Climate-change expert to speak

BY ARIANA WITT | MARCH 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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While the University of Iowa has made progress in its efforts to be more environmentally friendly, officials here hope to pick up a few tips from a nationally renowned expert.

The UI Center for Human Rights will host guest lecturer David Orr at 7:30 p.m. today in 101 Biology Building East.

The lecture is the culmination of the Climate Legacy Initiative, a recent project the university completed with the Vermont Law School. The project’s aim was to examine ways to balance human rights and preservation of nature.

“It sums up the connection between environmental change and climate change and how they affect the human rights of current and future generations,” said Burns Weston, a professor emeritus of law and a former director of the Center for Human Rights.

Orr, a Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin College in Ohio, will speak as a part of the center’s series on climate change.

His lecture, “Down to the Wire: Post Copenhagen Plan B,” will also focus on his work with environmental efforts known as the Oberlin Project and how it relates to the urgency of climate-change awareness.

“With the project, we have four goals that include rebuilding a 13-acre section in downtown Oberlin and making it an economic driver and the city more carbon neutral,” Orr said.

The project started in March as a response to former President Bill Clinton’s May 2009 Climate Positive Development Program focused on reducing cities’ and communities’ greenhouse gas emissions.

“I hope he gives us some idea of reducing further our own greenhouse emissions,” said Jerald Schnoor, a codirector of the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Schnoor said the UI’s recent sustainability efforts and greener initiatives have led the university to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by almost 6 percent since 2003. Schnoor thinks Orr’s lecture could offer more advice in keeping those numbers on the decline.

“He’s a nationally known expert in the area of reducing greenhouse emissions, especially those around buildings and campuses,” Schnoor said. “I think he will probably suggest looking into renewable energy to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Weston extended the invitation to Orr and said he is a great resource on the growing topic.

“Orr is very informed on the issues related to climate change and is constantly thinking and active in the environmental movement,” Weston said.

In his recent book, Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse, Orr credits current environmental concerns to a variety of things including poor use of natural resources.

Weston said he is confident Orr’s lecture will help the UI increase its environmental efforts.

“I hope those attending gain full awareness of how major a crisis we are in and are motivated to action,” Weston said.

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