Press Release

Stephanie Stone (415) 379-5121
Andrew Ng


Museum will host climate conversations and conference updates in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (December 1, 2009) — From December 7 – 18, 2009, the United Nations will hold the 15th annual Conference of the Parties for its Framework Convention on Climate Change. The purpose of the conference, which will take place in Copenhagen, is to assess progress and challenges in coping with global climate change, and to work toward a new protocol that will replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. Dr. Healy Hamilton, the director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics at the California Academy of Sciences, will be in Copenhagen to present her research about the impact of global climate change on biodiversity.
"Historically, most of the media and public attention to climate change has been focused on extreme weather events or public health consequences," says Hamilton. "There is much less awareness about the potential impacts to biological diversity and ecosystem function, probably because most people don't realize the critical role that intact natural systems play as the economic and ecological foundation to human well being."
Hamilton hopes her presentation at COP15 will encourage policy makers to consider these lesser known, but critically important, impacts of global climate change. Integrating an unprecedented amount of data from museum specimens, field biologists, and global climate models, Hamilton has been working to create a series of maps that illustrate how habitats will shift over the next 100 years in response to different levels of greenhouse gas emissions. These high-resolution maps, which project the future geographic ranges of conservation target species under different future climate scenarios on a ten by ten kilometer grid, are providing some of the first actionable data for conservation managers who must now plan for the effects of a changing climate regime.
"There are profound differences in the impacts of climate change on biodiversity depending on our future greenhouse gas emissions," says Hamilton. "When we model under pessimistic scenarios, the outcomes reveal a world so different by 2090 that the impacts will be devastating to wildlife. But if we can stabilize our emissions levels, and if we implement the right conservation measures, many more species will have a chance to adapt."
At COP15, Hamilton will be presenting as part of a session she organized, entitled "Climate Change and the Diversity of Life: Towards Positive Solutions," which will take place in the U.S. Pavilion on December 15. She has invited three other speakers to join the session: Dr. Phil Duffy from Climate Central, a climate physicist with expertise in climate model downscaling; Dr. Gregory Asner from the Carnegie Institution, an expert on measuring and monitoring carbon in tropical forests; and Rick Ridgeway, a world-renowned mountain climber, author, and photographer, and the Vice President of environmental programs at Patagonia, Inc. Ridgeway is also the founder of the Freedom to Roam campaign, an international coalition of corporations, government agencies, conservation organizations, and recreation groups working together on creative solutions to the threat global warming presents to America's wildlife. During the session, the panelists will present an information rich, forward looking, solutions oriented series of talks about one of the lesser appreciated potential impacts of climate change.
Public Programs at the California Academy of Sciences
In conjunction with Hamilton’s presentation at COP15, the Academy will be hosting a series of climate conversations and conference updates for visitors. All programs are free with museum admission.


Update from Copenhagen
Wednesday, December 16 at 10:00 am
Visit the Academy’s “Science in Action” exhibit for an update from the COP15 conference. Academy scientist Healy Hamilton will call in from Copenhagen for a Skype session moderated by a museum educator. Ask your questions about the UN’s climate change conference, learn about the potential impacts of climate change on species like redwoods and lynxes, and find out what you can do to help.
Update from Copenhagen Dome-Cast
Thursday, December 17 at 7:30 and 8:30 pm
Inside the dome of the Academy’s Morrison Planetarium, take an interactive tour of a redwood forest and learn how these iconic trees are expected to fare under different greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Academy scientist Healy Hamilton will also dial in from Copenhagen to give guests an update about the COP15 conference.
Program takes place during NightLife, the Academy’s weekly after-hours event for adults ages 21 and over.
Climate Conversation
Wednesday, December 23 at 3:30 pm
Visit the Academy’s “Science in Action” exhibit for an update from the COP15 conference. Academy scientist Healy Hamilton will report on the outcomes of the conference and answer questions from the audience. This climate conversation will be moderated by a museum educator.

Live Webcast from the COP15 Conference
The California Academy of Sciences will host a live feed from the U.S. Pavilion at COP15 on its web site at The following two presentations will include Academy representatives:

NOAA Community Panel Discussion on Climate Literacy
Wednesday, December 9th at 9:00 am (PST)
Panelists will discuss an interagency coordinated education and outreach campaign to increase climate literacy in the United States . With the release of the Climate Literacy framework (USGCRP, 2009), the formation of the Climate Literacy Network, and numerous formal and informal education and information programs and campaigns, the tide may be turning. Panelists are: Tamara Shapiro Ledley from TERC; Anthony Leiserowitz from the Yale Project on Climate Change; Aaron Pope from the California Academy of Sciences; and Frank Neipold from the NOAA Climate Program Office.
Climate Change and the Diversity of Life: Towards Positive Solutions
Tuesday, December 15 at 7:45 am (PST)
Panelists will discuss pioneering efforts to expand and link core wilderness areas with climate adaptation corridors that give plants and animals the room to respond to changing climates. They will also address the latest advances in climate model downscaling and ecological forecasting, and describe how these advances are influencing the development of novel and inspirational conservation strategies. Panelists are: Healy Hamilton from the California Academy of Sciences; Rick Ridgeway from Patagonia’s Freedom to Roam Campaign; Greg Asner from the Carnegie Institution, and Phil Duffy from Climate Central.

About the COP15 Conference:  
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty that took effect in 1994. The objective of the treaty, which has been ratified by 192 countries, is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the global climate system. The treaty itself sets no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, the treaty provides for updates (called "protocols") that would set mandatory emission limits. The first of these, The Kyoto Protocol, was adopted by a subset of countries in 1997 and put into effect on February 16, 2005. To date, 184 countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
The parties to the convention have met annually since 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. The fifteenth meeting of its kind, COP15 will take place in Copenhagen from December 7 – 18, 2009. The first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol will expire in 2012, so the UN climate chief, Yvo De Boer, hopes to establish a new protocol over the course of the next two Conferences of the Parties.
About the California Academy of Sciences:
The California Academy of Sciences is the only institution in the world to combine a museum, aquarium, planetarium, and world-class research and education programs under one roof. This unique combination allows visitors to explore the depths of a Philippine coral reef, climb into the canopy of a Costa Rican rainforest, and fly to the outer reaches of the Universe—all in a single visit. Designed by award-winning architect Renzo Piano, the building sets a new standard for sustainable architecture and recently received the highest possible rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. It also provides a home for the Academy’s research scientists, who launch dozens of expeditions each year to document biodiversity around the world, as well as the museum’s 26 million research specimens—essential tools for comparative studies on the history and future of life on Earth.