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Top scientists to gather at “350 Climate Conference” at Columbia U. May 2

Ryan D. Hottle, 350 Climate Conference
Top scientists will gather at Columbia University on May 2nd, 2009, to consider the need to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from present levels. The conference will examine newly emerging approaches to limiting climate change and provide a scientific framework for proactive policy ideas in anticipation of the upcoming international negotiations set to take place in Copenhagen later this year.

The upcoming 350 Climate Conference will feature keynote speaker Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has recently published a study indicating that the safe upper limit for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is likely to be 350 parts per million (ppm) or lower. This is problematic since we find ourselves at 387 ppm and rising—some 35 percent above preindustrial levels of 280 ppm.

The conference will be comprised of presentations and panel discussions on various themes related to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions, including: Post-Kyoto negotiations, economic and legal implications of implementing carbon dioxide reductions, green jobs, environmental justice, carbon sequestration and storage, climate change education, and alternative energy solutions. Featured speakers will include:

  • Majora Carter, Founder of Sustainable South Bronx, named one of The New York Post’s Most Influential Women in NYC for the past two years

  • Daniel Hillel, Researcher, Center for Climate Systems Research
  • Johannes Lehmann, Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry and lead researcher on biochar carbon sequestration, Cornell University
  • Gernot Wagner, Economist, Climate and Air Program of the Environmental Defense Fund
  • Michael Gerrard, Director, Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia University
  • Kevin Conrad, Executive Director, Coalition for Rainforest Nations, a Time Magazine Hero of the Environment 2008
  • Jaimie Cloud, Founder and President, The Cloud Institute for Sustainable Education
  • Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and leading peak oil author and thinker

The conference will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Rotunda of Low Memorial Library on the Columbia University Morningside Heights campus. Registration is available online at:

The 350 Climate Conference is an initiative of students in the Climate and Society M.A. program at Columbia University, the first interdisciplinary masters program in the U.S. to train professionals and academics on the impacts of climate variability and climate change on society and the environment.
(15 April 2009)

Trees May Dry Up With Global Warming

Joe Palca, All Things Considered, NPR
Warming global temperatures could cause massive tree die-offs. That’s the gloomy conclusion of a new study by scientists at the University of Arizona.

The study addressed a fairly basic question: Do warmer temperatures make trees more susceptible to drought?

It might seem surprising that scientists don’t already know the answer to that question. But biologist David Breshears of the University of Arizona says there’s a lot that scientists don’t know about trees. “Like, what does it take to kill a tree, and do warmer temperatures matter in terms of killing trees?” he says.
(14 April 2009)

Retreat of Andean Glaciers Foretells Global Water Woes

Carolyn Kormann, Yale Environment 360
Bolivia accounts for a tiny fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it will soon be paying a disproportionately high price for a major consequence of global warming: the rapid loss of glaciers and a subsequent decline in vital water supplies.

Earlier this year, the World Bank released yet another in a seemingly endless stream of reports by global institutions and universities chronicling the melting of the world’s cryosphere, or ice zone. This latest report concerned the glaciers in the Andes and revealed the following: Bolivia’s famed Chacaltaya glacier has lost 80 percent of its surface area since 1982, and Peruvian glaciers have lost more than one-fifth of their mass in the past 35 years, reducing by 12 percent the water flow to the country’s coastal region, home to 60 percent of Peru’s population.

And if warming trends continue, the study concluded, many of the Andes’ tropical glaciers will disappear within 20 years, not only threatening the water supplies of 77 million people in the region, but also reducing hydropower production, which accounts for roughly half of the electricity generated in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

Chances are that many of Bolivia’s Aymara Indians heard little or nothing about the report. But then the Aymara — who make up at least 25 percent of Bolivia’s population — don’t need the World Bank to tell them what they can see with their own eyes: that the great Andean ice caps are swiftly vanishing.
(9 April 2009)

Dry Taps in Mexico City: A Water Crisis Gets Worse

Ioan Grillo, TIME Magazine
The reek of unwashed toilets spilled into the street in the neighborhood of unpainted cinder block houses. Out on the main road, hundreds of residents banged plastic buckets and blocked the path of irate drivers while children scoured the surrounding area for government trucks. Finally, the impatient crowd launched into a high-pitched chant, repeating one word at fever pitch: “Water, Water, Water!”

About five million people, or a quarter of the population of Mexico City’s urban sprawl, woke up Thursday with dry taps. The drought was caused by the biggest stoppage in the city’s main reservoir system in recent years to ration its depleting supplies. Government officials hope this and four other stoppages will keep water flowing until the summer rainy season fills the basins back up. But they warn that the Mexican capital needs to seriously overhaul its water system to stop an unfathomable disaster in the future.
(11 April 2009)