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Thursday, April 14, 2016

URI faculty union to hold conference on climate change science April 22

Sen. Whitehouse, renowned climate scientists to speak at ‘Climate Change in an Age of Misinformation’

Most people have heard the claim that climate change isn’t real, that it is a phony concept that will lead to a crippled economy and provide funding for questionable green initiatives like wind and solar power.

But during a daylong conference, “Climate Change Science in an Age of Misinformation,” Friday, April 22 at the University of Rhode Island, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and renowned climate scientists will rebut those claims and many other myths about climate change.

Sponsored by the American Association of University Professors at URI, the program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Ballroom, 50 Lower College Road, Kingston campus. The event is free and open to the public, but you must register by Friday April 15. Lunch will be provided at no cost.

Whitehouse said the state is already feeling the effects of climate change.

“Average winter surface temperatures in Narragansett Bay are up by about 4 degrees since the 1960s; sea level is up almost 10 inches at Naval Station Newport since the 1930s; and fishermen catching tropical species in our waters tell me, ‘Sheldon, it’s getting weird out there,’” said Whitehouse. “To break through the disinformation that blocks climate action, we must expose the fossil fuel industry’s 'masquerade science.' Thank you to the URI faculty union and everyone taking part in this conference for helping shed light on this problem.”

“The AAUP has had a longstanding commitment to academic honesty,” said Frank R. Annunziato, executive director of URI’s faculty union. “We cannot advocate for academic freedom unless we have an equal commitment to academic honesty and academic truth. Throughout the world, the overwhelming majority of scientists has reached consensus that climate change is caused by human activity. This is called anthropocentric climate change. We support this consensus because most scientists around the world agree with this.”

Elizabeth “Betsy” Cooper, professor in URI’s College of Business Administration will welcome attendees, and then Erik Loomis, assistant professor of history, will introduce a video featuring Bill McKibben, author, educator and environmental activist. 

The morning’s highlight is a roundtable discussion featuring:

• Cornelia Dean, a New York Times contributor and Brown University writer-in-residence and distinguished lecturer at Brown’s Institute for Environment and Society

• Kenneth Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, chairman of the Board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and veteran environmental law attorney

• Lee McIntyre, research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University, and instructor in ethics at Harvard Extension School

• J. Timmons Roberts, Ittleson Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of sociology at Brown University.

The afternoon program will open with URI President David M. Dooley introducing Whitehouse for his keynote address. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Whitehouse has led efforts to reduce carbon pollution, protect the nation’s air and water, and position Rhode Island as a leader in the clean energy economy. He founded the Senate Oceans Caucus to promote creative, bipartisan policy solutions that protect oceans, coasts, and the people and economies that rely on them. 

A forceful voice for action on the challenges of a changing climate, he joined Rep. Henry Waxman to form a bicameral Task Force on Climate Change to take on the issue. Each week Sheldon gives a "Time to Wake Up" climate change speech in the U.S. Senate. Watch them here.

The afternoon breakout sessions and panel members are:

• Communicating Climate Science: Panelists—Hollie Smith, URI assistant professor of communications; Carrie McDonough, a doctoral student at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography and author of the blog, oceanbites; Aaron Ley, URI assistant professor of political science; and Bryan Dewsbury, URI assistant professor of biology education. Moderator is state Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee.

• Environmental Justice and Activism: Panelists—Peter Nightingale, URI professor of physics; Kate Schapira, lecturer in English at Brown University; and Diana Flores-Heagney of the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island. Moderator is state Rep. Teresa Tanzi.

• Impacts to Coastal Rhode Island: Panelists—Simon Engelhart, URI assistant professor of geosciences; Pam Rubinoff, senior coastal manager at URI’s Coastal Resources Center and Austin Becker, URI assistant professor of coastal planning, policy, and design. Moderator is John Kirby, dean of URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences.