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November 4, 2013

Engaging Climate Change Speaker Draws Large Crowd to ODU Lecture

topstory1-lgTitley speaks to a packed room in the Big Blue Room of the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Following his lecture, he answered questions from the audience.
topstory1-lgBFrom left: Hans-Peter Plag and Larry Atkinson, co-directors of ODU's Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative, sit next to Titley during his introduction. Photos by David Hollingsworth
By Jon Cawley

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. David W. Titley proved once again to be a powerful draw, attracting more than 300 people Thursday night to an engaging Old Dominion President's Lecture Series talk on climate change and sea level rise.

Titley last spoke at ODU in 2010 while he was the Navy's top oceanographer and commander of the service's climate change task force. He now serves as director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Pennsylvania State University.

Titley's lecture was held in conjunction with the ODU "Access EU" international conference, which brought together about 70 European and American experts this week to discuss transatlantic solutions to sea level rise adaptation.

The conference, which ends today, is part of ODU's multidisciplinary Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative that is conducting "pretty cool research," Titley remarked during Thursday night's lecture.

He told the crowd at the Ted Constant Convocation Center that climate change and sea level rise is a growing problem. "It's not about polar bears," he said. "It's about us."

Titley, who admitted that he was not always a believer, noted that the Earth's climate has always been changing. "So, what's the big deal?" he asked.

He prefaced his answer by saying, while temperatures have always oscillated, the world's civilizations were built up during a prolonged period of climate stability.

"Now, we're trying out climate change in a world with 7 billion people," Titley said.

His lecture also addressed those who deny human activities have a cause and effect relationship with climate change, or don't believe there is even a problem at all.

"While there are certainly things to learn in climate science, don't be fooled by all the caveating: 'It's not settled,'" Titley said. "It's just physics - cutting-edge, 19th-century physics. We've known for over a century. That allows us, within reason, to understand this."

As far as what communities need to do to counter the threat of climate change and sea level rise, Titley said he is in favor of employing what he called "The Goldilocks Strategy."

"Not too much, not too little. Just enough at the right time. Spend what we need to, but not more," he said. "Learn. Don't foreclose our options."

The award-winning ODU President's Lecture Series serves as a marketplace for ideas, featuring fascinating personalities who share their knowledge, experience, opinions and accomplishments. Discussing timely topics, the series puts diversity first, offering an international lineup of authors and educators, business innovators and political figures.

Past speakers have included: Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a globally recognized psychosexual therapist; Dr. Patch Adams, the physician and professional clown who was portrayed on film by actor Robin Williams; Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Costa Rica; actress and humanitarian Mia Farrow; Jean-Michel Cousteau, marine explorer, environmental activist, educator and filmmaker; Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme allied commander; and Janet Reno, former U.S. attorney general.