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Peter Clark Oral History Interview, December 15, 2017

Oregon State University
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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Today is December 15th, 2017.

Segment Synopsis: Date and location of interview. Introduction of Dr. Peter Clark, Distinguished Professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. Introduction to focus of interview: research and global warming.

Keywords: College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; Oregon State University

Subjects: Oregon State University. College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences

00:00:19 - Growing in California

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Partial Transcript: Where were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes an early interest in the outdoors once his family moved from Connecticut to California. His parents were both teachers and his family has a long history of teaching in academia.

Keywords: Outdoor Recreation in California; Preparatory school teachers; Teachers

Subjects: Backpacking; California--Carpinteria; Outdoor recreation; Preparatory school teachers; Teachers

00:02:01 - Undergraduate Studies at St. Lawrence University

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Partial Transcript: And what influenced your decision to go to St. Lawrence University?

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes how his family's historical involvement with St. Lawrence University, beginning with the university's inception, influenced his decision to study there. While initially an English major, Clark recalls how an introductory geology class inspired him to shift academic focus.

Keywords: Geology Major; St. Lawrence University

Subjects: Geology--Study and teaching; St. Lawrence University

00:03:36 - Master's Degree at University of Waterloo

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Partial Transcript: And what influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies?

Segment Synopsis: Clarks discusses why he decided to pursue graduate studies upon completing his bachelor's degree. He chose to go to University of Waterloo in Ontario for his master's degree after a positive visit and for the opportunity to work with someone he admired. Clark recalls exploring Canada as a student at St. Lawrence University prior to studying there as a graduate student. He describes his research on the glacial history of the St. Lawrence Valley. While Clark had some exposure to teaching as master's student, he was primarily funded through a research assistantship.

Keywords: Glacial History of St. Lawrence Valley; Master's Degree; University of Waterloo

Subjects: Academic theses; Glaciers; University of Waterloo

00:06:07 - PhD at University of Colorado Boulder

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Partial Transcript: And then you decided to pursue a PhD?

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes how his interests in glaciers propelled him into a PhD program at the University of Colorado Boulder. He recalls first learning about the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research as an undergraduate reading geology journals.Years later, he was able to work with this research group as a PhD student. Clark describes travelling to the harsh Arctic environment of the Torngat Mountains on Labrador Peninsula to conduct his research.

Keywords: Glacial History; Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research; PhD research in the Arctic; Torngat Mountains; University of Colorado Boulder

Subjects: Glaciers; Newfoundland and Labrador--Great Northern Peninsula; University of Colorado Boulder; University of Colorado Boulder. Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research

00:11:07 - Teaching at the University of Illinois at Chicago

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Partial Transcript: So after you completed your PhD, you ended up teaching at the University of Illinois in Chicago? How did you end up at that institution and what was your impression or sense of it?

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses how he acquired his position at the University of Illinois at Chicago while completing his PhD. He describes his initial job duties and life in Chicago.

Keywords: Living in Chicago; University of Illinois at Chicago

Subjects: University of Illinois at Chicago

00:14:13 - Moving to Oregon State University

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Partial Transcript: So what influenced your decision to move to Oregon and work at Oregon State?

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes the different factors influencing his decision to leave Chicago and work at Oregon State University. He discusses transitioning into the Department of Geology.

Keywords: Oregon State University, Department of Geology

Subjects: Oregon State University. Department of Geology

00:16:56 - Teaching at OSU

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Partial Transcript: And you continued on as a teacher at Oregon State? How has your role as a teacher evolved over the years?

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes discovering how much he enjoyed teaching once he started at UIC. He currently teaches a range of courses at OSU.

Keywords: Teaching at Oregon State University; University Teaching

Subjects: College teaching

00:17:55 - Research Tools

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Partial Transcript: Moving more into your research, can you talk about how tools to date ice cores- I guess tools that you've used through your research- have kind of evolved through your career? And maybe touch on tools used for predictive climate change modeling.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses synthesizing his field work with bigger picture questions and collaborating with experts on climate change models. He describes how methods for dating events, modeling tools, and the diversity of models have improved over his career.

Keywords: Climate Change Models; Synthesizing Climate Change Research

Subjects: Climatic changes--Models

00:20:06 - Anthropogenic Climate Change

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Partial Transcript: When did your interest in anthropogenic climate change start?

