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“May You Live
In Exciting Times …”
Climate Change,
Public Understanding,
and Lessons From
The Harriman Expedition Retraced
Tom Litwin
Smith College
Northampton, MA
[email protected]
The 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced:
A Century of Change
Two expeditions separated by a century …
… A century as momentous as any 100-year period
in human history
Technical Advances,
Globalization of Environmental Issues
Local/regional driver
Local/regional response
Local/regional impact
Credit: Kim Heacox
Credit: National Park Service
Credit: NOAA
Credit: NOAA
Credit: Kim Heacox
Globalization of Environmental Issues
Local/regional driver
Local/regional response
Local/regional impact
Global driver
Global response
Local/regional impact
Credit: Kim Heacox
Credit: National Park Service
Credit: NOAA
Credit: NOAA
Credit: Kim Heacox
Public Understanding … Public Confusion
“Global warming is the greatest
hoax ever perpetrated on the
American people.”
“False Alarm: Atlantic Conveyor
Belt Hasn’t Slowed Down.”
Science, November 2006
US Senator James Inhofe, July 28, 2003
“Ancient Ice Shelf Snaps and
Breaks Free From Canadian
Associated Press, December 28, 2006
“The climate crisis is, indeed,
extremely dangerous. In Fact, is a
true planetary emergency.”
Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, May 2006
IPY 2007-2008 Concept
ICSU and WMO are co-sponsoring:
An intensive burst of internationally coordinated, interdisciplinary,
scientific research and observations focussed on the
Earth’s Polar regions starting in 2007
IPY Themes
Current Status of Polar Regions
Change in the Polar Regions
Global Linkages
New Frontiers
Polar Regions as Vantage Points
The Human Dimension
The Human Dimension also runs through the first five Themes.
Data Management and Education, Outreach & Communication
are present in all six themes
IPY and Societal Benefits
IPY can bring societal benefits to the polar regions in the
form of new knowledge, in enhancements to the systems
observing change and in understanding of natural and
human processes there
– Improving weather information, forecasting, and warnings
– Improving predictions of climate variability and change
– Reducing loss of life and property from natural and humaninduced disasters
– Establishing how to mitigate or adapt to environmental factors
affecting human health and well being
IPY and Societal Benefits
Improving the sustainable management of fisheries/ agriculture
Improving the management of resources of water and energy
Improving the management and protection of terrestrial,
coastal, and marine ecosystems
Understanding, monitoring, and conserving biodiversity
Providing indigenous people with the tools and capabilities to
tackle these societal issues and build capacity
IPY Objectives
• Seek major advances in knowledge and understanding
• Obtain a snapshot of the current state of the Polar regions
• Establish a legacy of new or enhanced observational systems,
facilities, infrastructure and research networks
• Ensure unprecedented access to the data generated
• Attract and develop the next generation of polar scientists and
• Capture the interest and involvement of polar residents and of
schoolchildren, the public and decision-makers worldwide
Photo credit: British Antarctic Survey
Why Outreach?
Outreach makes connections with people, who may
think or act differently as a result of learning about
your work.
Outreach can influence the future!
Jane Beitler (NSIDC), at Fall 2004 AGU
The IPY Target Audience
Photo credit: DCJ, US Outreach Workshop, July 2005
Photo credit: Paul Tate
Map credit: World Wildlife Fund
• Humans as integral and powerful players within the ecosystems and
earth systems that sustain them.
• The Bering Sea as one of the Earth’s most interesting and productive
• The cultures, religions, lifestyles, and economic models that depend
on Bering Sea resources.
• The Bering Sea as a laboratory for understanding the science and
social science of climate and environmental change.
• The Bering Sea as an interdisciplinary, educational gateway for
helping the public tease apart and understand the increasingly
complex issues at the interface of society and the environment.
Following the successful Harriman Retraced model (,
Thin Ice educational products and outcomes will include:
A two-hour PBS documentary film co-produced by Florentine Films/Hot
An extensive educational web site targeted to PBS Online, including real-time
ship’s log postings.
Ship-based radio expedition intended to bring the public onboard in real-time.
A book that celebrates the Bering Sea and its people, and integrates our
science and social science knowledge into the global conversation about
climate change.