The Climate Change Debate

On April 27, 2012 by Grad Forum

In a recent editorial, the journal Nature stated that, when it comes to climate change research,“Scientists must acknowledge that they are in a street fight.” Is this true? Has public discourse about climate change become so heated that even a respected scientific journal calls it “a street fight”? As graduate students in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program here at Dartmouth, we have been fascinated by the disregard for science in shaping public policy in our federal government. We have often asked ourselves why this is the case, and quickly realized the complexities of this question. A few months ago we decided to formally address this question by organizing a multi-day series centered on the theme of how politics and rhetoric subvert science in shaping public policy, with climate change being the major case study.

The Communication Street Fight: Scientists, the Media, and Politicians in the Climate Change Debate

-Talk: Shawn Otto, April 30, 4 pm, Oopik Auditorium, Life Sciences Center
Free and open to the public

Otto is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and filmmaker who advocates for “smarter politics” in our national discourse on scientific topics. Along with other advocates, he helped organize an online discussion on scientific questions between candidates Obama and McCain in the 2008 election. He has also written a book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America about how the American discourse on science has changed, and the impact that has on policymaking.

-Talk: Dr. Peter Frumhoff, May 10, 4 pm, Oopik Auditorium, Life Sciences Center
Free and open to the public

Dr. Frumhoff is the Director of Science and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). This spring, the UCS will launch a national project on “Science and Democracy,” placing them in an ideal position to address this topic. Dr. Frumhoff is a global change ecologist, who has served diverse roles in the scientific and policy arenas. He was also a lead author in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment.

-Film Screening: “Bidder 70”, May 14, time and location tbd
Free and open to the public

This event addresses the role of activism in the public discourse on climate change. Acclaimed author Terry Tempest Williams will lead a discussion following the film. On December 19, 2008, Tim DeChristopher, as Bidder #70, derailed a federal oil and gas lease auction, by bidding on and winning 22,000 acres of land with no intention to pay or drill, effectively safeguarding thousands of acres of federal land. DeChristopher’s disruption of the auction enabled the Obama Administration and Interior Secretary Salazar to invalidate the auction, citing inadequate analysis of the environmental effects on surrounding areas and failure to assess contributions to global climate change. For his disruption of the auction, DeChristopher was indicted and convicted on two federal charges.

Co-sponsored by Environmental Studies, the Department of Biological Sciences, and the Graduate Student Council

Contacts: Carissa Aoki —, Jeff Lombardo –, Chelsea Vario

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