Webinars on Climate Science and Policy

Metcalf Institute webinars feature leading scientists, policy makers, and communicators in a variety of fields to help news consumers make sense of complex science and environment issues.  The seminars are archived on Metcalf Institute’s YouTube channel. Metcalf Institute webinars are part of our Climate Change and the News Initiative, developed to assist journalists in covering the science and impacts of climate change. Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #MetcalfCC.

Past Webinars

Climate Change and the News:
What’s New in the U.S. Climate Science Special Report?
Featured guest: Radley Horton, Columbia University climate scientist
According to the Climate Science Special Report recently released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, we are living in the warmest period “in the history of modern civilization.” The report summarizes thousands of research studies that have documented the effects of global warming on ocean life, flooding, and extreme weather, with a focus on U.S. impacts. Columbia University climate scientist Radley Horton, one of the authors of the Climate Science Special Report, highlights the report’s conclusions and its significance for journalists and broader public audiences. Horton’s research focuses on extreme weather events, the limitations of climate models, and adaptation to climate change.

Climate Change and the News:
Key Disaster Recovery Phases and How Relief Organizations Help
Featured guest: Sarah Watson, independent risk communication consultant
The life cycle of a disaster has four phases: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. This webinar focused on recovery and mitigation, essential to rebuilding for future storms. Sarah Watson, an independent risk communication consultant, also discussed the roles of relief organizations in long-term recovery and how reporters can work with these organizations to tell stories with impact while providing an essential public service. Watson is also a former reporter with the Press of Atlantic City where she covered disaster recovery following Superstorm Sandy.

Climate Change and the News:
How FEMA and Flood Insurance Work

Featured guest: Sarah Watson, independent risk communication consultant
The flood and disaster recovery beats often rely on important data and policies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Sarah Watson, an independent risk communication consultant, introduced FEMA’s role in the recovery process, how reporters can ensure they relay the most relevant information to their readers, how the National Flood Insurance Program works, and an overview of what kinds of data journalists can obtain to inform their reporting. Watson is also a former reporter with the Press of Atlantic City where she covered disaster recovery following Superstorm Sandy.

The Arctic Meltdown and Extreme Weather: Untangling a Complex Story
Featured guest: Jennifer Francis, Rutgers University
Two conspicuous symptoms of global warming are the rapid melting of Arctic ice and increasing frequency of certain types of extreme weather. Heat waves and more intense precipitation have been clearly and directly linked to a warming Earth, but an emerging topic of active research is the possible impacts of an Arctic that is warming at twice the pace of the rise in global temperatures. Dr. Francis discussed new results and efforts to understand this complicated and controversial aspect of climate change.

Climate Change and the News:
Getting to 1.5°: What Will it Take?
Featured guest: Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University
Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Katharine Hayhoe is a prominent atmospheric scientist with a commitment to engaging citizens in discussions about climate change. In December 2015, 195 nations agreed that we want to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees.  Now, the question is: can we do it? Staying below a given global temperature target depends on many human factors – technology, demographics, energy policy, and economics. But it also depends on climate science; specifically, how sensitive the earth’s climate is to all the heat-trapping gases we’re pouring into it, and what it does with them. Katharine Hayhoe discussed the contributions and limitations of climate science to setting and achieving global targets.

How Will Coastal Environments Respond to Sea Level Rise? New Study Challenges Assumptions that Drowning is the Only Scenario for Low-Lying Coasts
Featured guest: Erika Lentz, U.S. Geological Survey
Recent studies have estimated that climate change could cause sea levels to rise at rates much greater than those projected only a few years ago, drowning large areas of coastline in the process. But widespread coastal drowning may not provide a complete picture of anticipated sea level rise impacts; a new study shows up to 70% of the coastline stretching from Maine to Virginia will likely change in response to sea level rise, rather than disappearing under water. Using a novel modeling technique, the study produced a more nuanced picture of how sea level rise might form a mosaic of dry land, wetlands, and open seas, rather than a uniformly submerged shoreline. Barrier islands may migrate inland, build dunes, change shape or be split by new inlets, while marshes continue to trap sediment and break down decaying plants into new soil that could elevate them and keep pace with rising waters. This study presented an approach that couples what we know about sea level rise impacts with what we still need to learn — how different ecosystems may respond to different sea-level rise scenarios — to estimate the likelihood that an area might change instead of simply drown.

Nature’s Shield: Coastal Habitats Protect People and Property from Sea Level Rise and Storms
Featured Guest: Katie Arkema, Stanford University and Lead Scientist, Natural Capital Project
Extreme weather, sea-level rise and degraded coastal ecosystems are placing people and property at greater risk of damage from coastal hazards.  The likelihood and magnitude of losses may be reduced by intact reefs and coastal vegetation, especially when those habitats fringe vulnerable communities and infrastructure.  Arkema and colleagues have developed the first national map showing how coastal habitats reduce damages from natural disasters for the entire coast of the United States.  Arkema discussed this map, which highlights where investing in ecosystems can be a critical component of coastal defense and climate adaptation planning.

Using Gas Tracers to Understand Changes in Polar Ice Sheets
Featured Guest: Brice Loose, Assistant Professor of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography
The recently released IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report confirmed a high level of confidence among scientists that ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking. These changes can influence coastal currents and global sea levels. University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography chemical oceanographer, Dr. Brice Loose, summarized the state of scientific understanding regarding the West Antarctic ice sheet, his lab’s use of gas tracers to clarify melting and ocean circulation in the region, and the implications of the projected changes for global sea level rise.

IPCC Assessment Report 5: Climate Change Impacts
Featured Guest: Gary W. Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, Wesleyan University
View Yohe IPCC WG2 Slides
Dr. Yohe highlighted the new information from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and the implications of adopting a risk-based framing for the discussion of climate change impacts, an approach adopted by the National Academy of Sciences, the New York Panel on Climate Change, and the 2014 National Climate Assessment.


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