Global Sustainability Lecture Series Begins Wednesday

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, the United Kingdom’s climate and energy czar, will discuss climate change and global stability.


By Saundra Amrhein

Special to


TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2010) - As scientists perceive a link between global warming and Pakistan’s recent deadly floods, military leaders warn that climate change could hasten instability, causing national and international security threats in some of the world’s most volatile regions.


Military personnel will bring that message to the University of South Florida during the launch of the new School of Global Sustainability Lecture Series.


This first in what will be an on-going lecture series on sustainability is titled “Climate Change and Energy: 21st Century Global Security Challenges.” It will be held at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 15, in the Oak Room of the Marshall Student Center, MSC 3707, and is open to the public.


The start of the lecture series also marks the latest development in the university’s numerous projects on global sustainability.


 In addition to opening the new school earlier this year, in August the university welcomed its first group of graduate students seeking the newly offered master’s degree in global sustainability.


 What’s more, the new School of Global Sustainability along with year-old Office of Sustainability will hold a film festival in mid-October to highlight the world water crisis.


In this first presentation in the lecture series, the invited guest speaker is Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, the United Kingdom’s climate and energy security envoy.


Organizers believe the event will draw students and faculty from a cross-section of USF – from the Joint Military Science Leadership Center; the new SGS graduate program; as well as researchers working on sustainability in fields like engineering, business, education, public health, the arts, and the social sciences, said Linda Whiteford.


Whiteford is the associate vice president for academic affairs and strategic initiatives in the Office of the Provost. She guided the creation of the new School of Global Sustainability and the development of the lecture series.


“Sustainability is quintessentially an interdisciplinary endeavor,” Whiteford said.


To be sure, a growing chorus of international military brass has been sounding the alarm the past several years about climate change and security threats.


Morisetti plans to discuss how climate change can act as a “threat multiplier,” exacerbating tensions around the world. He will outline how countries need to ensure that their security strategies address the impact of climate change on stability. He will also stress the need for a global transition to a low-carbon economy to diminish security threats.


Morisetti will be accompanied by Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, USN, (Ret.), who has served on the Military Advisory Board for the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA).


McGinn is one of 11 retired three- and four-star admirals and generals who wrote a report for CNA linking climate change to destabilization in volatile parts of the world.


In recent environmental online news reports, he listed Pakistan as an example, following devastating monsoon rains that unleashed massive flooding starting in late July. The floods have left a fifth of the country underwater and displaced millions of people.


“This is a weather climate-related disaster that is affecting over 20-million people in a country that has nuclear arms, an ongoing extremist insurrection and is a key ally in our efforts in that part of the world, especially in defeating the Taliban,” McGinn was quoted saying. “This is a major, major issue from a national security standpoint … and this is a window into the future if we don’t do something about climate change and energy policies.”


Ghassem Asrar, the director of the World Climate Research Program and the World Meteorological Organization, is among scientists and climate experts citing climate change as a “major factor” in the unusually heavy monsoon rains that fell over Pakistan.


“There’s no doubt that clearly the climate change is contributing, a major contributing factor,” Asrar said in an interview with ClimateWire, an online news agency picked up by the New York Times and Scientific American. “We cannot definitely use one case to kind of establish precedents, but there are a few facts that point towards climate change as having to do with this.”


Asrar said in the interview that higher-than-average temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean created more water vapor in the atmosphere and joined warming conditions from La Nina weather cycle in the central Pacific Ocean. This, along with unusual atmospheric conditions, led to the dumping of rain on Pakistan.


Meanwhile, news agencies like Reuters report that U.S. military personnel worry that Islamic militants will capitalize on the flooding in Pakistan, preying on angry and desperate survivors to reclaim territory recently ceded in the northwestern valley.


In other parts of the world, the shortage of water – namely drinking water – could be the cause of the next world wars, experts say.


The School of Global Sustainability, the USF Office of Sustainability, and Student Government will host a film series in mid-October to mark the 10th anniversary of USF President Judy Genshaft’s tenure. The film festival, called The Future of Water, will show the following documentaries:


“Flow;” 84-minutes; examines the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling freshwater supply and solutions underway to stem the tide; film and reception, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Marshall Center.


“Blue Gold: World Water Wars;” 90-minute film; examines the causes of the water crisis and its potential effects; film and reception, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Marshall Center.


“Running Dry;” 81-minute film; tackles the world water crisis from multiple angles; film and reception, Thursday, Oct. 14, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Marshall Center.


The lecture series and film series – which are open to the public – will encourage students to think about the grand challenges facing the world and possible solutions, said E. Christian Wells, director of the USF Office of Sustainability.


“We will see more social, economic and environmental changes in the next 10 to 20 years than we have seen over the past century,” Wells said. “Those who came before us didn’t know about these global problems that have emerged, and those that come after us won’t be able to do anything about them. But for us, there is still time to act. Students need to know this.”