Climate symposium focuses on best science for public policy

October 17, 2011  |   |  2 Comments
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Eightpeople in lei on balcony

From left, Brian Taylor and Kevin Hamilton, UH Mānoa; Chin-Seung Chung, APEC Climate Center; keynote speakers Rosina Bierbaum, Neil Plummer, Jagadish Shukla, In-Sik Kang, Bin Wang

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Climate Symposium 2011 opened October 17 at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with recognition that climate change is a social and economic issue as well as a scientific one.

Noting that his first post-college job was as an assistant in a UH SeaGrant Program group looking at global warming, Hawaiʻi Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz welcomed the symposium delegates to Hawaiʻi. Their work was important, he said, because climate change will have a devastating impact on the state’s harbors and properties adjacent to the ocean.

“While we focus our efforts on the best science in climate and atmospheric science, it is equally urgent to link science with the decisions” that affect people lives, businesses and the future, said Asia Pacific Climate Center Director Chin-Seung Chung.

One of the opening keynote speakers, Rosina Bierbaum, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, will also present a public lecture on Climate Change and Development: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable, at 7 p.m. October 17 in the Art Building Auditorium.

The public is also welcome to attend the first three days of the symposium. See the symposium program for topics and scheduled speakers.

The symposium brings together more than 50 climate scientists from around the Pacific Rim. It is hosted by the International Pacific Research Center.

Jagadish Shukla, of the APEC Climate Center Science Advisory Committee, recognized IPRC’s Bin Wang, chair of the UH Mānoa Department of Meteorology, and June-Yi Lee for their work on climate variability and predictability.

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  1. Richard Salvador says:

    Monday, 17 October 2011

    I am a public school teacher. I am also originally from a small Pacific island nation that is active regionally and internationally in addressing climate change and potential sea level rise.

    In my class earlier today, I had a discussion with my students about the APEC Summit here in Honolulu in November. We read the feature front-page story about APEC from today’s Star-Advertiser (October 17, 2011) about the security issues surrounding the Summit in and around Waikiki, the Hawaii Convention Center, and urban Honolulu. But I went beyond the local irritations of these security matters and engaged my students in a brainstorm exercise to identify regional issues the APEC Summit will likely cover. We had a great time doing the activity. They came up, all on their own, 15 different agenda items. They were: 1) energy (oil, fossil-fuel, alternative energy sources); 2) trade policy; 3) economic development policy–both international and domestic; 4 environmental issues; 5) development of the private industry; 6) climate change & sea level rise; 7) culture & tourism; 8) tariff and other import/export taxes; 9) pollution; 10) human rights/workers’ rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights; 11) free trade policy; 12) food security (with some input from myself); 13) financial policy; 14) market access; 15) technology & patents. We had a great discussion and I promised my students that when APEC Summit nears, I would look for someone more knowledgeable about APEC to come speak in our class.

    I participated in both the lead up to the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and the APEC Peoples’ Summit there. I was initially invited by the Canadian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to participate in an Indigenous Peoples’ Roundtable when that Government was preparing its regional and domestic policies vis-à-vis APEC. I was never a member of any government delegation. I also participated or spoke in various side events in Victoria, Vancouver, and at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. I spoke mainly about matters and challenges facing Pacific Islanders and what I thought about globalization. This was late-1990s, in the heyday of mass anti-globalization movements. I remember speaking about communities and sharing ideas about how local communities throughout the Asia Pacific might work together and collaborate more effectively to manage their resources even as global forces threaten to engulf them from all sides.

    It has been 14 years since that particular APEC Summit. I have learned a lot.

    Globalization, like anything else in life, is both good and bad. Globalization is good to the extent that we seek to globalize such things as the practice of respecting human rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, protect the environment, practice fair trade, and similar basic standards of decency that respect peoples, cultures, and nations.

    Today, I saw many of my Native Hawaiian friends and colleagues, other friends and colleagues from the university as well as from around the community come outside the APEC Climate Symposium and protest. I went inside to observe some of the technical presentations given by eager climatologists and other earth and weather scientists and meteorologists regarding how they are improving their climate change science and how, according to the Symposium title, they are “harnessing and using climate information for decision making.”

    I felt sad about what I felt was a great disconnect between the protesters and the issues being covered in the APEC Climate Symposium. I subsequently engaged a symposium participant and presenter from Viet Nam about my feelings and we both agreed that protesters should not have been outside protesting.

    Though there may be, it seemed that no official leader or cabinet level government leader was there. Otherwise, you would see more security personnel. As it was, only the University of Hawaii security officers were there and many of the presenters seem to be scientific and technical experts reporting on and working to improve their technical capabilities in predicting and global disasters and forecasting possible weather instabilities and other climate weather changes.

    Thus, this was where I felt the presence of an intense disconnect between protesters and experts working to improve upon our collective Asia Pacific ability to more correctly predict possible climate change disasters.

    If those who oppose APEC should want to protest against everything APEC and globalization stand for, I feel that they should target the presidents and prime ministers when they come in November because these are the women and men who stand most conspicuously for, and in favor of, globalization.

    As a Pacific Islander, I sensed that what the APEC Climate Symposium is about is educating about and improving the kind of necessary work that we need in order to improve our human and technological abilities to predict all weather instabilities that threaten our well-being as denizens who live and survive on or near the seas. This large Pacific Ocean of ours is both our breadbasket of bounteous foods but it can pose significant dangers to us when we least expect it. We have to improve upon our ability to live as oceanic creatures as well. We need to understand better the behavior and characteristics of the ocean. We also need to understand the natural and erratic climate patterns that modern industrial processes have created for us.

    Therefore, as members of the Asia Pacific community, we must educate ourselves about who our potential allies can be and learn to offer both intellectual and moral support to them, if we cannot collaborate at the technical level of expertise they work at.

    I support the work of APEC Climate Symposium 2011 at the East-West Center and hope that all will be well as participants meet here in the land of Aloha to share what it is they can teach us and what we can do to support their work. Therein, right there in the heart of this climate science work, is the essence of Aloha, isn’t there? Isn’t this what Aloha is about?

    They are working to harness climate information so that, when they are improved and reliable, they can inform critical decision-making. And somewhere along this path of insight and potential collaboration, is where we can discover the common elements of improving the quality of our lives as we live on the verge of our vast Pacific Ocean, reeling from planetary weather instabilities.

    I look forward to joining any protest in early November that brings to the fore issues of our common humanity, issues that bring respect to the center of our efforts to build our regional economies, and environmental justice to those on the receiving end of environmental injustice and environmental racism. I am proud to be a Pacific Islander, one who acknowledges and recognizes the wonderful decades of historical protestations against environmental racism and colonial injustice. These are the movements we must ensure will or can continue into the future.

    For now, I request tolerance for and toward APEC Climate Symposium 2011 participants. With the work they do, they are potential allies.

    Mahalo,

    Richard Salvador
    Honolulu, Hawaii

  2. Cheryl Ernst says:

    See New Tang Dynasty Television coverage of the symposium, which includes an interview in English with International Pacific Research Center Director Kevin Hamilton.

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