Physical, Biological, and Human Dimensions of Global Change
This was the Aspen Global Change Institute’s first summer session. This interdisciplinary gathering of research scientists explored and defined the new field of global change science. The group included a subset of science educators exploring the implication of global change for our educational system. The workshop provided a forum for discussing the range and complexity of Earth systems and the role of human activity in relation to natural systems. The purpose was to take stock of the global environmental changes underway and to identify key areas for future research and discussion as the institute set out a road map of its future activities and contributions.
July 29th through August 18th, 1990, the Aspen Global Change Institute held its first summer session for scientists and environmental educators. Thirty-eight participants from three countries assembled for the interactive sessions. AGCI provided a forum for understanding the range and complexity of earth systems and the role of human activity in relation to natural systems. One goal of the first summer session was to provide an environment where scientists and educators with different specialties could come together and learn from each other across disciplines. Participants included teachers, biologists, atmospheric chemists, climatologists, solar physicists, glaciologists, ecologists, and a range of social scientists.
Often specialists do not have the time to develop a deeper understanding of other subjects that relate to their own work. When attempting to understand major earth systems such as the atmosphere, the oceans, biodiversity, and human impacts on these systems, a common language of understanding must be built between specialists. Participants expressed strong support for this approach.
“The place to start is to take stock of the earth. What do we know, what must we learn more about, and how do we act so as to chart a course for the 21st century that leads to sustainable future?”
— AGCI Director John Katzenberger
The summer session was kicked off by Windstar co-founder and President John Denver. Rick Chappell of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center announced plans for an educational program whereby students would be engaged in a series of environmental measurements that will support earth scientists in verifying measurements taken from satellites and aircraft. This “Ground Truth” program concept became one of the most exciting ideas discussed by the participating scientists and educators over the three week period.
One component of the AGCI summer session was to establish a task group made up of scientists and educators with the job of defining appropriate outreach materials and programs. This Education Committee met as part of the Educators Summit during the third week of the conference. Topics discussed included:
1. Overview of earth science/global change issues summarized from the first two weeks of the program
2. The status of science education
3. How we learn
4. Ideas for the future of science education
5. Effecting change with new educational models
6. The role of AGCI in educational materials development
The task group identified a list of written materials that could be generated from the summer session, including a reader to be used as an undergraduate course book. Interactive computer/videodisc technologies were presented during week three and were considered as a powerful new tool in rekindling science education and in particular the science of global change. The group felt the importance of pursuing the development of the Ground Truth project which will require the development of curriculum materials, teacher training, and pilot testing of the concept in 1991. There was also a strong consensus on the importance of dialogue sessions with industry where the challenge of global change issues can be explored and incorporated in the development of models for the 21st century.
Ultimately, it was agreed upon that the information put forward by the Aspen Global Change Institute was should serve as a guidepost to sound decision-making at national and international levels. Planetary management of global change factors is an inevitable requirement of the next century.
Agenda & Presentations
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In Honor of Ralph Cicerone (1943-2016), former President National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Stephen Schneider was one of the most notable and outspoken scientists on the topic of climate change. His moderate and scientific approach to explaining climate change has helped congressmen, journalists, and citizens understand the complex, and often contradictory, issues related to global warming. In this ever timely talk, Dr. Schneider goes over the many different portrayals of climate change in the media and explains how to distinguish hype from science. He argues that in order to have a functional democracy, voters must understand the basics of these important issues so that they can make informed decisions.
10:30 am Task Group Meetings
12:00 pm Task Force Explanations Presented by James Lawless
7:00 pm Interactive Icepack Simulation Presented by Payson Stevens
11:15 am Solar Variability Presented by Cherilynn Morrow
2:00 pm Wrap-Up Discussion
9:00 am Overview of General Circulation Models and Global Climate Change Presented by Karl Taylor
10:30 am Physics Institute Overview and Task Force Update
12:00 am General Review for Educators of First Two Weeks Presented by Milton McClaren
9:00 am Opening Remarks/Introductions
9:45 am Global Change Education and National Policy Presented by Richard Johnson
11:00 am Global Condition: The Challenge for Global Management and Education Presented by Noel Brown
One of the most concerning aspects of climate change is the detrimental effects it may have on systems vital to life on Earth. In this talk, Sweedish scientist Dr. Malin Falkenmark discusses the impact of climate change on the hydrological cycle, commonly known as the water cycle.