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A fair approach to climate change

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Free parking. Free entrance. Free food. And unlimited access to numerous fun-filled games and activities for children and their parents. These are not the only good reasons to come to the University of California, Riverside on Saturday, Nov. 12. There's this, too: A unique opportunity to learn from experts everything you wanted to know about the science of climate change but were not sure whom to ask.

The "Refresh Riverside! A Community Climate Fair" will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Pierce Hall Lawn, near the Bell Tower on campus. The fair will feature games, booths and activities such as Sea Level Limbo in which participants get a hands-on experience for sea level change, Tornado Twister and Climate Change Jeopardy. Visitors also will get to calculate their carbon footprints at the Carbon Dioxide booth and learn, in a nearby booth, why corals get bleached under stress.

In the "Watts Up!" booth, experts will show wattage used by different types of light bulbs so that consumers are fully informed of their options. In the "Plant a Seed" booth, children will have the opportunity to understand sustainable gardening by planting seed in cups for transferring later into their own gardens.

"Visitors to the fair are in store for lots of fun," said Mary Droser, a professor of in the Department of Earth Sciences, who is leading the effort to organize the first community climate fair on campus. "They will appreciate that the science of climate change is accessible. Every visitor will have ample time to engage with climate change experts, and leave with abundant useful information."

Free food provided will consist of hot dogs, snow cones, and cotton candy to represent the roles that heat, cold and clouds, respectively, play in our lives. Food also will be available for sale. Several booths will offer prizes and freebies. Resources for teaching climate change and sustainability in K-12 classrooms will be offered to teachers attending the fair.

"We are fortunate in having attracted a rich variety of sponsors to the fair," said Robyn Dahl, a graduate student in Droser's lab, who is helping organize the fair. "This is going to be an enjoyable, family event, and we're expecting a high turnout. All visitors can expect to learn what climate change and its implications are all about, and get informed about the importance of living sustainably. While our target audience is fourth to eighth graders and their families, all members of greater Riverside community are welcome and encouraged to come!"

Experts from UCR and NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be available at the fair to answer questions about greenhouse gases and their role in warming the planet, why temperature is predicted to go up in some places and down in others, and how impactful clouds are in raising or lowering the Earth's temperature.

The NASA scientists will demonstrate with videos how scientists track Earth's climate from space. Along with UCR scientists, they will explain how the melting of land ice leads to sea level rise, how extreme weather is connected to global warming, how global climate change affects ecosystems, and how people can live more sustainably.

"Climate change affects everyone regardless of our income or where we live," Droser said. "An important goal of the fair is to communicate the issues about and surrounding climate change. One lingering problem is that there is plenty of jargon out there, which can confuse the public about what climate change even is. Through this fair, we are laying out in fun and easily accessible ways the evidence and predictions for climate change for the greater Riverside area and beyond."

UCR is a leader in sustainability education and research, focusing on topics such as the environment, energy, climate, recycling, waste management, transportation, and water.

"Because higher education provides the intellect and initiative to move this country forward, it is important that we set the standard for society to aspire to and train the intellectual community and the workforce to preserve this planet for future generations and do battle with the causes of climate change," Chancellor Timothy P. White recently said.

Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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