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Symposiums: A discussion on climatic change

Madrid, 20 March 2003

Meeting the energy requirements of a population which is growing numerically and in terms of living-standard demands has increased the consumption of fossil fuels. The constant burning of carbon is subjecting our planet to climatic change of a magnitude comparable to that which led to glacial changes in the past, but this time over a period of scarcely 200 years instead of 2000. Society must respond to this challenge changing the energy model. CosmoCaixa, ”la Caixa” Foundation’s science museum in Alcobendas, is bringing together at the symposiums to be held on 20 to 22 March 2003 scientists and researchers from throughout the world in order to discuss whether climatic change is brought about by human action.

Civilisation began in Sumer around the dates of the last climatic optimum, while the Neanderthals later disappeared during the last Ice Age. The region that is today Algeria and Tunisia was in former times the granary of Rome. In this period of industrial technology, as in any other, climate has a decisive effect on human society.

Climate is the result of the interrelationship which exists between the atmosphere, the oceans, the ice layers (cryosphere), living organisms (biosphere) and soils, sediments and rocks (geosphere). There now exists a strong scientific consensus that global climate will be significantly altered in the course of this century as a result of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and chlorofluorocarbons. These gases are trapping a growing proportion of terrestrial infrared radiation, which will result in a planetary temperature increase of between 1.5 and 4.5 ºC and an alteration of global precipitation patterns, among other effects.

An expansion in the area of infectious diseases, the emergence of new epidemics, the flooding of coastal land and cities, the extinction of countless plant and animal species, an increase in droughts or a greater intensity of natural phenomena such as storms are some of the direct consequences that climatic change may bring with it.

The maintenance of our quality of life, while attenuating the effects of climatic change, calls for a different energy model, efficient energy production and a restructuring of company operations, aspects that would not only benefit the environment but would lead to reduced expenditure of these companies.

Antonio Ruiz de Elvira, professor of Applied Physics at the University of Alcalá de Henares, is over the course of 20-22 March 2003 coordinating at CosmoCaixa the symposiums entitled “A discussion on climatic change. Is it brought about by human action?”.

A discussion on climatic change. Is it brought about by human action?
CosmoCaixa, 20 – 22 March 2003
Coord. Antonio Ruiz de Elvira. Professor of Applied Physics, Univ. of Alcalá de Henares

Thursday 20 March 2003
First session: The discussion on the table
*4 p.m. Inaugural address
“What is known about the human influence on climatic change?”
– Antonio Ruiz de Elvira. Professor of Applied Physics, Univ. of Alcalá de Henares
*4.30 p.m. Round table
“Is climatic change in the 20th and 21st centuries anthropogenic?”
– Ben Santer. Director of the Earth Sciences Laboratory. California
– Myles Allen. Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and University of Oxford
– Ron Prinn. Director of the Earth Sciences and Atmosphere Dept., MIT, United States
– Jürgen Willebrand. Co-director of CLIVAR. Committee on Climatic Variability
*6 p.m. Debate
*7 p.m. Discussion

Friday 21 March 2003
Second session: Environmental impacts on climatic change
*10 a.m. “High-mountain lakes as indicators of climatic change”
– Jordi Catalán. Blanes Advanced Studies Centre (CSIC)
*10.40 a.m. “Changes in ecosystems as a result of climatic change”
– Emilia Gutiérrez. University of Barcelona
*11.20 a.m. Coffee break
*11.40 a.m. “The impact of climatic change on water resources and wetlands in Spain”
– Francisco J. Ayala Carcedo. Spanish Geological and Mining Institute
*12.20 p.m. “New epidemics as a consequence of climatic change”
– Paul R. Epstein. University of Harvard, Boston, United States
*1 p.m. Discussion

Third session: Social impacts. Kyoto and the future
*3.30 p.m. Round table
“The social view of climatic change and of Kyoto in Spain”
– Alicia Rivera. Journalist
“The significance of Kyoto”
– Joaquín Nieto. European Trade Union Confederation in Kyoto
“The strategy against climatic change at the Junta de Andalucía”
– Alvaro Martínez Sevilla. Ministry of the Environment, Junta de Andalucía (Autonomous Government of Andalusia)
*5 p.m. Debate
*6 p.m. Discussion

Saturday 22 March 2003
Fourth session: Evidence of and forecasts for climatic change
*10 a.m. “Models and forecasts”
– Antonio Ruiz de Elvira. University of Alcalá de Henares
*10.40 a.m. “Climatic variability in the Atlantic sector. The NAO and oceanic circulation”
– Martin Visbeck. Lamont Doherty Laboratory. University of Columbia, New York
*11.20 a.m. Closing address
“Forecasts for climatic change at regional level: the case of California”
– Tim Barnett. Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Univ. of California, San Diego
*12.20 p.m. Final debate and conclusions

Symposiums: A discussion on climatic change. Is it brought about by human action?
Coordinator: Antonio Ruiz de Elvira.
Date: 20 to 22 March 2003
Venue: CosmoCaixa. Pintor Velázquez s/n. 28100 Alcobendas.
Information telephone: 91 484 52 00


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