The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) seeks to promote global perspectives by sponsoring distinguished speakers whose work crosses disciplinary boundaries. The Distinguished Lecture Series is designed to bring outstanding scientists, as well as historians of science, science policy makers, and science journalists, and others—see past distinguished lectures—who take imaginative positions on environmental issues and can establish enduring connections after their departure. Participants interests embrace those of the University departments and programs, and the NOAA labs affiliated with CIRES. The Lecture Series is presented in each academic year.

Lecture Coordinators
Max Boykoff, Chair
Maggie Tolbert
Jen Kay
Linda Pendergrass, ex officio

Lecture Contact
Linda Pendergrass, 303-492-1595,

In the 2015 Series

All lectures are held from 4:00-5:00 pm in the CIRES Auditorium-Room 338 with a reception following in the CIRES Atrium. (unless otherwise noted)

Upcoming 2015 Lectures

  • Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - Dr. Steve Amstrup from PBI (Polar Bears International)
  • Friday, April 24th, 2015 - Dr. Dan Kahan from Yale University-Law School
  • Friday, September 25th, 2015 (tentative) - Dr. David Keith from Harvard University
  • Friday, November 6th, 2015 - Dr. Barbara Finlayson-Pitts from University of California-Irvine
Dr. Gavin Schmidt

April 3, 2015: CIRES Auditorium

Dr. Steven C. Amstrup
Chief scientist for Polar Bears International

Why should we care about polar bears?
The polar bear is the world’s largest non-aquatic carnivore. It is the most mobile of all four-legged creatures, with activity areas larger than Montana. Polar bears hunt marine mammals from the surface of the sea ice. When ice-absence means they are unable to feed, they can endure a more prolonged fast than any other large mammal. But, there is a limit to how long they can be food deprived, and global warming-induced sea ice declines have been linked to reduced body condition, poorer survival, and declining abundance. Their dependence on habitat that melts as temperature rises, makes polar bears the best early indicator of threats to the Arctic from anthropogenic global warming. More importantly, they are sentinels of global health, providing advanced warning of challenges coming to all of the species and environments about which we care. Prompt and aggressive greenhouse gas mitigation still can save polar bears over much of their range. We should care about polar bears because if we act in time to save them, we also will save most of the rest of life on earth, and maximize opportunity to leave our children a world similar to that in which humans
have flourished.