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Scientists, public-policy experts, lawyers and environmental activists will be gathering again next month in West Virginia’s Allegheny Highlands to try to focus the state’s attention on climate change and what local citizens and leaders can do about it.

In the second of what organizers hope will become an annual event, the Friends of Blackwater’s Allegheny Highlands Climate Change Impacts Initiative is hosting its “Climate Change: Science, Impacts, Preparedness, Communication, and Solutions Conference” at Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis on Oct. 16-18.

The keynote speaker at this year’s event is Sarah Forbes, a Randolph County scientist who formerly worked for the World Resources Institute and is now with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management. Her work focuses on the future of fossil fuels in a carbon-constrained world.

Other major speakers include Jim Schaberl, who plans for climate change impacts as division chief for natural and cultural resources at Shenandoah National Park, and Amy Hessl, who teaches about the issue as a professor of geology and geography at West Virginia University.

“Global warming and climate change threaten the ecology and economy of the Allegheny Highlands region — and the world,” says a flier promoting the event. “At this science-based program, a wide range of experts will discuss the ecologic, economic, and human impacts of climate change and the solutions we can use to meet this challenge.”

Tom Rodd, a lawyer and activist who has worked on environmental, consumer and social-justice issues across West Virginia for years, is again organizing the meeting.

“This year we are not just focusing on climate change impacts, but we also have presentations on preparedness and climate-smart solutions,” Rodd said. “Speakers ... will not only talk about what’s at stake and what’s at risk, but how we can manage the climate impacts we can’t avoid.”

Internationally, scientists continue to increase their warnings about the potential impacts of climate change on humanity. The latest U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change again reported that evidence of warming is “unequivocal, that impacts of climate change are already evident and caused by human activity and that huge reductions in greenhouse pollution are necessary, to avoid the worst effects.”

In West Virginia, many political leaders continue to reject or ignore such scientific findings, argue against action to reduce emissions or downplay the seriousness of the issue. West Virginia leaders are especially opposed to the Obama administration’s efforts to force coal-fired power plants to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

But Rodd noted that earlier this year, West Virginia science teachers “did a great job” in pushing back against efforts “to gut climate science teaching standards.” And, he noted that last year, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., while opposing Obama’s power plant rules, also “unequivocally called for global action to cut carbon emissions.”

Early registration deadline, which saves on the cost of attending the conference, is Oct. 1. For more information about attending, visit the initiative’s website at

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.