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Global Warming Expert Michael Oppenheimer to Lecture at NJIT Technology Forum

Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, will discuss the role of fossil fuel in global warming during a March 2 lecture at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The lecture, scheduled for 3–4:30 p.m. in the second floor ballroom of NJIT’s Campus Center, is free and open to the public.

The lecture will be webcast live on March 2, beginning at 3 p.m., by logging onto http://speakerforum.njit.edu/.

Editor’s Note: Journalists who would like to attend, please call Robert Florida at (973) 596-5203.

In his lecture Oppenheimer will explore his contention that climate change is the top environmental problem of our time. If nothing is done to restrain the emissions that are causing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Oppenheimer believes, future generations could experience a global warming unprecedented in the history of civilization.

If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt, Manhattan would be swamped, as would much of Florida and Bangladesh. Could this actually happen? Oppenheimer will explain how such a catastrophe might occur due to the world’s over-reliance on fossil fuels.

Oppenheimer’s research suggests that the melting of global ice sheets is occurring at a faster pace than predicted by some scientific models. He believes that the Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets are particularly vulnerable. Sea levels have risen four inches already over the past century and could rise between four and forty inches more in the next century. “We ought to be starting now to do what we can to reduce emissions,” he says.

Oppenheimer is one of many climate change experts who are openly critical of current U.S. government policies on global warming. These experts are alarmed by the apparent apathy of the American public to the risks of continued high levels of fossil fuel consumption. In 2001, the United States, which produces 36 percent of the world’s so-called greenhouse gases, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, a pact designed to slow the increase of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. Oppenheimer has warned that unless immediate action is taken, carbon dioxide will increase to levels not seen on earth since the Eocene age, when palm trees grew in Wyoming and crocodiles lived in the Arctic.

Oppenheimer is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University.  He is also the director of the program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) at the Woodrow Wilson School, and associated faculty of the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences Program.  He joined the Princeton faculty after more than two decades with Environmental Defense, a non-governmental, environmental organization, where he served as its chief scientist and manager of the Global and Regional Atmosphere Program.

He served as a lead author of the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and is also a lead author for the Fourth Assessment.  He was a member of the National Research Council’s Panel on the Atmospheric Effects of Aviation and has served on several university and institutional advisory boards. Prior to his position at Environmental Defense, Oppenheimer served as Atomic and Molecular Astrophysicist and Lecturer on Astronomy at Harvard University.

The Oppenheimer lecture is the third in NJIT’s 2005 Technology and Society Forum series. The six spring forums are designed to explore the connections between the technological expertise students study in the classroom and the real-world geo-political issues that affect the quality of human life. Each event is designed to foster discussion between the experts and the audience about the social implications of cutting-edge technologies. The forum website is http://speakerforum.njit.edu.

On April 6, Philip Goode, PhD, distinguished professor of physics and director of the Big Bear Solar Observatory, will discuss his research suggesting that climate changes on earth are correlated with changes in the Sun's output. On April 20, the Nobel Laureate Leon M. Lederman, director emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, will discuss the crisis in U.S. science education and science literacy.  That lecture is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Jim Wise Theatre, Kupfrian Hall, on the NJIT campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.