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(Phone: 804/864-6126) RELEASE: 90-39
March 13, 1990
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ADDRESSES GLOBAL BURNING A NASA senior research scientist, Dr. Joel S. Levine of the Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., will lead the first international scientific discussion on global biomass burning as convenor of the Chapman Conference on Global Biomass Burning on March 19-23, 1990, in Williamsburg, Va. The international conference, at the Williamsburg Hilton Convention Center, will bring together leading scientists and environmental policy planners from more than 25 countries, including Brazil, the Soviet Union, China, India, Western European and several African nations. Attendees will attempt to estimate how much of the Earth's surface burns each year and the amount of harmful gases produced. Participants also will consider the impact these gases have on the chemistry of the atmosphere, on climate and on the biosphere. On an average day, thousands of acres of land are set afire. Such large-scale burning of the Earth's biological material damages ecosystems well beyond the immediate consequences of the fire. "When the smoke dissipates, the climatically dangerous greenhouse gases, produced by burning of forests, grasslands and vegetation, are just beginning their negative impact on our atmosphere," said Levine. One of the most pressing questions the conference will address is how biomass burning, ranging from the clearing of the Amazon rain forest to the worldwide burning of agricultural stubble, contributes to global change. "Over the past few years, biomass burning has been identified as a major source of three of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: carbon - more - 2 -
dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide," Levine said. "This combined burning may produce 25-40 percent as much carbon dioxide as fossil-fuel burning, the predominant source of carbon dixoide emissions. "We believe that more than 95 percent of global burning is human initiated and can be stopped once the world's leaders are aware of its detrimental environmental consequences," Levine said. "This is one area of science where we can affect a reversal of a dangerous trend by raising awareness and public education. This is one of the goals of the Williamsburg conference." On Friday, March 23, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., a panel discussion will be broadcast live over the PBS TV network and the Westar IV satellite. Levine will moderate three panels of scientists who will address the scientific aspects of global burning; its political, economic and social implications; and public education and awareness of environmental issues. A toll-free telephone number will enable viewers to question the panelists. The program is being planned by the Langley Research Center, the PBS network, local PBS affiliate WHRO-TV and the Virginia Department of Education. The international conference is sponsored by the American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C.; NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. and the Langley Research Center. Supporting the meeting are the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the International Geosphere/Biosphere Global Change Project and the International Global Atmosheric Chemistry Project. - end Note to Editors: News media desiring more information, or wishing to participate in the Williamsburg Conference, may call Patrice Dickerson of the American Geophysical Union at 202/462-6900 or Marny Skora of Langley Research Center at 804/864-6126. Copies of most of the conference abstracts may be obtained by contacting Brian Dunbar, NASA Public Affairs, 202/453-1547. Beginning March 15, 1990, NASA news releases and other NASA information will be available electronically on CompuServe and GEnie, the General Electric Network for Information Exchange. On the same date, NASA information on the Dialcom electronic service will be discontinued. For information on CompuServe, call 1-800-848-8199 and ask for representative 176. For information on GEnie, call 1-800-638-9636.
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