Initial Publication Date: October 24, 2011

Hazards Webinar Series:
November 18, 2011

Climate Change Risk in an Unknowable Future -- Edmond Mathez, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY

Time - 12:00 pm Pacific | 1:00 pm Mountain | 2:00 pm Central | 3:00 pm Eastern
Duration - 1 hour. The presentation will be 40 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of discussion.
Format - Online web presentation via phone and Blackboard Collaborate web conference software with questions and answers following.
Registration for this Webinar is Closed

About the Author: Dr. Mathez is a curator in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He led the scientific team that developed the content for the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth which opened in 1999, and for those efforts received the 2002 American Geophysical Union Excellence in Geophyical Education Award. He was co-curator with Michael Oppenheimer (Princeton University) of the traveling exhibition on: Climate Change: The Threat to Life and a New Energy Future. As an outgrowth of that exhibit, Dr. Mathez authored the book Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and our Energy Future, 2009, New York: Columbia University Press. Through his work at AMNH, Dr. Mathez has been involved with numerous outreach activities, including the Seminars on Science program designed for K-12 teachers, and has co-authored many articles in the popular press.

Webinar Overview: Risk associated with natural hazards is a topic of increasing concern in the public discourse. How can society best function given the uncertainty surrounding the frequency, magnitude, and potential impacts of natural hazards on society? How does the perception of risk associated with natural hazards inform personal choices and public policy? This webinar will provide an overview of the elements of uncertainty related to climate change. The perception of risk related to climate change provides a rich opportunity for students to develop critical thinking skills, to appropriately use Earth data and their representations (including uncertainties), and to interpret the open, dynamic, and complex interactions among the components of the Earth system.

Materials from the Webinar

Presentation Powerpoint: Climate Change Risk in an Unknowable Future (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 13.5MB Nov18 11) 
Watch the Screencastof the Webinar

References from the talk:

  • Allen, M.R., et al., 2009, Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne. Nature 458, 1163-1166.
  • Meinhausen, M., et al., 2009, Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2°C. Nature 458, 1158-1163.
  • Roe, G.H., and M.B. Baker, 2007, Why is climate sensitivity so unpredictable? Science 318, 629-632.
  • Schär, C., et al., 2004, The role of increasing temperature variability in European summer heatwaves. Nature 427, 332-336.
  • Smith et al., 2009, Assessing dangerous climate change through an update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "reasons for concern". PNAS 106 4133-4137.
  • Verdon-Kidd, D.C., and A. Kiem, 2010, Quantifying drought risk in a nonstationary climate. J. Hydrometeorology 11, 1019-1031.

References and related links

Other resources on Climate Change and Related Topics from the On the Cutting Edge program:

Other References on Teaching Risk Perception, Assessment, and Management

  • Gunter, M.E., 1994, Asbestos as a Metaphor for Teaching Risk Perception (Acrobat (PDF) 2.6MB Oct18 11), Journal of Geological Education, v. 42 p. 17-24.
  • Lutz, T., 2011, Toward a new conceptual framework for teaching about flood risk in introductory geoscience courses. Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 59 #1, p. 5-12.
  • Bird, D., and Dominey-Howes, D., 2008, Testing the use of a "questionnaire survey instrument" to investigate public perceptions of tsunami hazard and risk in Sydney, Australia, Natural Hazards, v. 45 #1, p. 99-122.
  • Lutz, T., 2001, Enhancing students understanding of risk and geologic hazards using a dartboard model (Acrobat (PDF) 1.6MB Oct18 11). Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 49 #4, 339-345.
  • Slovic, P., 2000, The Perception of Risk: Earthscan Publications, Ltd., 518ppThe concept of risk is an outgrowth of our society's great concern about coping with the dangers of modern life. In an excellent overview of the critical issues involved in risk perception, this volume examines issues such as: societal risk taking; decision making in mental health law; rating risks; facts versus fears; informing and educating the public about risk; perceived risks and the politics of nuclear waste; and perceived risk, trust and democracy.
  • Raffensberger, C., Tickner, J., eds. 1999, Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle, Washington, Island Press, 385pp. The precautionary principle challenges governments, industries, scientists, and citizens to act wisely and well. Fundamentally, as this important book demonstrates, this newly rediscovered old rule shifts the burden of proof to those who have long benefited from and exploited ignorance. Raffensperger and Tickner, who exemplify the tradition of engaged science, have assembled an impressive group of writers to produce a book that should influence the next stage of public health and environmental protection.
  • O'Brien, M., 2000, Making Better Environmental Decisions: An Alternative to Risk Assessment: MIT Press, 352pp.For the past quarter-century, government and the private sector have relied heavily on risk assessment for making decisions, allowing widespread environmental deterioration. In this book, Mary O'Brien recommends a simple yet profound shift to another decision-making technique: "alternatives assessment." Instead of asking how much of a hazardous activity is safe (which translates into how much damage the environment can tolerate), alternatives assessment asks how we can avoid or minimize damage while achieving society's goals. O'Brien not only makes a persuasive case for alternative assessment; she tells how to implement it. She also shows how this technique has profound implications for public health, for our stewardship of the environment, and for a truly democratic government.

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