Panelists to discuss scientific, political and media issues of climate change

October 26, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Leading national climate change experts will highlight a Purdue University panel discussion next week to explore the challenges and relationships among climate scientists, public officials and the media.

Beyond Climategate: What Role for Science and the Media in the Making of Climate Policy? will feature panelists Judith Curry, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology; Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder; and Andrew Revkin, creator of the blog "Dot Earth" and a former environmental reporter for The New York Times.

The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in the Shively Club at Ross-Ade Pavilion, 850 Beering Drive. The discussion, organized by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, is free and open to the public. More information is available online at http://www.purdue.edu/climate/beyondclimategate

Elizabeth McNie, a Purdue professor of political science and earth and atmospheric sciences, will serve as moderator. A question-and-answer session will follow the panel presentations.

"Have scientists become 'too political' in their advocacy of particular climate change mitigation and adaptation policies? How has the media shaped the way that climate science is debated, disputed and created?" McNie said. "Moving forward, is there an 'idealized' role for climate scientists in political and policy debates, and, if so, what would it look like? These are the important and potentially controversial questions we will ask panelists to get this conversation going."

Otto Doering, director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, said researchers are constantly asking themselves whether they might risk losing credibility as scientists and engineers as they engage in public policy and public discourse on sensitive, controversial issues.

"Clearly the media, including the blogosphere and the Internet, play a larger role in this growing contradiction," said Doering, a policy expert on agriculture, resources, energy and environmental issues. "We hope this discussion resonates with researchers and students in the social and hard sciences and high school and university educators in understanding how to effectively communicate and teach the results and the impacts of our findings."

Joining the Purdue Climate Change Research Center as event sponsors are Discovery Park and the university's Global Policy Research Institute, led by director Arden Bement.

Judith Curry

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Dubbed "Climategate," a controversy erupted in 2009 when thousands of e-mails and other documents were illegally released from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. Critics claimed the e-mails and documents implicated some climate change proponents in a conspiracy to delete raw data, manipulate data and withhold scientific information to strengthen the case for global warming.

Doering said many mainstream journalists dismissed the incident as a manufactured scandal, and investigations later cleared the researchers of any wrongdoing. But the incident fed the ongoing debate about climate change within and among scientists, the public and the media.

Curry, who was an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue from 1986-89, currently is professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

Andrew Revkin

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Before that, she was a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado and associate professor of meteorology at Penn State University.

Her research interests span a variety of topics, including air-sea interactions, climate feedback processes associated with clouds and sea ice, and the climate dynamics of hurricanes. She is a prominent spokesperson on issues associated with the integrity of climate science and recently launched the blog "Climate Etc.".

Revkin is the senior fellow at Pace University's Academy for Applied Environmental Studies and continues to write his "Dot Earth" blog for The New York Times. He also has held senior editor positions at Discover Magazine and Science Digest.

He has written books on the once and future Arctic, the Amazon and global warming, including "The North Pole was Here," which was published in 2006. He received a bachelor's degree in biology from Brown University and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Pielke, a University of Colorado faculty member since 2001 and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, has focused his research on the intersection of science, technology and decision-making.

Roger Pielke Jr.

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He is a senior fellow of the Breakthrough Institute and author, co-author or co-editor of seven books, including "The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics," which was published in 2007. His new book, "The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won't Tell You About Global Warming," was released in September.

The Purdue Climate Change Research Center, launched in 2004, has generated more than $20 million in research funding in its effort to support and promote research and education on global climate change and to examine its potential impact on agriculture, natural ecosystems and society.  

Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu 

Sources:   Elizabeth McNie, 765-496-6557, emcnie@purdue.edu

                   Otto Doering, 765-494-4226, doering@purdue.edu

                   Arden Bement, 765-496-6713, bement@purdue.edu