Campus & Community

Gore, Summers, McElroy to speak on climate change

3 min read

Issue will be discussed from vantages of politics, economics, and science

Last month, a scientific report commissioned by the eight Arctic nations, including the United States, concluded that the Arctic is experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate change on Earth. Changes in arctic climate will cause sea levels to rise and drive many species toward extinction, including polar bears. “You have organisms that have been pushed beyond their limits,” says James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography and an author of the study.

But what can be done about climate change? Although there is scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by human activities, it is difficult to predict exactly what the future impacts will be, and there is intense debate on what steps to take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, and Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies Michael B. McElroy will address the question of what to do about climate change from their different perspectives of politics, economics, and science. The event, “Climate Change: The Way Forward,” will be held at 4 p.m. Monday (Dec. 13) at Sanders Theatre and is sponsored by the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

‘Climate Change: The Way Forward’ will be held on Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. at Sanders Theatre. Tickets are available to the Harvard community (one ticket per ID) at the Harvard Box Office in Holyoke Center from noon to 6 p.m. through Dec. 12. This event is sponsored by the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

The discussion follows the recent decision by the Russian parliament to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which will cause the treaty to take effect in early 2005. The United States, which represents more than one-fourth of global carbon dioxide emissions, has refused to sign the protocol because it may be too costly to the economy and because developing countries are not participants in the mandated emissions reductions. China and India, in particular, have large reserves of coal, which sends the most carbon dioxide per unit of energy into the atmosphere. Recent press reports indicate that China plans to increase coal production by 11 percent in 2005.

“A major challenge will be how to convince rapidly developing countries to use their vast reserves of coal without releasing all that carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” said Professor Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

As a Harvard student in the 1960s, Gore first encountered the issue of climate change with Professor Roger Revelle. Gore championed the issue in the House, the Senate, and as vice president, leading the United States in the final negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol seven years ago. He has continued to speak widely on the issue.

As U.S. treasury secretary, Summers was involved in the discussions of U.S. climate policy in the Clinton administration. Summers will examine the issue of climate change from his perspective as an expert on the economics of international development.

Michael McElroy is one of the leading experts on the science of climate change and energy technology, particularly in China. McElroy’s recent research has focused on the connection between energy use in China and greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, and human health.