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		(212) 854-5573					May 29, 1997

Human Activity Could Cause Dramatic Climate Change, Columbia Scientist Tells Global Warming Conference

Will New York Become a "Baked Apple"?
"We are playing Russian roulette with our climate," one scientist told the opening session of GW8, the Eighth International Global Warming Conference and Exposition held May 27-29 in Altschul Auditorium and adjoining rooms in Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. Annual precipitation shown in ice cores and pollen distribution from seafloor sediments show that Earth's climate is subject to extremely abrupt and dramatic changes, said Wallace Broecker, Newberry Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia and a well-known paleoclimatologist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y. Patterns of ocean currents can change, and climate temperatures can rise or drop by 15 degrees Fahrenheit or more over as few as 30 years. Human activity - such as our dumping six billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually - could precipitate such a dramatic change, Professor Broecker said, and the fact that our climate is currently between major periods of glaciation means the climate could as easily turn colder as warmer. "The Earth's climate system is an angry beast subject to unpredictable responses, and by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere we may be provoking the beast," he said. Energy added by greenhouse gases can warm the atmosphere, but it can also increase atmospheric turbulence, said Sinyan Shen, director of the Global Warming International Center, a sponsor of the conference. Dr. Shen pointed out that in the past 30 years, while global population has doubled, economic losses from extreme events such as droughts, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes has increased by 60 times. "We need to look at where the heat is coming from and where it is going," he concluded. Panels at the GW8 conference reported on both the magnitude of warming and how we should prepare for it. More than 50 scientists from two dozen nations presented results of their research in climatology, agriculture, epidemiology, government policy and other areas. The conference was co- sponsored by the Global Warming International Center, an independent environmental research institute in Woodridge, Ill., and by Columbia's Earth Engineering Center, an institute to reconfigure industrial activities that is directed by Nickolas Themelis, Stanley Thompson Professor of Materials Science at Columbia. Among the strategies advocated for coping with global warming are adopting more energy-efficient technologies, finding new energy sources that do not produce excess carbon dioxide, a so-called greenhouse gas, and permanent disposal of excess carbon dioxide in, for example, cement. Other topics will include the expected health effects of global warming and surveillance methods - examining tree rings or lichens, for example - that can alert us to global warming's progress. Professional engineer Douglas Hill of Huntington, N.Y., reported on the local effects of global warming in a paper titled "Baked Apple? Metropolitan New York in the Greenhouse." According to Mr. Hill, "New York could expect serious consequences from global warming: killing hot spells, worsened ozone pollution, uncertain water supply and inundation of its waterfront from higher sea level and violent storms." He concluded that the region should adopt measures to address both existing problems and a potential local warming, and suggested energy and water conservation, flood control, a reduction in traffic congestion, and passive measures such as planting trees and painting rooftops white. 5.27.97 19,128