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University of Iowa News Release


June 8, 2009

UI institute explores issues of global climate change, human rights June 15-19

If the Western U.S. dries substantially, do the Western states have a right to tap the Great Lakes for water, based on the right of all citizens to have access to safe drinking water? If New Orleans experiences another Katrina in 10 years, do they have the right to rebuild again? And what happens if Cedar Rapids or Iowa City flood again?

These are just some of the questions Eugene Takle, Iowa State University professor of atmospheric science and agricultural meteorology, will explore with more than 20 teachers from across the state of Iowa at the University of Iowa's International Programs Summer Institute for Teachers Monday, June 15, through Friday, June 19, on the University of Iowa campus. Each year's workshop focuses on an international theme or geographical area.

At this year's institute, UI faculty and staff and teachers from across the state of Iowa will discuss the impact of climate change and the current political and legal debates associated with it.

The 2009 institute, sponsored by UI International Programs, the UI Center for Human Rights 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. The institute will take place in the University Capitol Centre, public lectures will be in the Seamans Center.

Takle will examine the global and regional effects of climate change on agriculture and the importance of investing in education and innovative energy solutions at the keynote address from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 18, in Room 1505, Seamans Center on the UI campus.

Takle 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.

Abby Fenton, education program manager at the Will Steger Foundation, will also give a lecture titled "1200 Miles by Dogsled: An Arctic Adventure to the Frontlines of Global Warming" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, in Room 1505 of the Seamans Center.

Fenton will take people on a virtual trip to the Arctic where they can witness the thrill and challenge of the 1,200-mile dogsled expedition across Canada's beautiful and remote Baffin Island. She will also discuss the impact of climate change on the traditional Inuit way of life, and encourage people to get inspired to take part in solutions in their local communities.

In 2007, internationally renowned polar explorer Will Steger led a cross-cultural expedition team of U.S. and Inuit members to Baffin Island and the front-lines of global warming. Straddling the Arctic circle, Baffin Island is home to several long-standing Inuit communities who still depend significantly on the ability to hunt and fish to support, feed and cloth their families. Known as "the canary in the coal mine," the polar regions are seeing some of the worst effects of climate change on the planet, including changing weather patterns, melting sea ice, and threatened habitat.

Both lectures are free and open to the public. For more information or special accommodations to attend either lecture, contact Amy Weismann at the UICHR at 319-335-0483.

"The science is clear that climate is changing at the global scale, and we need to do something about it," Takle said. "Mitigation measures to avoid future climate change will have little impact for 50 years. Adaptation strategies need to be put in place immediately to minimize adverse effects of near-term (next 10-20 years) climate change."

The institute, 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 environmental education into the classroom.

"The relationship between environmental concerns and human rights is becoming more pressing and more present as a priority overall and there is a need to bridge these movements and concerns," said Amy Weismann, UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR) deputy director and summer institute content coordinator. "We want to encourage the teachers who are in the institute to feel empowered with knowledge and some pedagogical approaches to integrate information and some critical thinking about climate change and its impact on human beings into their teaching."

The UICHR is coordinating the course with participation from faculty in the UI Colleges of Education, Engineering and Law.

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.

In partnership with Vermont Law School, the initiative brings environmental scientists and legal scholars together to define, identify and develop new ways of addressing the global concerns associated with climate change. The initiative will examine the scientific and legal dimensions to create new theories of redress and prevention, directed by Vermont Law's Professor Emeritus and UICHR founder Burns Weston, along with Jerry Schnoor, UI engineering professor, and Jonathon Carlson, UI law professor. It will also explore the intergenerational dimensions of climate change burdens, and our current responsibilities to future generations.

The institute is open to 25 middle school, junior high and high school teachers. Educators interested in enrolling should contact Buffy Quintero at or call 319-335-0345. The cost to attend is $1,143 for graduate credit and $726 for undergraduate credit. Tuition grants are available. The registration deadline is Friday, June 12.

For more information, see

The course is offered through the Center for Credit Programs and can be taken for three semester hours of undergraduate or 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.

To download a high-resolution photo of Eugene Takle, visit

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; Kelli Andresen, UI International Programs, 319-335-2026,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077;; Writer, Tessa McLean