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January 20, 2011

Separating Facts From Myths of Global Warming

Michael Oppenheimer, Member of Nobel-winning Panel, Offers Predictions & Solutions

Global warming is an indisputable fact, Michael Oppenheimer, member of a Nobel Prize-winning UN panel told an audience during his lecture Thursday, January 20 at St. Francis College, saying it’s now our responsibility to lessen how big the climate change will be. (Watch the story on SFCTV)

Oppenheimer is one of the world’s foremost global warming experts and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the Nobel Prize with Vice President Al Gore. He began his talk going over the facts of global warming; saying that there is irrefutable evidence from countless sources that among the noticeable changes; the planet is warming, there are more droughts covering more area and sea levels are rising. (Watch the entire lecture)

To be clear, Oppenheimer did not place the blame for all extreme climate conditions on global warming, pointing out that things like tornados, loss of ice in Antarctica and Hurricane Katrina are not a result of rising temperatures.

Among the computer projections that Oppenheimer shared was a chart that showed, even if we stopped adding new carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, it would take thousands of years, if ever, for current levels to be reduced to less than two-thirds of their current levels. He says that means the earth will continue to heat up and what we can do now is lessen the impact, hopefully staving off major climatic changes that will seriously affect food supplies around the world. Oppenheimer said that without serious changes in our behavior we could be looking at the warmest planetary temperatures in 65 million years, when dinosaurs lived.

Oppenheimer offered some fairly simple ways for people to help; drive a fuel efficient car or take the subway, use energy saving appliances, heating and cooling systems and light bulbs and most importantly, maintain those cars and appliances. Oppenheimer also pointed out that cutting back on eating beef would have a tremendous affect for the better; though he admits to still eating meat. He said the amount of energy it takes to raise and process cattle far outpaces growing other crops or eating lower down on the food chain.

In response to a question on skeptics of global warming and the political climate surrounding the issue, Oppenheimer offered a very frank response, “Even smart humans will hold weird opinions.” He said that to him, it seems that some people just do not want to bother listening to scientific facts. One issue, he said, is that charts on climate fluctuate widely from year to year, so if you only look at the recent past you will not see the true picture which is only apparent when looking over many decades or hundreds of years.

Oppenheimer said that while someone like him who is well-established is not afraid of politicians who are critical of scientists, he worries that some very talented 25 year olds who are choosing a career may shy away from this field.

Oppenheimer, who has appeared on the Colbert Report and Oprah Winfrey Show, is a faculty member at Princeton University, recently served as a lead author of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report and is now a coordinating lead author of the Fifth Assessment Report. He is also working on a special report on climate extremes and disasters.

The lecture is part of the free and open to the public, weekly lecture series put together in the spring semester by Sociology and Criminal Justice Professor Emily Horowitz and in the fall by History Professor Arnold Sparr.

St. Francis College thanks the New York City Council and New York State Legislature for their support of the series, which is funded under contract with the New York City Department for the Aging. A complete list of events is available on the St. Francis College website at

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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