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University of Iowa News Release


June 9, 2008

Global change, human rights are focus of UI institute for teachers June 16-20

In areas like the southern Sahel region of Africa, known for its dry climate and nomadic people, global climate change may create indirect social and political ramifications. A decrease in rainfall in these areas is correlated to increased levels of civil conflicts, according to University of California, Berkeley economist Edward Miguel. Increasing droughts could lead to civil strife, death and an international problem caused by huge influxes of environmental refugees.

Water scarcity will be one of many topics discussed at this year's University of Iowa International Programs Summer Institute for Teachers workshop Monday, June 16, through Friday, June 20, at the University Capitol Centre in downtown Iowa City. Each year's workshop focuses on an international theme or geographical area. The 2008 institute, sponsored by UI International Programs and the UI Center for Credit Programs in the Division of Continuing Education, will focus on global climate change by examining human rights, consequences and responsibilities.

Eugene Takle, Iowa State University professor of atmospheric science and agricultural meteorology, will give a keynote lecture titled "Impacts of Global Climate Change on Iowa and the Midwest: Agricultural Production in a World of Uncertainty" at 7:30 p.m. in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library Thursday, June 19.

He will discuss the current trends and future projections of global climate change for the U.S. and regions of the world having soil, climate and terrain conditions highly suitable for rain-fed crops. He also will discuss the influence of biofuel production and government policies, in addition to climate change and climate variability, on current food prices. The lecture is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. (For more information or special accommodations to attend the lecture, contact Amy Weismann at UICHR at 319-335-0483.)

Takle's research interests include computer modeling of microclimates created by shelterbelts, regional impacts of global climate change, and improvements in roadway weather forecasts. Beginning July 1, he will assume the position of first director of the newly launched Climate Science Initiative at Iowa State University. He serves on numerous national scientific review panels and has been a contributing author and reviewer of the Third and Fourth Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

"It's an issue that touches everyone's life globally as well as locally," said Weismann, UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR) deputy director and summer institute coordinator. "It's truly an international topic of concern to all walks of life and one that is emerging in the research of natural science and social science." The UICHR is coordinating the course with participation from faculty in the UI Colleges of Education, Engineering and Law.

The course, geared towards junior high and high school teachers across Iowa, will provide information on the science of climate change, the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and human populations as well as current and future adaptations and mitigation strategies. The workshop will include lectures and case study discussions on how to integrate environment education into the classroom.

 "The generation that is in secondary school right now will be more affected by climate change than any generation preceding it," said Sharon Benzoni, executive director of the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities, a community group affiliated with UI International Programs. "This course gives teachers the tools to educate these students about the complex issues associated with climate change. They can bring them to the classroom and empower these young people with the knowledge they will need as active citizens to make decisions about the effective and sustainable use of the Earth's natural resources."

The institute will also examine human rights as a framework for addressing environmental concerns by looking at international policies and a unique research program between the UICHR and Vermont Law School, the Climate Legacy Initiative.

Directed by Vermont Law's Professor Emeritus Burns Weston, UICHR founder, along with Jerry Schnoor, UI engineering professor, and Jonathon Carlson, UI law professor, the initiative addresses global environmental issues by researching how international legal doctrines, such as the International Bill of Human Rights, can protect present and future generations from harms resulting from global climate change.

"Internationally we are going to need to think about this," said Benzoni, who was a research assistant of the Climate Legacy Initiative. "We need to understand the connectedness between environmental, social and political systems."

The institute is open to 25 junior high and high school teachers. Educators interested in enrolling should contact Amy Weismann at or call 319-335-0483. The cost to attend is $1,083 for graduate credit. Tuition grants are available. The registration deadline is Sunday, June 15.

For more information or a complete schedule, see

The course is offered through the Center for Credit Programs and can be taken for three semester hours of graduate credit. Teachers can register by contacting the Center for Credit Programs at 319-335-2575 or 1-800-272-6430 or online at

UI International Programs enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Amy Weismann, UI Center for Human Rights, 319-335-0483; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077;; Writer, Aly Dolan