Provost Presents at Al Gore Climate Conference

Posted: June 3, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Provost Peter Stearns was one of a select group of scholars from around the world invited to speak at the Alliance for Climate Protection’s Climate Change Solutions Summit last month in Nashville with former Vice President Al Gore.

The Solutions Summit brought together academics from a wide variety of disciplines, including history, sociology, science and business. The purpose of the summit was to probe more deeply into concrete solutions for climate change to help develop government policies and invoke massive social behavior change.

Stearns’ presentation, “Lessons and Limitations from the Industrial Revolution,” turned to history for possible solutions for the climate crisis. Stearns has studied the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries for many years.

For the purposes of the summit, he looked for the first time at the revolution not only in terms of environmental change but also for possible guidance in adjusting the process — as, for example, initial industrial approaches to hours of work were adjusted by the early 20th century.

His presentation was one of several that looked at historical events for solutions to the current crisis. Other scholars considered previous federal efforts such as the space program and the Marshall Plan to see if there are lessons to be learned and elements that can be effectively used.

“I was impressed with the seriousness of the engagement,” says Stearns. “It was truly a focused academic discussion.”

Gore was a major presence at the conference, Stearns said. After the presentation, the former vice president joined others for about 45 minutes of active discussion.

Gore is working on a new book and a larger campaign to move from identifying problems to engaging solutions.

“There’s no question about the seriousness of his commitment and that of his staff,” Stearns notes, “and, of course, I’ll be very interested to see what kinds of strategies emerge.”

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