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What Are We Missing?

Climate ChangeTufts experts discuss the climate change questions we're not asking (but should be).


A decade ago, global warming was not a front-burner issue. Nowadays, it is emerging more prominently into public dialogue. This month's awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to former Vice President Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—of which Fletcher School professors William Moomaw and Adil Najam were members—only underscores the heightened focus on this issue.

But beyond the headlines, there are the important questions left to answer. Is technology the answer? Will we shake our dependence on coal? Who's enforcing policies like the Kyoto Protocol? How will politicians learn to embrace climate change as a viable issue? We asked experts across Tufts, representing a wide range of disciplines, to tell us what we should really be talking about when it comes to climate change.

While their responses draw from divergent backgrounds and areas of research, the overarching message is that more needs to be done, and we need to make the commitment to do it. For these Tufts professors and other climate scholars, talking about global warming is more than an academic exercise; it is a call to action.

Shafiqul Islam, Civil & Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering
"We are changing the system. We've been doing it at an increasing pace over the last several decades. These changes will have consequences."
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Paul Kirshen, Civil & Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering
"There have been about three or four studies in the US on climate change and environmental justice. That's all, and that's crazy."
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Gilbert Metcalf, Economics, School of Arts & Sciences
"There's a real disconnect between where people think electricity comes from and reality. I don't think people connect the dots and realize just how important coal is in the world economy."
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Adil Najam, The Fletcher School
"If you are a fisherman in Bangladesh, this is happening now. And the injustice of that is that those are the people that have had least to do with creating the problem."
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Kent Portney, Political Science, School of Arts & Sciences
"Is there a way to make it possible for our candidates for office to feel like its okay to talk about these issues without risking not being elected or re-elected?"
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Ann Rappaport, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, School of Arts & Sciences
"I don't see any evidence that we are anticipating what climate change will mean to us in any sort of comprehensive way. "
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Michael Reed, Biology, School of Arts & Sciences
"There needs to be independent organizations whose job it is to assimilate science and get the message out to people."
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Jay Shimshack, Economics, School of Arts & Sciences
"I think it is absolutely essential that we talk about enforcement in climate policy now."
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Flo Tseng, Wildlife Medicine, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
"Is there a link between shifts in prey availability, the causes of which could include things like climate change, and increased incidences of things like parasitic diseases?"
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Interviews by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications

Homepage photo by John McConnico / Associated Press. Tseng photo by Melody Ko, University Photographer. Islam, Metcalf, Rappaport, Reed and Shimshack photos by Alonso Nichols for Tufts University. Portney photo by Zara Tzanev for Tufts University. Kirshen photo by Aaron Schutzengel (A'07) for Tufts University. Najam photo by Brian Loeb (A'06) for Tufts University.

This story originally ran on Oct. 22, 2007.