Author and climate change expert Elizabeth Kolbert will speak at Campbell Hall tonight, just days after the National Wildlife Federation commended the campus for doing its part to slow the effects of global warming.
At 8 p.m., Kolbert, author of the book Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change, will wrap up the two-quarter series of films, lectures and community-wide events about global warming. UCSB Arts & Lectures, the Geology Dept. and the Bren School invited Kolbert to speak as a follow-up to the use of her book in the UCSB Reads for Earth Day program. Three thousand free copies of the book were distributed in February to educate students about the serious effects of global warming.
UCSB has been recognized as a leader in environmental sustainability on several occasions recently. Early last month, administrators signed a commitment along with the other UC campuses to achieve climate neutrality – the reduction of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, UCSB recently received several Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building certifications for sustainable construction and operation methods for new campus structures, including campuswide lighting retrofits, motion sensors that switch off lights and more efficient air conditioners.
And yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore proclaimed UCSB the winner of the National Science Foundation’s “Chill Out Sustainability” contest because of its recent efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions on campus.
“We’ve really accomplished some amazing results since 2000,” said Jim Dewey, energy and utility manager and associate director of Physical Facilities. “We save a lot of money but we also save in greenhouse gas emissions.”
On its application for the NSF competition, UCSB said that last year’s improvements to the central lighting and air conditioning systems on campus have reduced the school’s carbon dioxide emissions by 8100 tons per year. Engineers have also been awarded grants for another set of projects that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an additional 7400 tons per year by 2008.
In the meantime, the Global Warming – Science and Society series is aiming to get students talking about climate change, according to Roman Baratiak, Arts & Lectures films and lectures manager.
“[The Global Warming series] was an educational mission […] to try to get discussion started, to engage students and the community,” Baratiak said. “We wanted to give them the tools to do that, to bring in top-notch people to give them information on global warming.”
Kim Thompson, director of library development and outreach and an organizer of the UCSB Reads program, said UCSB Reads chose Kolbert’s book for its accuracy and accessibility.
“We wanted to provide a book that was scientifically accurate but written for the layperson,” Thompson said. “We wanted to start people talking about the issue of global warming and what we can do as individuals to help the environment.”
Field Notes From a Catastrophe is the product of more than five years of field research in which Kolbert, a staff writer for the New Yorker, traveled to remote Arctic locations to see the effects of global warming first hand. Although her background is in political reporting, Kolbert conducted in-depth scientific research, speaking to top scientists to get the hard facts on the issue.
The book, based on a series of articles the author published in the New Yorker, has won Kolbert critical acclaim. She is the recipient of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine award and the 2006 National Academy of Sciences Communication Award in the newspaper/magazine category.
Previous events in the Global Warming series include lectures by head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James E. Hansen, and Chief Scientist of BP Steve Koonin, as well as several screenings of An Inconvenient Truth. Many of the partners in the series are also active in planning Earth Day activities for this Sunday. According to Baratiak, the events this year will be larger than in previous years.
“[The Earth Day events] at the courthouse in downtown Santa Barbara ties into a much larger series of activities related to global warming,” Baratiak said. “Interest has grown locally and internationally.”
Baratiak said the events of the Global Warming series have been well received by students and the community.
“Attendance has been unbelievable,” Baratiak said. “So many people came [to the first lecture] that we had four overflow rooms. We’re anticipating a similar crowd [for Thursday].”