Like some global game of connect the dots, climate change solutions likely will come from the merging of local programs and policies rather than an international treaty.
That's what environmental policy expert M. Granger Morgan, head of Carnegie Mellon University's department of engineering and public policy, will tell those attending Focus the Nation's local kickoff event at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Doherty Hall on Carnegie Mellon's campus in Oakland.
Billed by its organizers as the "largest teach-in in U.S. history," the three-day program at more than 1,400 schools and universities -- including 52 in Pennsylvania -- will highlight discussions of solutions for climate change, arguably among the most important issues of this century.
"It's nice that finally more of the population is paying attention to climate change," Dr. Morgan said, "but there will be a high price to pay if we wait another decade or two before we get serious about addressing it."
Other local events in the effort to raise awareness about climate change are scheduled at the University of Pittsburgh, La Roche College, Chatham University, Duquesne University and several high schools.
"There are various technologies and strategies for decarbonizing our electric system, and the cost is entirely affordable if we do it in an orderly and planned way now," said Dr. Morgan, who has said that U.S. electric power plants must cut emissions by more than 80 percent during the next 50 years to slow the impact of global warming.
"We can't wait for everyone to agree on a treaty. The most effective way to a solution is to encourage action. As different parts of the world get serious and, over time, merge, eventually they will coalesce into a global agreement."
After Dr. Morgan's speech, the "2% Solution," a nationwide Webcast featuring actor and clean energy advocate Edward Norton, Stanford University climate scientist Steve Schneider, and Hunter Lovins, chief executive officer of Natural Capitalism, will be shown.
On Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m. in Carnegie Mellon's University Center, faculty members and community sustainability leaders will make presentations on topics, including "All Your Climate Science Questions Answered," practical tips for a low-carbon lifestyle, the latest developments in solar technology and what a changing climate will mean for Pennsylvania.
"Green Democracy," a political forum sponsored by all of the Pittsburgh area schools, will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, at the University of Pittsburgh's David Lawrence Hall, Room 120. Invited speakers include U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, and city Councilman Bill Peduto.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council will present its Climate Change Roadmap for Pennsylvania at seven events throughout the state, five of them on Thursday at Carnegie Mellon, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pitt's Johnstown Campus, Allegheny College and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
It sets a goal of reducing Pennsylvania's greenhouse gas emissions, which are blamed for causing climate change, by 25 percent by 2025.
"Pennsylvania alone generates about 1 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, putting us in the same group with the top 25 emitting nations in the world," said Brian Hill, Pennsylvania Environmental Council president. "We're a big part of the problem. We need to be a big part of the solution."
All of the presentations are open to the public.
The final part of the teach-in will be the "Choose Your Future" vote, in which students, faculty and community participants select their top five solutions from a list of 10 available on the organization's Web site, www.focusthenation.org.
For more information on Focus the Nation events at Pittsburgh-area schools, visit www.ftnpittsburgh.org or call Vanessa Schweizer at 1-845-270-9330. For more information about the PEC Climate Change Roadmap for Pennsylvania, visit www.pecpa.org.
Don Hopey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983.