Contact:  Suzanne Perry
(651) 290-1276


A documentary and Web site produced by American Public Media’s national documentary unit, American RadioWorks, asks if we are heading for an abrupt climate shift.

(St. Paul, Minn.) August
11, 2004 — Not long ago, scientists discovered that the Earth’s
climate is capable of changing abruptly, as if a switch were flipped.
In the past, this kind of abrupt change may have caused droughts, floods
and even regional cooling.

Some scientists warn
that we could be heading for another sudden, massive climate shift— this
one triggered by the human actions that cause global warming.

American RadioWorks
(ARW), the national documentary unit of American Public Media, has produced
a radio documentary and a Web Site that examine the potential impact
of global warming, which is caused by carbon dioxide produced when fossil
fuels like oil or coal are burned. Although the available information
is imperfect, scientists tell ARW the phenomenon could cause drastic
changes to the Earth’s climate — and that we must make tough
decisions about whether and how to act.

TUNE IN: Hosted
by National Public Radio’s Ira Flatow, the one-hour ARW documentary, "Climate
of Uncertainty," will air on public radio stations across the
country in mid-August.

WEB SITE: www.americanradioworks.org/features/climate features
audio of the documentary, along with a transcript and links to other
resources on global warming.

"Climate of Uncertainty" features
interviews with scientists and researchers who are studying ice caps,
glaciers, snowfields, seas, wildlife movements and computer models for
signs of climate change. They include:

  • James Hansen,
    a climate expert for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
    who notes that carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 30 percent
    over the last 150 years. This is like adding two tiny Christmas tree
    bulbs to each of the 150 trillion square meters that make up the Earth’s
  • Will Steger,
    an adventurer who is collecting impressions of Inuit hunters and elders
    about climate change in the Arctic. One hunter tells him that previously
    permanent snowfields now melt by late summer and that ground squirrels,
    foxes and other animals are migrating further north every year.
  • Paul Mayewski,
    a glacier expert who led a U.S. team that collected glacial core samples
    in Greenland during the 1980s and early 1990s. "What we discovered
    in that record…is that there are responses to climate change
    that can be extremely abrupt," he says.
  • Archeologist Harvey
    , who has been excavating a northern outpost of the once-great
    empire of Akkad in Mesopotamia (now northeastern Syria and northern
    Iraq). The civilization collapsed suddenly, which scientists now
    attribute to the advent of a 300-year drought that toppled societies
    from present-day Crete to India.
  • Climatologist Wally
    , who has developed a theory about the cause of abrupt
    climate changes in Greenland some 8,000 years ago that has gained
    widespread scientific acceptance. He has proposed that a massive
    ocean current known as the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt — whose
    tropical heat warms western Europe — was shut down due to an
    influx of fresh water, leading to a dramatic cooling. Global warming,
    he says, could also flip the conveyor’s off switch, by causing
    more water to evaporate in the warm parts of the planet. That would
    create extra rain and snow in the regions around the north Atlantic
    that would add enough fresh water to kill the conveyor.
  • Canadian climate
    researcher David Keith, who says: "The key question is,
    are we willing as a species ultimately to spend a couple percent of
    global economic productivity over the next century to avoid making
    major climatic changes that lead to really quite substantial changes
    and extinctions and so on throughout the global environment?"

"Climate of
Uncertainty" is produced by Daniel Grossman and John Rudolph.

Public Mediaô is the national production and distribution unit of Minnesota
Public Radio. It is the nation’s second-biggest producer of national
public radio programs, reaching 11.9 million listeners nationwide each
week. National programs include
A Prairie Home Companion®, Saint Paul Sunday®, Marketplace®, Sound Money®, The Splendid Table®, Being® and special reports produced by its documentary unit, American RadioWorks®. Minnesota Public Radio, along with its sister company Southern California Public Radio, belongs to a larger family of companies within American Public Media Group, a national nonprofit organization whose purpose is to develop resources, services and systems to support public media for public service. A complete list of stations, programs and additional services can be obtained at www.americanpublicmedia.us.


Source: Data are copyright Arbitron, Inc. Arbitron data are estimates only.
Fall 2003