What: Conference of World Affairs panel on "Climate Change: Get Used to It"
When: 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Chemistry 140, University of Colorado campus
More info: colorado.edu/cwa
Some scientists concerned about climate change say the factors contributing to it are already "baked in," meaning that even if mankind changed its ways drastically tomorrow, people still would be feeling an altered environment's effects for decades to come.
Hence, the title of one of the more intriguing panels in Tuesday's Conference on World Affairs lineup -- "Climate Change: Get Used To It."
As moderator, Jane Saltzman, executive director of Boulder's Earth Vision Trust -- a nonprofit group that oversees photographer James Blalog's Extreme Ice Survey -- won't contribute her own views during the 80-minute session. But she did so in a recent interview with the Camera.
"I think the last three I did were kind of humor-oriented panels, and this one, I think the humor level will be not as present," Saltzman said.
"It will be a fairly serious conversation that will stay focused on the fact that we now are living in a new normal, and climate change is, in fact, a given part of our lives. And what do we do? How do we learn to live? How do we learn to adapt to it? Because we don't really have a choice, at this point."
Saltzman added, "Our own country, is, I believe, at a turning point; we have been locked in the debate for a long time, although the debate in my mind is fictitious; it is a marketing campaign. Because, 97 percent of the scientists in the world believe that this is going on."
When 2012 staggered to a close, it was officially recorded as the hottest year on record for the contiguous 48 United States. The year's average temperature of 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit was more than 3.2 degrees warmer than the 20th century average, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The CWA is famed for assigning guests to panels in which they're called upon to engage subjects that might not line up directly with their fields of expertise. That would be the case for the climate change panel, which will include Seth Shostak, senior astronomer for SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, at Mountain View, Calif.
This will be Shostak's 13th conference, and the climate change session will be one of eight panels in which he takes part this week -- an endurance feat he jokes that he'll manage by gargling formaldehyde.
"Eighty percent of the panels I am on typically involve subjects on which I don't have any expertise," Shostak admitted. "But those, to be honest, are the most interesting panels for me, because I'm forced to think about, and talk about, something I haven't thought about. That's actually very interesting, to me."
But climate change, he said, is one to which he has often given some thought.
"I find it remarkable that there are so many people who think this is some sort of plot by scientists to keep them out of their SUVs," Shostak said. "That is kind of crazy."
He recalls the visit to CWA in 2009 by James Hansen, who resigned last week from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies to take a more active role in the political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases.
"Hansen gave a talk, saying, 'We have got to stop burning coal, not today, but we have to stop doing it yesterday.' And we haven't done that," Shostak said.
"Climate change tends to be very provincial. Some people will do something, somewhere, but unfortunately it's a planet-wide problem. That makes it very difficult to solve, for very obvious reasons. You haven't convinced China to do that."
Humanity must face the facts, Shostak said, likening climate change to "a big flywheel."
"It's spinning, and even if we put on the brakes, it's going to take a while to come to a complete stop," Shostak said.
Also on the climate change panel are geologist/anthropologist Charles Love, who is a professor emeritus at Western Wyoming College, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, a senior lecturer and senior research scholar at Yale University.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.