and flooding, while others will experience more intense droughts. Glaciers and ice sheets will continue melting, and sea levels are expected to rise.

“It is impossible to predict the exact repercussions of anthropogenic climate change – or when, where, and how these will be experienced,” says Eileen Crist, associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society (STS), and co-coordinator of the forum. “But predictions for human communities and nonhuman species are troublesome – and call for shifting to clean energy sources and, even more importantly, for curbing overproduction and over-consumption.”

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, record temperatures in 2005, and Al Gore’s recent efforts, climate change is becoming more prominent in public awareness. The Choices and Challenges forum provides an occasion for public discussion of scientific, ethical, ecological, and policy issues surrounding this topic.

“To be informed participants in energy policy debates, the public needs to engage with a wide variety of perspectives,” said Daniel Breslau, co-coordinator and associate professor in STS. “The forum’s main panel will feature a range of recognized authorities on various aspects of climate change, and will address scientific, technological, ecological, and political dimensions.”

The main panel discussion will take place at 11 a.m. at the Lyric. Moderated by Saul Halfon of the Department of Science and Technology in Society at Virginia Tech, the panel will include the following experts: Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists; Bill Chameidis of Environmental Defense and Georgia Institute of Technology; Karen Litfin, professor of political science at the University of Washington; Eugene Linden, writer on science and environment; and Karen Warren, professor of philosophy at Macalester College.

A series of background and follow-up sessions, at the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown, beginning at 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (respectively), will fill in with up-to-date materials and allow for audience participation. Session topics include the science background on climate change, ecological impact, the politics of oil, sustainable energy, and representations in the popular culture, among other topics.

In conjunction with the Choices and Challenges Forum, there will be a performance piece on climate change, titled The Silencer, by Rhiannon Tise. The piece will be performed Nov. 1-3 at Newman House at 8 p.m.

The Choices and Challenges Project was founded in 1985, and has presented annual forums on issues of public concern involving science and technology. For more information, visit the Choices and Challenges website or contact Daniel Breslau (231-8472) or Eileen Crist (231-5195).