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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Profs stress interdisciplinary approach to global warming

Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, engaged a classroom of leading environmental activists, researchers, planners and students Friday night in a discussion of her 5-point approach to tackling climate change globally.

Claussen was the keynote speaker for this past weekend's Student Science Congress.

The event was meant to introduce students to an interdisciplinary approach to global warming, according to professor of biochemistry and medicine Lee Witters.

"This is something that every student who goes to Dartmouth should know something about because every discipline has a part in this issue," Witters said. "This is an issue that we'll be dealing with throughout the 21st century and people graduating from Dartmouth College are going to be the leaders at least on one side of the Atlantic."

The guest panelists for the weekend were professors of political science, philosophy, law, economics, international studies and biological research from universities and research institutes throughout the country and the world. Students in attendance came mostly from the environmental studies department, as well as philosophy and other disciplines, Witters said.

In her address, Claussen outlined five keys strategies to confronting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. She said there must be a global response to the issue led by the industrialized world that is effective and fair; there should be short term and long term actions to reveal that reductions emissions must begin now; industry must be a partner in shaping and influencing climate solutions; governments must adopt real, mandatory goals; and the U.S. must be an integral part of climate solutions.

"The [Bush] administration is opposed to any legislation on climate change," Claussen said, providing examples of how the U.S. government has greatly impeded the global process of environmental action over the years.

Claussen challenged research that underestimates the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions or that omits a global approach, particularly the action proposed by Daniel Bodansky in the congress's opening lecture that the U.S. begin reductions with a "safety-valve" in case costs become too great.

Hopefully students will be more conscious about their purchases and investments and urge their political leaders to address the issue, Claussen said.

"Above all, they have to be honest about the science, honest about the costs ... it would be refreshing to hear people come out and tell the truth," she said.

The address was followed on Saturday by panel discussions in Cook Auditorium.

Low student participation throughout the weekend was disappointing considering the level of expertise and informed discussions that the panelists and speakers had to offer, Witters said.

D. Bradley Bate '04, an environmental studies major and a student fellow for the science congress, enjoyed Claussen's honesty and appreciated her strong opinions.

"Her bias was apparent, but it was a type of talk that necessarily included personal bias," Bate said. "As someone who had worked with this issue in the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], she was very convincing.

"It's unfortunate that more students didn't take advantage of this amazing opportunity to hear from experts involved in all areas of the debate," Bate said. "The Student Science Congress really exemplified the interdisciplinary ideals of a liberal arts education, and it's too bad that so few students took the initiative to get involved."

Claussen serves as President and Chairman of the Board of Strategies for the Global Environment and as executive editor of "Climate Change: Science, Strategies and Solutions." She is the former Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and spent three years as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Global Environmental Affairs at the National Security Council, and directed projects for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.