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Conference addresses climate change

Charitha Isanaka | Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The inaugural Climate Change and the Common Good Conference, an event focused on the “multidisciplinary exploration of the challenges and opportunities society faces in addressing climate change and resource scarcity,” was held April 8-10 in McKenna Hall.

“[The conference was designed] to show how an important scientific issue also demands help,” associate biology professor Jessica Hellmann said.

This multidisciplinary event brought together the fields of technology, science, theology and philosophy in facing this issue.

“We wanted to show the University that climate change is critical to our mission,” she said.

Almost 450 people registered for the event, and attendees included representatives of various universities as well as members of the local community.
The topics of the conference included “The Long Thaw: How humans are changing the next 100,000 years of Earth’s climate,” “Jane Austen vs. Climate Economics” and “An Inconvenient Mind:  The Mental Barriers to Confronting Climate Change.”    

“[We hope to] strike a balance between scientific theory [and understand] the response of the religious community, particularly the Catholic religious community and how it is that other responsible communities are responding,” theology professor Robin Darling Young said.

On Monday, the conference included “several interesting talks and discussions with the audience,” Professor Hellmann said.

“Two speakers presented different strategies of reducing different greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “Both agreed, however, that without action, society is on a disastrous course that will threaten human lives and environmental health.”

The panel of scientific researchers spoke about the need for scientists to help society understand the scope of the climate challenge.

Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at the University of California, San Diego Veerabhadran Ramanathan opened the conference with a talk on ways to reduce black carbon emissions in India. The last talk of the conference will be given today by Bob Doppelt, instructor at the University of Oregon who will speak on Buddhist base theory and the process of “get[ting] out of the self-centered communist mentality.”

Video tapes of the conference will be available at a later date through the event’s website the event website at

Contact Charitha Isanaka at cisanaka@nd.edu