Climate Change Conferences Feature Scientists; One Attracts Skeptics

While skeptics protested the validity of climate change research at one recent conference, another conference focused on how to address existing impacts of changing weather in the region. The Allegheny Front's Estelle Tran has the story.

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OPEN: While skeptics protested the validity of climate change research at one recent conference, another conference focused on how to address existing impacts of changing weather in the region. The Allegheny Front's Estelle Tran has more.

TRAN: A woman portraying Chicken Little and about a dozen others recently protested a talk by a prominent scientist in Pittsburgh. Detractors have been showing up at many appearances by Dr. Michael Mann, of Penn State University and his international colleagues. Mann and about 12-hundred other experts found global warming is real and human activity has been the main cause. The International Panel on Climate Change established a definitive connection between global climate change and greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels. But protesters don't believe the panel's work.

NAT. SOUND: Squawking "The sky is falling."

TRAN: One of the protesters, Greg Wrightstone, said he gave up his coveted Penguins hockey tickets to speak out against what he says is deceptive science. He and other members of the group paced and shouted outside the large windows at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh. That's where PennFuture members gathered for the climate change conference. They wore t-shirts with images of Mann that said climate change was--quote--Mann-made, a reference to the scientists' name.

WRIGHTSTONE: I'm opposed to the federally mandated cap and trade that's coming down the pipe. They're going to impose severe taxes on carbon emissions, which is going to hurt every single taxpayer in the United States, and will fall most heavily on those with fixed incomes and low income people.

TRAN: Wrightstone says he is a geologist in the Marcellus Shale industry, and that he was protesting because he thinks there is a growing movement of flawed science that gets in the way of work like his, and makes the public believe that energy production is unsafe.

TRAN: Mann says climate change skeptics can't deny the science.

MANN: It's sort of sad that any of those who deny the reality of climate change have really stooped to such a low level in the public discourse where they're not even trying to make the scientific case anymore because they can't make the scientific case. So, they've turned to smear campaigns.

TRAN: Meanwhile climate change, and its impact on Pennsylvania was the subject of a second conference held in Erie by Pennsylvania's Wild Resource Conservation Program. The Adapting to Climate Change conference brought together researchers and conservationists from 37 government organizations, environmental groups and universities. One of the main goals was to create a list of all ongoing research about climate change and plant and animal adaptation. Pennsylvania Wild Resource Conservation Program executive director Greg Czarnecki says the effects of climate change are already visible in Pennsylvania. CZARNECKI: We're seeing some more invasive species that are more common to the South show up here in Pennsylvania. A good example is Kudzu--that vine that everyone knows when they go down South is now found in 140 places in Pennsylvania. Our growing season has extended by almost two weeks over the past 40 years. And a lot of our birds are being found much farther to the north than they were just 40 years ago. A good example is the American Robin is found 200 miles to the north during the winter time.

TRAN: More meetings will be scheduled throughout the state this year. Czarnecki hopes to revise the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action plan by early next year to help native species to adapt.

For The Allegheny Front, I'm Estelle Tran.