Student Tackles Major Climate Change Issues at Conference

Posted: December 5, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

Susan Bates
Susan Bates
Courtesy Susan Bates

Susan Bates, a PhD candidate in the School of Computational Sciences’ Climate Dynamics Program, came away from the 2005 Climate Change Workshop and Summit in Bern, Switzerland, with a greater appreciation of the need to communicate about the work that scientists do.

Bates, who was selected as one of five members of the U.S. delegation by the British Council USA, says she learned how to collaborate with a group of strong-minded individuals and developed an international network that will be a resource in her future work.

The summit, which brought together young, up-and-coming scientists, business leaders and experts from a myriad of professional occupations, was designed to integrate different approaches and academic disciplines to discuss climate change issues and possible solutions.

“Mitigation and adaptation to climate change requires the collaboration of numerous disciplines,” says Bates. “Because each discipline has its own jargon and own method of communication, it is important to learn how to communicate effectively between the groups.”

During the first two days of the workshop, the group received communication training, as well as writing, interviewing and presentation techniques. The goal was to effectively communicate messages to a specified target audience, such as the press, public and politicians. The group also listened to lectures from experts in the field of climate change.

After meeting for a week, Bates’ group split up to cover a particular aspect of climate change: sea level rise in Bangladesh; energy in Los Angeles; water supply in London; and extreme events in Bern. The groups made formal presentations of their conclusions to a group of politicians, journalists and business leaders largely based in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

The delegates also formed a policy group to encompass the global decision making necessary to address solutions. “The task put before us seemed rather overwhelming at the beginning of the week. Therefore, we all worked extremely hard throughout the week to reach our goal,” Bates says.

Bates and her colleagues also wrote a manifesto and press release documenting their findings. They offered a series of proposals to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Internationally, they called for the expansion of the European Emissions Trading Scheme to design an emissions trading framework by 2012, include a wider ranger of industries and bring in more countries. They also called for the development of mechanisms to transfer clean technology from developed to developing countries and for climate-friendly land use policies.

On the national level, Bates’ group recommended a new program called “Carbon-cubed,” which would provide households with information on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by the production of items, transportation and other goods.

Bates’ group closed its report by stating, “Ultimately, climate change is a societal and political challenge as well as a scientific issue. We must decide whether we want to continue on our current trajectory, or use more sustainable approaches to reduce our emissions and adapt to our changing climate. Global issues demand global solutions. As young scientists and leaders we call for immediate action.”

Bates says she hopes to incorporate some of what she learned in her future studies and work. Her research interests include how the ocean interacts with the atmosphere to alter climate and weather patterns, with a focus on the processes at work in the tropical Atlantic Ocean variability.

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