Monday, September 10, 2012

Scientists Seek Strategy to Convey Seriousness of Sea-Level Rise

LA JOLLA, Calif. — Sea-level rise threatens cities around the world, and academic leaders must talk about it differently to help people grasp the potential dangers and costs, climate experts said last week.

Researchers must detail effects at the local and regional levels, members of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) Sustainability and Climate Change Program said as they met at the University of California, San Diego. They need to talk shorter time windows, mentioning impacts in 2050 as well as in 2100. And they should drive home to people that actions to limit climate change can help protect their children and grandchildren from huge economic and social impacts.

“Sea-level rise is not a problem that’s going away,” said Dan Cayan, a climate researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. “In some sense, this is an important investment. This is a multigenerational issue.”

Climate researchers from around the world gathered for three days at UC San Diego to share information and formulate strategies. They discussed the importance of talking about sea-level rise and climate change as they brainstormed what advice they should give to university presidents. During that session, some of the APRU members urged more of an activist role, saying too much time already has been lost.

“People who don’t believe climate change is real, and sea-level rise is real, are really few and far between,” said Bernard Minster, a UC San Diego professor and Scripps researcher.

The conference took place just after sea-level rise and climate change happened to surface on the national stage. At the Republican National Convention, presidential nominee Mitt Romney in his acceptance speech derided President Obama’s position on the issues.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” Romney said as some in the audience snickered, “and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

Obama in his speech at the Democratic National Convention said that “climate change is not a hoax.”

“More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.” More