Segment Synopsis: Clark recalls a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder studying carbon emissions in the 1970's and 1980's. He describes how climate change was always relevant to his research, but as the evidence and impacts of global warming increased, his research on the geologic past figured more prominently into predictions of the future. Clark relates how as his work broadened, he became more involved with national and international efforts to better understand the future of the planet.

Keywords: Anthropogenic Climate Change; Climate Change Research

Subjects: Climatic changes--Effect of human beings on; Climatic changes--Forecasting; Climatic changes--Research

00:23:19 - Perception of Climate Change

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Partial Transcript: So you kind of touched on this, but do you think that your- do you have a unique perspective or framing of climate change given your work on geologic timescales compared to, say, the average citizen?

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses his perspective on the scale of human-caused climate change in the context of how people perceive this issue.

Subjects: Climatic changes--Effect of human beings on

00:24:54 - Ice Sheets and Global Climate

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Partial Transcript: And you referenced ice sheets, when did your research- when did you start incorporating ice sheets as a part of your research? And can you kind of talk about how they play a role in the global climate?

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes how historical ice sheets have always been a part of his research, from the ice sheet of the St. Lawrence Valley to the Laurentide ice sheet of North America. He explains the role of ice sheets in global climate via albedo, atmospheric circulation, and relationship to ocean circulation. Clark also discusses the significance of the Greenland Ice Sheet melting into the North Atlantic ocean circulation.

Keywords: Albedo Effect; Atmospheric Circulation; Global Climate; Greenland Ice Sheet; Ice Sheets; North Atlantic Ocean Circulation; Ocean Circulation

Subjects: Albedo; Atmospheric circulation; Climatic changes; Ice sheets; North Atlantic Ocean; Ocean circulation

00:30:58 - Abrupt Climate Change

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Partial Transcript: And earlier you referenced "abrupt climate change." Can you explain how that differs from say, not abrupt climate change?

Segment Synopsis: Clark defines abrupt climate change. He uses a glass of water being pushed toward the edge of a table and then falling as an analogy for human activities resulting in "pushing" the climate toward a tipping point.

Keywords: Abrupt Climate Change

Subjects: Climatic changes

00:32:11 - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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Partial Transcript: And you referenced your involvement with the IPCC. You've been a coordinating lead author. Maybe you could talk a little more about how you got involved with that and what your experience has been like as an author.

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes how he was nominated to be an author for the fifth IPCC assessment report by a colleague at NASA. He recalls being surprised to be asked to co-author the sea level chapter instead of the paleoclimate chapter, given his research on paleoclimates. Clark explains how paleoclimates are relevant to understanding sea level change. He describes how IPCC assessment reports are written by working groups (his working group wrote about the physical basis for climate change) and how working groups are broken up further into chapters. He describes the different treatment of sea level by the fourth and fifth reports. Clark compares writing an IPCC chapter to a review paper, and how the authors must critically assess evidence, conclusions, and literature consensus. He discusses the responsibilities of a coordinating lead author and how he is interested in taking on a different role in the future.

Keywords: Fifth IPCC Assessment Report; Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change; Paleoclimate; Sea Level Rise

Subjects: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Paleoclimatology; Sea level

00:44:47 - U.S. Climate Change Science Program

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Partial Transcript: How did you get involved with the US Climate Change Science Program?

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes his involvement with the U.S. Climate Change Science Program in writing a report on abrupt climate change. He provides an overview of the domestic program and compares it to IPCC assessment reports.

Keywords: Abrupt Climate Change; US Climate Change Science Program

Subjects: Climate Change Science Program (U.S.)

00:46:22 - Broader Climate Change Discussion / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Now I'm gonna move to some broader climate change questions. What were your earliest conversations on climate change like and how have these dialogues shifted over time?

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses broader aspects of climate change with respect to communication, collaboration, policy, and education. He compares his earliest conversations with colleagues on climate change and how questions around it were framed, to present-day discussion and research on it. Clark describes Oregon State University as home to an engaged and collaborative community of researchers looking into various aspects of climate change. When discussing climate change funding, he expresses uncertainty on how funding will change given the current political climate. Clark discusses changes in policies related to eliminating carbon emissions that he would like to see in the future. He reflects on how scientists could better improve the public's understanding of climate by talking about it differently. He does not feel hopeful about the future of the planet in the context of climate change.

Keywords: Climate Change Research; Global Warming

Subjects: Climatic changes--Government policy; Climatic changes--Research; Global warming