Global Warming

View from COP22 in Marrakech: Hoping for a Better Donald

What the 2016 Election Means for Climate Change Policy

Klara Reisch, Student, Molecular and Cell Biology

klara-human-rightsI shuffled in and out of shops trying to find a souvenir in Marrakech when one merchant turned to me, chuckled and asked “you voted for Trump?” I was confused and slightly embarrassed that this election was following me deep into the Souks of the Medina, but I was not surprised. In fact, before that encounter, most panel discussions I attended at COP22 mentioned the election results back home, which named Donald Trump as our president-elect. Throughout the campaign, Trump argued that climate change is merely a hoax spurred by the Chinese and criticized the United States for spending money on environmental initiatives to minimize its effects. He had threatened to dismantle last year’s landmark Paris Agreement, and Trump and revoke the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which calls for a decrease in carbon emissions from power plants.

klara-human-rights-2Either way, this election left many delegates and panelists concerned and unsure about the future of our world. I spoke with a panelist from GIZ, Klaus Wenzel, about the U.S.’s resistance of climate change policy. He talked about how workers are concerned about how they will be affected by this transition to things like clean energy. “People are afraid,” he said. “People are afraid of what this means for their jobs.” One of Trump’s main issues with renewable energy is that it is too expensive. Wenzel argued that although the return on investment takes time, renewable energy decreases the amount of air pollution and green house gas emissions, both of which have major effects on the environment and human health. “What is the worth of a premature death?”

Of course, no one knows for sure what this election means for the United States and the rest of the world, but I heard opinions expressed by both sides in various panel discussions at COP22. Some said that the United States would not back out because of the geopolitical and trade implications, while others believe that the U.S. may step out of the game and perhaps force other countries to step up.

Hopefully, enough people will speak out against Trump’s environmental policies. If our president will not fight on our behalf, we will have to.

COP22 in Marrakech: Africa in Action

By Scott Stephenson, Assistant Professor, Geography

20161107_175310With the Paris Agreement entering into force ahead of schedule on November 4, the rhetoric at the COP22 opening plenary in Marrakech was decidedly optimistic, with ambitious appeals to meet the goals set in Paris one year ago. While there were the usual calls to global collective action, a focus on regional climate justice issues surfaced as an early theme. Morocco’s Foreign Minister and COP22 President, Salaheddine Mezouar, set the tone by highlighting the significance of holding the meeting on African soil at a time when “climate change in Africa is the most cruel and unfair.” Pointing out that 15 of the 36 most climate-impacted countries are in Africa, and that it would take three Earths to meet the consumption needs of the world’s wealthiest citizens, he issued a challenge to those in attendance to bring about “justice for Africa” here and throughout the years of negotiations ahead:


“The world wants more transparency…we have a huge responsibility to address the needs of the most vulnerable populations. We must provide them with the resources to adapt to the most disastrous consequences of climate change.”


At the same time, Mezouar took time to highlight the agency and responsibility of African nations in initiating and pursuing climate action. Hosting the conference in Marrakech “emphasizes Africa’s desire to take its destiny in hand, to reduce its vulnerability and strengthen its resilience,” through action plans such as the African Renewable Energy Initiative. 20161107_103956The point came as a welcome reminder that LDCs – 33 of which are in Africa – have been active in shaping climate negotiations since the establishment of the UNFCCC in 1992. In the days to come, COP22 will go about the business of implementing the commitments made in Paris, such as setting the rules for emissions accounting, advancing consensus on a framework for loss and damage, and facilitating integration of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in national policies and investment plans. The hope, as stated by IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee in his plenary address, is that COP22 will be a “COP of action.” While the agenda here appears to be focused squarely on the work ahead, I expect that tomorrow’s long-awaited U.S. Presidential election will be on the minds of more than one of the negotiators, given the promise of one candidate to cancel the Paris Agreement if he wins.

UConn@COP22 Applications due Oct 10


UConn COP 22 Marrakech Climate Change Conference

Trip Description

COP 22 is the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and will be held this year in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7th to November 18th, 2016. The event will bring together diplomats, business executives, heads of government and other delegates to discuss action on climate change. The objective of COP 22 is to make the voices of vulnerable countries to climate change heard and will be one of action.

The University of Connecticut will be providing full funding, excluding meals other than breakfast, for a select group of undergraduate students to travel to Marrakech from November 13th – November 18th to attend events centered on the conference. In addition, students will have the opportunity to experience the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco. Events and cultural destinations that the students will be able to experience are laid out in a rough itinerary below.

This application must be completed and submitted to <> by 11:59pm EST on Monday, October 10th in order to be considered by the Selection Committee for the trip. Only complete applications will be considered. Airfare, housing, and city transportation will be provided.


