University of Pittsburgh
November 12, 2007

Pitt Faculty Available to Comment on Upcoming Report From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Faculty can discuss substance, reception, and possible resolution of IPCC's most policy-relevant report on climate change to date
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-In a report to be released Nov. 17, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the Synthesis Report, its most policy-relevant scientific report on climate change, to a public more aware of global warming than at any other time. The report will address the causes and consequences of climate change and the options for mitigation. The following University of Pittsburgh faculty members are available to comment on the IPCC's report, the public and political readiness to confront climate change, and the economic methods of moving away from the use of fossil fuels.

Michael Rosenmeier, a paleoclimatologist in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science of Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, says the latest IPCC report coincides with an unprecedented scientific consensus and public awareness about climate change-and not a moment too soon. "This round is the first where there is no longer a debate in the scientific community on global warming," said Rosenmeier, who studies the interaction of humans and climate throughout history. "The public is willing to think about this issue and want to see politicians think about it, too. This is a critical time to mitigate these problems, and that makes this report all the more important. If we wait another 15 years, we may reach a tipping point." Nonetheless, governments still need to commit to change, he said. "The IPCC presents viable methods of curbing our carbon output, but you have to have policy makers willing to see those through. Awareness and action are very different." Rosenmeier can be reached at 412-624-8775, mrosenme@pitt.edu, or through Pitt News Representative Morgan Kelly.

Stephen Tonsor, an ecologist in the biological sciences department of Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, says the IPCC report is a thorough and useful analysis of climate change, but understates the combined consequences of climate change and current human activity not related to burning fossil fuels, such as cutting down vast tracts of forest and over-harvesting fish from the oceans. As animal and plant species continue to decline, humans will increasingly see the results in shortages of food and resources coupled with the estimated agricultural shortages wrought by climate change, Tonsor said. "The fact is that we are altering ecosystems worldwide and we have no idea what the consequences will be," he said. Tonsor can be reached at 412-624-5491, tonsor@pitt.edu, or through Pitt News Representative Morgan Kelly.

The economic reality is that society satisfies its energy thirst with cheap fossil fuels and currently individuals have little practical reason to explore cleaner sources, says Aaron Swoboda, an assistant professor of environmental policy in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Swoboda advocates combating climate change with market-based policies-such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes-rather than through mandatory efficiency standards. If limiting carbon emissions has financial benefits, people and industries will likely adopt renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power that ultimately benefit finances and the environment, he said. Swoboda also advocates for carbon taxes over cap-and-trade policies because carbon tax revenue could also be used to reduce taxes on labor and capital all for the same total tax burden currently in place. "We need to create markets in which people are forced to pay the full cost of their actions, and we will see them start to switch," Swoboda said. He points out that recently escalating energy prices sparked the adoption of more efficient technology, such as fuel-efficient cars and wind power. Swoboda can be reached at 412-648-7604, swoboda@pitt.edu, or through Pitt News Representative Amanda Leff.

For more information on the IPCC Synthesis Report, visit the panel's Web site at www.ipcc.ch. For a list of Pitt faculty experts, visit www.umc.pitt.edu/m/experts.html.

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