Vail Symposium event discusses science, politics around climate change |

Vail Symposium event discusses science, politics around climate change

Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D.
Robert Tjalondo | Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: “7 Billion Reasons to Reconcile Climate Change, Politics and Human Behavior,” with Kevin Trenberth, Peter Ogden, Kim Langmaid and Mercedes Quesada-Embid.

When: Thursday, March 9, 5:30 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. program.

Where: Donovan Pavilion, 1600 South Frontage Road W., Vail.

Cost: $25 preregistration before 2 p.m. on the event date, $35 at the door and $10 for students and teachers.

More information: Advance registration online at

VAIL — Today, the Vail Symposium will host Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D., who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 when it went to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Peter Ogden, the United Nations Foundation’s vice president for energy, climate and the environment; and Kim Langmaid, Ph.D., the director of sustainability at Walking Mountains Science Center, for a discussion about climate change.

This is not a talk about whether there is or is not climate change. Widely accepted by the scientific community as fact, this multifaceted talk dives straight into the status of climate change and its threat to the human race, including a range of prognostication and a policy discussion about what world leaders are doing to protect the planet. The talk will also include outcomes of the Paris Agreement, what the new administration in the United States is likely to do and how Eagle County might fit into the solution.

“It is worth noting the Vail Symposium is a politically neutral organization,” said Kris Sabel, Vail Symposium executive director. “The decision to address this topic was made before the current administration took shape and is based on the conclusions of the world’s scientific community. We will welcome questions of all types from the audience.”

Here, the panelists from the program discuss their expertise as it relates to this issue.

Trenberth on science

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Trenberth is a distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He was a lead author of the 1995, 2001 and 2007 Scientific Assessment of Climate Change reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize that went to the panel.

“The appropriate role for scientists is to ask the scientific questions,” Trenberth said. “There are observations of what is going on at all sorts of fronts — increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, changes in temperature, rising sea levels and diminishing glaciers. Then there are the things which have a big economic impact — massive flooding events during the last two years, droughts, wildfires and record-breaking storms.”

Trenberth is currently focused on climate variability as it relates to climate change, including global energy and water cycles and how they are changing.

“One of the key parts of what we do is use climate models to synthesize scenarios and make projections for the future,” Trenberth said. “One of the fun things about being a climate scientist and using these models is that we can change things. We can see what is going to happen if we keep adding carbon dioxide to the air.”

Ogden on policy

Ogden is an expert in international climate policy and foreign policy in the United States. He currently serves as the United Nations Foundation’s vice president for energy, climate and the environment.

From 2012 to 2013, he served on the White House National Security Staff as director for climate change and environmental policy. Prior to that, he served on the White House Domestic Policy Council as senior director for energy and climate change and at the State Department as chief of staff to the special envoy for climate change.

“On the one hand, we are coming off a period of unprecedented climate policy activity and climate co-operation on the global level and into a period of transition,” Ogden said. “When it comes to finding solutions to climate challenges, policy decisions need to be made throughout a course of years. We are just reaching a point in the world where we are seeing implementation across shifting political landscapes. It’s important to think about those things in the near and far terms.”

Langmaid on Eagle County

Langmaid is the vice president, director of sustainability and founder of Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. Her focus includes local sustainability, collaborative conservation and environmental education.

“Two simple things: First, the Eagle County community wants to protect the people and places we all depend on from being harmed by climate change,” Langmaid said. “Secondly, our community is taking practical steps to combat climate change for the benefit of future generations living in Eagle County.”

Mercedes Quesada-Embid, Ph.D., a professor of sustainability studies at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards, will moderate the discussion among Trenberth, Ogden and Langmaid.

“This talk will focus on what can be done about climate change and will be an interesting mix of science, policy and plans for moving forward,” Sabel said. “From the new administration to the latest scientific findings, there will be a lot to discuss about this very hot topic.”

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