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Humanity must work as a team to reduce global warming, philosophy professor warns

To teach global warming to middle- and high school students, think of the emissions from industry and vehicles as forming layers of blankets around the Earth. The blankets trap heat and radiation and warm the globe at night. The only way to lighten the blankets, said Cornell philosophy professor Richard Miller at a teachers' workshop at Cornell March 14, is to reduce emissions.

About 20 middle- and high school teachers from such school districts as Trumansburg and Elmira attended the Global Response to Climate Change workshop in Uris Hall to learn ways to teach climate change from a global perspective. It was the first workshop on climate change organized by Cornell Resources for International Studies (CERIS), a unit of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell.

Miller discussed who should take on the burden of reducing emissions, what the ethical issues related to climate change are and what governments need to do to make an impact on the problem. While reducing emissions may be a particular burden to developing countries, he noted, everyone must cooperate to make any progress -- humanity should be seen as a team, he said.

Andrew Moore, a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher at Russell I. Doig Middle School in Trumansburg, agreed that it is "important to understand the big picture." He said he came to Friday's workshop to round out his understanding of the problem and to get new ideas about teaching climate change in his classroom.

He and the other teachers at the workshop received resources and references for teaching about the impact of climate change on communities in Africa, South and East Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Europe. One direct impact of global warming is "water stress," they learned, where droughts limit fresh water supply and negatively impact cereal productivity. This will pose great problems in countries that depend on agriculture, Miller said.

Other speakers at the workshop included He Geng of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change at the Earth Institute, Columbia University; Gail Holst-Warhaft, Cornell adjunct professor in Near Eastern studies and comparative literature who spoke on the impact of climate change on the Mediterranean basin; and Joseph Yavitt, Cornell associate professor of natural resources.

CERIS will offer a second workshop on climate change April 25, which will focus on curriculum development for elementary school teachers.

Jill McCoy '09 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.

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