1. Do you have a passport that is valid through April of 2017?

2. What is your cumulative GPA? (3.0 minimum requirement)

3. What is your major and minor (if applicable)?

4. What is your expected date of graduation?

5. How many credits have you completed?

6. Please list any relevant student leadership activities (e.g., service hours, officer position in clubs, etc.)

7. How did you hear about this program?


1. Write one 600-word essay on the following topic:

  • Describe what you hope to share with the UConn community from your COP 22 trip. Examples include participating and presenting in a conference, presenting what you learned to a class, etc. These goals should be attainable and reasonable. Essay should also include how this trip will be beneficial to your future career.

2. List the contact information for three academic or employer references (at least one must be an academic reference).

3. Attach a one-page copy of your current resume to this application.

4. During AND after your trip, you must develop a series of blogs and social media posts pertaining to COP22.

This page originated at the UConn OEP site <>

Myanna Lahsen Seminar, 21 September

photo-9Where is the Beef?  

Climate Change knowledge and communication in Brazil


Myanna Lahsen

Center for Earth System Science

The Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE)

Wednesday 21 September 2016

2:30 – 3:30 pm

AUST 163

Abstract: Skepticism about climate science is often identified as a key obstacle to effective decision making in the U.S. and other countries. Brazil has come to be celebrated as an enlightened counter-example because climate science is largely uncontested, as reflected in analyses of climate coverage in national newspapers and in a series of international surveys performed by the Pew Center and others. However, drawing on extensive analysis of Brazilian climate politics and newspaper coverage of climate change, I reveal a deep disconnect between Brazil’s emissions profile and how climate change and related solutions are defined, a disconnect that obstructs awareness of Brazil’s single most important source of emissions: cattle-raising. During the talk, I will also discuss broader environmental risks generated by agricultural expansion in Brazil’s biodiversity hotspot, the “Cerrado” savanna biome, highlighting how Brazil’s research agendas and mass communications structures bear on the challenge of responding to the threats of resource depletion and global environmental change.

Bio:  Myanna Lahsen is Senior Researcher II in the Earth System Science Center at the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE). A Cultural Anthropologist and STS scholar by training, she studies knowledge politics and other socio-cultural dynamics related to global environmental change, environmental sustainability and development. She is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and fellowship in the United States, including the Jacob K. Javits and EPA ”STAR” fellowships, and two postdoctoral Fellowships, in the Advanced Study Program at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research and in the J.F. Kennedy school of Government, respectively. Before assuming her current position in Brazil, she held positions as Science Officer with the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, as Research Scientist in CIRES at the University of Colorado and as Lecturer on Environmental Science and Public Policy at Harvard University. She has served on review panels at the U.S. National Science Foundation and been called to participate in Expert Groups advising the United Nations on the dynamics of the science-policy interface and the formation of a global sustainability report. She currently serves as advisor to Nature Climate Change and as Executive Editor of WIREs Climate Change, responsible for the subdomain on The Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge.

This event is hosted by the University of Connecticut Atmospheric Sciences Group (ASG) and the Department of Geography.

Lost in Translation: The Complexities of Reaching a Global Climate Agreement

Kerrin Kinnear, OEP Intern


lost in translation 3

Muscles tensed by a mind overcome with frustration, I exit the auditorium. I had just witnessed a keynote address made by the President of COP21, Laurent Fabius, at the start of the Global Landscapes Forum. Arguably a once in a lifetime opportunity for an environmentalist, I had not understood a single word he said. Why? The speech was in French, and my language skillset is primarily limited to English.

Language issues are significant in the realm of global negotiation. Prior to traveling to Paris for the United Nations Climate Conference, most of my conversations about international climate action focused solely on which strategies were most appropriate for effectively mitigating fossil fuel emissions and adapting to the current and future impacts of climate change. Speaking with delegates from Madagascar and Namibia as well as negotiation observers from Dickinson University, I realized I had overlooked a key concept for the conference – the profound impact complexities of language can have on the effectiveness of international coordination.

lost in translation 2

With delegates and members of Civil Society from over 190 different countries gathered at COP21, ensuring a uniform sense of understanding is an incredible feat. To accommodate the resulting vast range of languages, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) mandates that all formal proceedings are interpreted into the organization’s six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Using headsets, delegates from across the globe are able to hear live feeds of the negotiations in their preferred language, and contribute when they are given the floor. Representatives who speak none of the six official languages have the opportunity to speak in their language, so long as they pay for an interpreter to translate their message.

lost in translationWhile this framework for communication demonstrates a certain commitment to universal comprehension, barriers still persist in the conference arena. During my conversation with Dickinson alumni, I was surprised to learn that a topic of debate for that day’s official proceedings was the clarification that international parties “welcomed” rather than “invited” countries to increase climate change efforts. From this, the importance of semantics and cultural word meanings in an international setting became evident. Additionally, when I spoke with a researcher from a French NGO focused on deforestation, he explained how quickly high-level jargon becomes integrated into the climate negotiations. As a result, delegates who have limited proficiency in the UN languages and who cannot afford interpreters struggle to keep up with and weigh in on complex conversations and policy strategies.

