I started my career in a technical field completing a Bachelor of Science in Honours Chemistry with a focus on environmental chemistry and a final year thesis in atmospheric chemistry. After working at an environmental consulting company, I returned to school to obtain a Master of Applied Science in Environmental Engineering. It wasn’t until designing my Master’s thesis project that I started to become more aware of a world outside of academic science and engineering that could potentially be just as impactful as the technological solutions I was hoping to create.
If you had told me in January of 2017 that I’d be traveling to Bonn, Germany later in the year to witness world discussions on climate action, I would not have believed you. You see, at that time, I had yet to travel outside of the United States because I was terrified of flying over the big, blue ocean! Oh I had dreams to travel abroad, but I’d never acted upon them because of my fear.
Most early career climate scientists, myself included, entered the field during the years of the Obama Administration. Climate science was officially respected and encouraged, and we saw the U.S. take a leading role in negotiating the Paris Accord and back up its talk by substantially reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
Hawaiʻi was fortunate enough to have the honor to host the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress this September. This was the first time in its 70-year history that the Congress has ever been held in the United States. Around 10,000 participants came together in Honolulu and embraced the Aloha Spirit. The sheer size of the Congress was astounding alone but the diversity of people attending made it all the more impressive.
Climate negotiations, like last December in Paris, are complex, complicated, and not always fruitful. Last year, an innovative class for undergraduates at the University of Oklahoma gave students hands-on experience of how climate policy is made. This fall the class will go online for everyone around the world to participate. Here is my interview with the instructor and students of this class to summarize their experience with context to the recent Conference of the Parties (COP21) negotiations.
In a recent article, NASA Climate Scientist Gavin Schmidt explained that every scientist is an advocate, and asks provocatively what should we advocate for? The answer, all successful scientists must advocate for the use of resources to support their research, many of us through formal proposals to government agencies. We advocate on behalf of our students, colleagues, and programs in our universities, laboratories, or companies.
While the Australian Government is currently denying the links between bushfires and climate change (sigh…), President Obama has just released an executive order titled “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change”.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to release its fifth assessment report, they asked for reviewers to read the draft and comment. Nearly anyone can sign up as and “expert reviewer” as long as they agree to confidentiality. In early December, one reviewer by the name of Alec Rawls decided the document he reviewed provides evidence that humans are not the primary cause of recent climate change. Thus, it was his responsibility to get the word out. Breaking his confidentiality agreement, he leaked the IPCC’s report.
The third U.S. National Climate Assessment report, released in early May, provides a national synthesis of climate change and its effects that are already being felt across multiple sectors within the U.S., including coastal flooding and extreme heat in the Northeast, shrinking summer sea ice and thawing permafrost in Alaska, drought and associated increases in wildfires in the southwest, decreased water availability in the Southeast, constrained freshwater supplies in Hawai’i, and changes in streamflow timing in the Northwest.