Top climate scientists from China and the United States will gather May 23-24 with policymakers, Nobel laureates, think tanks officials, business representatives, members of the media and others at the University of California, Berkeley, to explore how the world's two biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions can address global warming and minimize its impacts on the planet.
"If the globe has any hope of coming to grips with climate change, the U.S. and China both have to get involved in this issue in a big way - and so far they haven't," said Orville Schell, who is dean of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, a China scholar and an organizer of the conference.
Thomas Gold, a UC Berkeley sociologist and head of the Berkeley-China Initiative that is helping to organize the conference, said next week's two-day China-U.S. Climate Change Program will be the initiative's first in a series of events on climate change and environmental issues involving China, the United States, and other regions of the world.
Topics of discussion at the forum will include various perspectives on climate change, reports about the latest scientific research and technological innovation, coal, economic development, and social, policy and media-related dimensions of climate change.
"This is a place where two giants with enormous influence on the planet get to talk to each other, scientist to scientist," said John Harte, a UC Berkeley professor in the Energy and Resources Group who will present an overview of the consequences of climate change. "We (scientists) don't distrust each other, so we can have really good exchanges and share our concerns and share our constructive ideas for solving climate problems."
Steve Chu, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory director and a Nobel Prize-winner in physics, will discuss historic climate data, including evidence that shows climate over the last five years is the warmest in the last 150 years. He calls carbon-based energy use and increasing demand for energy "one of the most important societal problems that science and technology can help solve," and he has committed the Berkeley Lab to finding carbon-neutral forms of energy that can sustain the world in an environmentally acceptable manner.
As the major oil users in the world and with growing economies that promise more of the same, the United States and China have a special responsibility to address this issue in forums such as the one at UC Berkeley, said Chu. "If we don't solve this," he said, "the life style of the world will change dramatically."
Schell said that traveling in China last fall, it became very evident that climate change has already become a huge problem.
Elevating the concern, he said, are recent reports by Chinese scientists who calculate that 7 percent of the Tibetan Plateau's ice cap is disappearing each year, jeopardizing the glacial headwaters for six of Asia's major rivers, including China's Yangzi and India's Ganges.
Meanwhile, in the United States, President Bush has told reporters that it is uncertain whether climate change is manmade or natural.
Participants in the forum will include leading scientists from institutions such as Harvard University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Tsinghua University. Participating business officials will include representatives from the China National Petroleum Corp., Global Business Network, Royal Dutch Shell and other firms.
Among participating think tanks will be the Woods Hole Research Institute, Shanghai Institute of International Studies and the Natural Resources Defense Council. In addition, members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Chinese Meteorological Administration will be on hand, as will members of major media outlets in the United States and China.
"That's the complete chain in the line of solutions to the climate change problem," said Schell, "Our intent is to make this a group of people whom we hope will knit together a sort of fabric for ongoing relationships and exchanges."
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore will make a presentation about worldwide climate change at the forum, which is being held in partnership with Peking University's College of Environmental Sciences, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday (May 23). His presentation will feature a clip from the soon-to-be-released documentary film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth." Gore recently helped found the bipartisan Alliance for Climate Change to raise awareness of global warming.
The Berkeley-China Initiative, a group of UC Berkeley faculty members and graduate students with interests and expertise relating to China, is working to forge closer ties between China and UC Berkeley and also is raising funds for scholarships to enable Chinese students to pursue studies at UC Berkeley.
The Open Society Institute, a private organization founded by financier George Soros to promote democratic governance, human rights and social reform, provided the seed money to bring the two sides together for next week's conference.
The forum is free, open to the public, and at Wheeler Hall Auditorium, with the exception of Gore's talk. Tickets for his talk at Zellerbach Auditorium are $10; UC Berkeley students with identification will be admitted for free. To buy tickets, contact the Cal Performances box office at: http://tickets.berkeley.edu/.
More detailed information about the forum and participants is online at: http://chinausclimate.org/en/.