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UMaine to tackle human impact on environment

By Walter Griffin

ORONO, Maine — The implications of climate change will be the focus of a University of Maine forum at the Wells Conference Center later this week.

“Climate Change 21, Choices for the 21st Century,” an interactive forum and environmental festival, will feature scientists, officials and businesspeople confronting the issue of climate change. Among the participants will be Barbara Vickery of The Nature Conservancy, CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley and Maine Gov. John Baldacci.

The conference will begin at 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, and end at 4:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24, with closing remarks by university President Robert A. Kennedy and Paul A. Mayewski, director of the university’s Climate Change Institute.

“Our climate is rapidly moving toward an unprecedented state as a consequence of human activity impacting natural climate,” Mayewski said. “It is time to step up to the challenges this has created and, by doing so, realize the vast new world of opportunities that will follow for improving our health, economy and overall quality of life.”

There will be town meeting-style discussions, highlights of the university’s ongoing climate change and energy solutions research, and an overview of the university’s Maine Green Campus Initiative and Baldacci’s Climate Initiative, during the two-day forum.

The CC 21 interactive public forum format will feature presentations by climate experts followed by second-half sessions dedicated to questions, answers and discussions by participants.

The CC 21 environmental festival will feature vendor exhibits under a tent on the mall, a student poster competition, music, movies and other attractions at the Wells Conference Center.

Over the years the university has earned an internationally recognized tradition of climate change research that has contributed substantially to understanding the global climate system, according to a statement on the Climate Change 21 Web site. This research has enhanced understanding of the impact climate change has on ecosystems and humans, as well as the impact humans have on the climate system.

CC 21 will provide an opportunity for the public, students from academic institutions across the state and beyond, policymakers, and the private sector to experience firsthand perspectives on the basis for scientific consensus on climate change.

It also will provide projections for future change from local to global scales, methods of adaptation and mitigation, along with the critical role of Maine’s state and federal legislators, the university and other academic institutions and Maine’s residents as national role models for a cleaner environment, an environmentally aware quality of life and a prospering economy.

After the 8 to 9 a.m. registration period and Kennedy and Mayewski’s opening remarks, Thursday’s events will begin with a morning panel discussion on “The Physical Science Behind Climate Change” moderated by Michael J. Eckardt, the university’s vice president for research.

The first afternoon session, “The Impact of Climate on Our Environment,” will be moderated by G. Bruce Wiersma, director at the university’s Center for Research on Sustainable Forests. The second afternoon session, “Mitigation, Adaptation and Opportunities, Part 1,” will be moderated by Barbara Vickery, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy.

Friday also will begin with an 8 to 9 a.m. registration period followed by remarks by President Kennedy, Gov. John Baldacci and Janet E. Waldron, university vice president for administration and finance. The morning session, “Mitigation, Adaptation and Opportunities, Part 2” will be moderated by CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley.

The afternoon session will begin with keynote speaker Paul R. Epstein, director of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, followed by “Mitigation, Adaptation and Opportunities, Part 3,” moderated by Glenn D. Beamer, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. Next will be “Expressions of Climate Change,” moderated by Stuart L. Marrs, university associate provost and dean for undergraduate education, followed by keynote speaker Pelley’s talk on “Climate Change Insights” and closing remarks by Mayewski and Kennedy.

“Mitigating climate change and formulating models for adapting to an uncertain environmental future will take persistence and creativity,” Kennedy observed. “The scientific community recognizes the challenges and embraces the associated opportunities to lead the societal changes critical to the planet’s future.”

More information is available at the University’s Web site, climatechange.umaine.edu.



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