URI scientists to examine ‘Great Global Warming Hoax’ in Honors Colloquium discussion Sept. 16

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KINGSTON, R.I. – September 8, 2008 – University of Rhode Island professors Rebecca Robinson and John Merrill will discuss the rhetoric surrounding the debate over global warming with the help of documentary film clips as part of URI’s 2008 Honors Colloquium.

Free and open to the public, the discussion – entitled “The Great Global Warming Hoax?” — will be held Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Chafee Social Science Center on URI’s Kingston Campus.

The Honors Colloquium, “People and Planet: Global Environmental Change,” explores human-caused global change, its consequences and potential responses through a series of lectures, films, exhibits and a cabaret. Weekly events run through Dec. 9.

In their discussion, Robinson, a marine geochemist, and Merrill, an atmospheric chemist, both of whom teach at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, will use clips from the film “Unstoppable Solar Cycles: The Real Story of Greenland.” The film was produced by the Idea Channel, an advocacy group that is leading the battle to deny global warming.

“Our plan is to debunk some of the common arguments we hear from naysayers,” explained Merrill. “We’re going to use this beautifully produced film that shows dramatic imagery, has portentous music, and explains to us that all of the world’s leading scientists are trying to convince you of something that isn’t so.”

Robinson focuses her research on the cycling of biologically important elements and their relationship with climate change on various timescales. Of particular interest to her is the role of the nitrogen cycle in regulating biological productivity and atmospheric CO2 concentrations, both in the ancient and in the modern ocean.

Merrill uses meteorological techniques to study the long-range transport of substances in the atmosphere and the impacts of meteorological processes on the environment. He conducts weekly observations of the distribution of ozone using equipment carried aloft by weather balloons.

The discussion will be moderated by Peter August, director of the URI Coastal Institute and a professor of natural resources science.

The next Honors Colloquium event will feature Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, discussing the scientific evidence of global climate change. That lecture will take place Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

The major sponsors of the 2008 Honors Colloquium are the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, the URI Office of the President, the URI Honors Program, the URI Graduate School of Oceanography and the College of Arts and Sciences. Additional support came from the Thomas Silvia and Shannon Chandley Honors Colloquium Endowment, the Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment, the deans of the remaining URI colleges, the offices of the URI vice presidents, the EPA Atlantic Ecology Division and Rhode Island Sea Grant.

For further details about the colloquium, including an updated schedule and information on parking, go to www.uri.edu/hc or contact the URI Honors Center at 401-874-2381 or debg@uri.edu.