Friday, December 28, 2012

Morning Keynote Presentations

The morning plenary begins with a two-part keynote: "Climate Crisis Science" by Dr. Mark Potosnak and "Ground Zero for Climate Change: America’s First Climate Refugees" by Carl Wassilie.

Climate Crisis Science

Dr. Mark Potosnak

Dr. Mark Potosnak is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Studies at DePaul University. He will present the science of climate crisis at our opening plenary. The talk will begin with a brief overview of how fossil fuel combustion is driving up global temperatures through an enhanced greenhouse effect. Some of the extensive evidence for current climate change will be presented. The talk will then turn to some of the most likely future impacts of climate change, followed by a discussion of the worst-case scenarios we face in our future.

Mark Potosnak, third from left
Dr. Potosnak’s scientific training is focused on interactions between plants and the atmosphere, and in particular the role of climate change in this interaction. Dr. Potosnak has degrees from Harvard and Columbia Universities, and he was in the Advanced Study Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

More about Mark Potosnak: "The common theme of my research is using field observations to understand the complex interactions between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere. In particular, I design field experiments that test hypotheses of how isoprene emissions are impacted by global change factors. Recent studies have been conducted in tropical, urban/arid and tundra ecosystems. These ecosystems are all understudied and also more susceptible to global change factors. For example, unlike the deciduous forests characteristic of temperate ecosystems, there have been few studies on the seasonal controls of isoprene emissions for evergreen and drought deciduous tropical ecosystems. My studies reveal a strong seasonality of emissions that cannot be explained solely by changes in ambient temperature and light. Preliminary research in tundra ecosystems has revealed surprisingly high isoprene emission rates and the potential for rapid increases induced by climate change. Finally, a recent project focused on land use change in a rapidly expanding urban area of the arid southwestern United States and was published in Atmospheric Environment."

Ground Zero for Climate Change: America’s First Climate Refugees

Carl Wassilie

Carl Wassilie
Indigenous peoples around the world who contributed the least to the climate crisis and who have the fewest resources to deal with it are being impacted the most. In Alaska 86% of Alaskan Native villages are threatened by flooding and erosion, and 31 Native villages are under imminent threat of relocation. Many of these remote, physically isolated coastal and riverine villages primarily depend upon subsistence fishing, hunting and gathering for food security and customary ways of life. Carl Wassilie, a Yup'iaq Eskimo, will share the complex multi-faceted impacts of permanent relocation of whole Alaska villages as a result of climate climate change (climigration). The challenges of climigration in Alaska are confounded by exploitative commercial fishing and mining industries which threaten the cultural survival and bioproductivity of whole global ecosystems in the region. To avoid further humanitarian catastrophes Wassilie argues that climigration must be addressed by institutional systems and legal structures for human rights protections to be in place. He will highlight the Yup’ik village of Newtok which is the first community to intentionally climigrate in the United States.

Carl Wassilie is a Yup’ik Alaskan, community organizer, and musician with a B.A. in biology who is deeply committed to his indigenous heritage and worldview that recognizes the sacredness of the air, land and water. He has been raising awareness on environmental issues since the catastrophic 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Carl is co-founder and community organizer with Alaska's Big Village Network and has worked extensively on environmental sovereignty with Tribal Governments and communities in Alaska including the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council and the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council.

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