On November 2, 2011, Richard Alley participated in The National Climate Seminar, a series of webinars sponsored by Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy. The online seminars provide a forum for leading scientists, writers, and other experts to talk about critical issues regarding climate change. The series also opens a public conversation, inviting participants to ask questions and contribute their own thoughts.
Dr. Alley conducts research on the paleoclimatic record at The Pennsylvania State University in order to understand the history, and perhaps the future, of climate change. In his lecture, Alley gave a concise overview of why we know what we know about climate change, and what that evidence can tell us about today’s warming planet. Alley not only provides an accessible science lesson, but reveals his own greatest concerns about climate change and offers advice to those who want to stop debating the subtleties of climate science and act now.
This E-ssential is an edited version of Alley’s talk and the subsequent question and answer session. While some material has been cut and some language modified for clarity, the intention was to retain the substance of the original discussion.
Taken from the pages of Science and supplemented by contributions from the magazine’s editors, State of the Planet 2008-2009 offers contemporary science writing that is sometimes provocative, frequently enlightening, and always authoritative. Published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Science is one of the most respected scientific magazines in the world. With a readership of more than one million people, it offers “hard science” from top scientists to both educated lay readers and scientists alike. The articles collected here are arranged thematically and each section is introduced by a prominent scientist or science writer. Donald Kennedy, who was Editor-in-Chief of Science when these articles appeared in the magazine, contributes a preface and several short essays. Focusing on issues of energy and sustainability, sections of the volume are devoted to the prospects of energy-sparing technologies and alternatives to fossil fuel use, including ethanol and cellulosic digestion. Other sections center on climate change, led by a comprehensive essay on the state of scientific knowledge today and followed by contributions about the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, as well as the effects of climate change that have been measured to date, including changes in migration and breeding cycles of birds and flowering in plants, changing patterns of hurricanes and extreme weather events, and alterations in forest fire frequency. Interspersed throughout the book are Science news pieces that highlight particular issues and cases relevant to the main scientific findings. A glossary of key terms and concepts helps students and nonspecialists better understand the terminology and the issues.