Environmental Science, Policy & Engineering Program

2019 Winter Seminar Series

The War on Facts

This year’s ESPE seminar series will focus on the misinformation campaign surrounding climate change and the consequences of this. I’ve lined up three amazing speakers who have worked on this issue from different perspectives (journalism, law, and science). There has been considerable news surrounding this recently with both the IPCC and 4th National Climate Assessment reports released in the past months. All talks will be at 7:00 p.m., either in the Nott Memorial or in Olin 115.

Wednesday, January 16 (Olin 115)

American Exceptionalism: How the U.S. became a stronghold for climate denial.

Neela Banerjee will discuss the forces outside science–in industry and politics–that created this stunning anomaly of climate denial that is now a plank of the Republican Party and a touchstone of the White House. She will also discuss why InsideClimate (an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan news organization) chose to look at these influences and how they went about their reporting. We can all speculate about the implications for humanity given this steadfast climate denial in such a broad swath of American society.

Neela Banerjee graduated from Yale University and is a senior reporter for Inside Climate News, which earned the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2013. In the past, she has worked for the LA times, NY Times and the Wall Street Journal covering topics related to global energy and the Iraq war. Together with her team she has uncovered Exxon’s early research on climate change, which was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service reporting and the recipient of nearly a dozen other journalism awards.

Wednesday, February 6 (Nott Memorial)

Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump

The Trump Administration has undertaken significant efforts to roll back climate change protections. These efforts have been roundly challenged in the courts. This talk will provide an overview of how recent climate change-related litigation has sought to defend existing federal climate change policies, advance new climate change protections, integrate climate change considerations into environmental review, and push for greater transparency from the Trump Administration. It will also explore how lawsuits have attempted to undermine climate-related protections and touch on recent trends in international climate change litigation.

Dena Adler is a Climate Law Fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. She focuses on developing legal and regulatory tools to advance the efforts of governments and private actors to adapt to a changing climate and to mitigate the effects of climate change. She is particularly interested in cultivating solutions that can work cohesively across jurisdictional scales. As a climate Law Fellow, she authored a report on “US Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump: Year 1” and will soon follow up with a Year 2 report. She graduated with a joint JD-MEM from Yale in 2017. More information.

Wednesday, February 20 (Nott Memorial)

Global temperatures have risen by ~1°C since the end of the 19th century. The last few years have been the warmest on record, and the last decade was the warmest, globally, for many centuries. These changes are driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, in 2018, CO2 levels surpassed 410 parts per million for the first time in over 3 million years.

Almost every national science academy and scientific organization has accepted the evidence for human-induced global warming, yet many influential politicians dismiss the scientific reality and so political action to reduce carbon emissions has stalled in Congress. While politicians sit on their hands and do little to help control CO2 emissions, the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase. More heat accumulates in the oceans, ocean acidification increases and sea-level keeps rising as glaciers and ice caps melt.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has recognized the reality of global warming and acknowledged the real dangers that it poses for the future. Although taking steps to address the matter is difficult, many countries (and states) have embraced the opportunity to reduce energy consumption, implement conservation strategies and promote new technologies that involve energy production from non-carbon based fuels. Politicians who embrace these strategies represent the future. Those who don’t will simply become footnotes in history.

Ray Bradley is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences, and Director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Bradley’s research focuses on climate variability, and understanding the causes of climatic change. He was a co-author on the paper that presented the “hockey-stick model”, which became a focal point of attacks from climate change “skeptics”, eventually leading to an investigation by a congressional committee. Bradley’s personal experience of being a target during this politically instigated controversy is recounted in one of his many books “Global Warming and Political Intimidation”. More information.