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Honors Colloquium

Fall 2008 Honors Colloquium

URI professors to discuss ‘Astonishing Solutions’ to curb global warming, Oct. 28

Arthur SpivakUniversity of Rhode Island professors Arthur Spivack and James Opaluch will use video clips to examine several proposed large-scale technological fixes for reducing climate change as part of URI’s annual fall Honors Colloquium.

Free and open to the public, the program – titled “Astonishing Solutions” -- will be held Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium on URI’s Kingston Campus.

The 2008 Honors Colloquium, “People and Planet: Global Environmental Change,” explores human-caused global change, its consequences and potential responses through a series of lectures, films, exhibits and a cabaret. Weekly events run through Dec. 9.

Among the “Astonishing Solutions” that will be considered are:

  • Installing large numbers of small mirrors in space to disperse sunlight before it strikes Earth, thereby reducing the rate of global warming;
  • Construction of a large scale facility to filter carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which could offset emissions from human activities and reduce future warming;
  • Fertilizing the ocean to spur fast-growing plankton that soak up carbon dioxide.

James OpaluchAccording to Opaluch, “these kinds of actions are sometimes called geo-engineering since they represent large scale attempts to intentionally change global conditions. Note that these actions are generally meant to offset the effects of large scale human actions that have unintentionally changed global conditions,” he said.

While not advocating for or against any of the proposed solutions, Opaluch and Spivack, a professor of oceanography, will discuss the options from their respective perspectives of economics and science.

“All of the proposals have strengths and weaknesses, and each comes with its own set of risks,” Opaluch said. “Our intent is point out the strengths, weaknesses and risks as we see them.”

Opaluch studies ecosystem services, natural resource damage assessment, and survey methodologies. He is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board and served on numerous committees and panels for the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation.

Spivack is an oceanographer who specializes in the chemistry of the ocean and atmosphere.

For more on geoengineering, visit the following links:


Major Sponsor:

The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation

Sustaining Sponsors:

URI Office of the President; URI Honors Program; The Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment; The Thomas Silvia and Shannon Chandley Honors Colloquium Endowment.

Leadership Sponsors:

URI Graduate School of Oceanography and URI College of Arts and Sciences.


Environmental Data Center, URI Department of Natural Resources Science; R.I. Center for the Book at Providence Public Library; R.I. Office of Library and Information Services; R.I. Sea Grant College Program; U.S. E.P.A. Office of Research and Development, Atlantic Ecology Division; URI Classroom Media Services; URI Coastal Institute; URI College of Business Administration; URI College of Engineering; URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences; URI College of Human Science and Services; URI College of Nursing; URI College of Pharmacy; URI Division of Student Affairs; URI Division of University Advancement and the URI Alumni Association; URI Foundation; URI Office of the Provost; URI Office of the Vice President for Administration; URI Office of the Vice Provost for Information Technology Services; URI University College.

Colloquium Coordinators:

Professor Steven D'Hondt, Graduate School of Oceanography;
Professor Arthur Spivack, Graduate School of Oceanography;
Professor Judith Swift, Theatre and Communication Studies.

For information about ways to support the Honors Colloquium, contact Tom Zorabedian at 401-874-2853 or