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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 5, 2010

Experts share climate-change findings at UH-Hilo conference

By Nancy Cook Lauer
West Hawaii Today

Climate change is a given for scientists converging this week at the University of Hawai'i-Hilo for the Pacific Congress on Marine Science and Technology.

At issue: How best to mitigate the resulting damage to the oceans and find alternatives to fossil-fuel energy sources that spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

More than 150 national and international marine scientists, engineers and policy makers are attending the weeklong conference, which ends today. Visiting scholars and scientists from more than 14 countries are sharing their latest research findings.

Global-warming skeptics garnered headlines in November when e-mails were leaked from a British research center showing scientists debating, among other things, whether to include data in a United Nations report that showed a less-than-strong connection between man's activities and environmental changes.

Dubbed "Climategate," the controversy was followed by one of the coldest, snowiest winters in decades on the United States Mainland, adding more fuel to the debate among nonscientists about the veracity of global-warming science.

Some scientists put the whole debate to the side and concentrate on positive results.

"If I do not look at climate change and just look at improving product quality, I can make it palatable for people," said Wolf D. Grossmann, a researcher from the University of Graz in Hamburg, Germany, who made a presentation on new energy systems to curb climate change.

"The skeptics, pretty much without knowing it, can sabotage economic progress, sabotage economic growth," Grossmann said in an interview.

His research colleague, James Marsh, professor of international business economics at UH-Mānoa, said progress can be made simply by moving past the debate. Even though he's not a climate scientist, he has reviewed the research and finds it solid, he said.

"I don't listen much to skeptics," Marsh said.

"We were somewhat teased by Mother Nature," said Lorenz Magaard, a scientist at the UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. "But if one looks at the total picture, it is clear. I think there is enough scientific evidence that global warming is going on."

Magaard cites the melting of glaciers and increased acidification of oceans as signs. He said a UH colleague has created models that showed predictable climate activity for millions of years, but changes over the past 40 years fit the model only when it includes human activity.

Magaard's presentations were on energy and climate change. Other scientists' presentations have included climate change law, effects of human activity on coral reefs, extraction and conversion of ocean energy and fisheries enhancement and coastal restoration.

Capt. Charles James Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, Calif., concentrated his keynote address on the increasing threat of plastics in the oceans. Moore noted ocean currents create a "toilet bowl effect" that brings garbage from both Japan and North America to the Big Island's shores. Less than 1 percent of the plastics washing ashore in Hawai'i actually come from the state, Moore said.