Despite the difficulties associated with communicating across languages, the United Nations and its member countries have held 21 climate change conferences and continue to plan global coordination on this issue. Because of the international community’s persistence in the face of cross-cultural communication barriers, I am more excited than ever before about the prospects for a global climate agreement.

On Gender and Climate Change

Alexandra Mayer


gender 3

The agenda for the COP21 lists 22 steps towards agreement. Discussing “gender and climate change” is number 17. Women represent the majority of the world’s poor and agricultural workers and many are responsible for fetching water. Dramatic shifts in climate and food production are therefore primed to disproportionately harm women. Furthermore, women fight economic, social, and physical discrimination that also limit their ability to adapt to climate change.

Yet, on December 7th, Mary Robinson, former UN human rights chief and president of Ireland, lamented, “This [the UN conference] is a very male world. When it is a male world, you have male priorities,” and asserted, “women in developing countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change.” Her frustrated words indicate that there may be no legal text on gender equity coming out of the COP21 negotiations.


While I was listening to a panel discussion on indigenous and women’s rights at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris, the man sitting next to me whispered, “Why should we care, if we’ll all be dead soon anyways?” alluding to the idea that if global warming goes unmitigated, humans may go extinct. I shushed the man to hear the speaker, but, as I have heard this argument used repeatedly to dismiss calls for human rights, I will reply now:

In fighting against climate change, you are fighting for the future of humankind. The next question, then, is what kind of future are you fighting for? We live in a beautiful world that is also riddled with atrocity, disparity, and exploitation.

gender 2

Rape, racism, and domestic violence are global epidemics, so is poverty at the hand of the elite. I must ask, whose future are you fighting for when you rally to limit emissions, but not to stop the avoidable deaths that are occurring now at the hand of starvation, lack of health care, and violence? Are you okay with saving your own kind, and nobody else?

I know it is impossible to take on every injustice. We all have our own cause. Still, at the very least, I invite you to recognize the importance of human rights. Why should we save ourselves if we’ll only continue to disparage the earth and each other?

Published on 11 December 2015 at the OEP blog.

The Climate Tradeoff: A Global Carbon Budget for the Future

Andrew Carrol


andrewWhile in Paris for the COP21 Conference during the first week in December, I had to make some rather mundane decisions, mostly confined to the breakfast buffet in our hotel: brie or gruyere, baguette or croissant? In contrast, the international negotiators in the Red Zone at Le Bourget are tasked with reaching consensus on a full plate of complex subjects: a global carbon budget, fossil fuel reduction, investment in renewable energy sources, and the tenuous balance of responsibility for carbon reductions. A topic that has been thoroughly discussed by many nations is a global carbon budget that would legally bind countries to a pre-determined level of carbon output set forth by the UNFCC. However, these plans have been squashed by nations that emit the most carbon. Thus, the cap-and-trade or cap-and-tax debate rages on across the ideological spectrum, from those who claim it’s our moral responsibility to those who maintain that a carbon budget would be unrealistic.

andrew 2As the UConn contingent discussed this concept more thoroughly, we were extremely like-minded about the idea of establishing a global carbon budget and taxing those who exceed their allowable emissions output. Even though we all supported a carbon budget, a few of us questioned its economic feasibility. I questioned whether the plan would disrupt the stability of international markets. And if the plan were to adversely affect the GDP of a country, would the carbon benefit and the value of this environmental externality outweigh the lost GDP? Will the bureaucracy and hierarchical nature of nations within the UN allow for such a plan to exist? What weights are given to additional factors, such as higher health care costs, the costs of shorter growing seasons, and even the potential for climate refugees?

When it comes to climate action, all factors need to be weighed in making a final decision. Unfortunately, the environment is usually second fiddle to the importance of economic stability. Yet, if we reach a breaking point in which we do not have a truly sustainable global environment, then the strength of a nation’s economy is meaningless. We cannot gamble on our environment – and we cannot put a price tag on a moral imperative.

Published on 11 December 2015 at the OEP blog.

UConn and the Climate Conference: Looking Ahead

Ron Tardiff ’16 (CLAS), marine sciences and maritime studies major

The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change began in Paris, France on Nov. 30, and at the same time, a group of 18 UConn students, faculty, and staff traveled to Paris for five days to participate in a number of events surrounding the conference. The 12 students selected represented a diverse group of majors, most of which fall within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, from marine sciences to human rights. For me, the conference was educational and sobering, but also inspired my fellow students and I to take action here at home.

Every day in Paris began with a group dialogue focused on the science or politics of climate change and solutions globally and at UConn. The diverse perspectives contributed by our multidisciplinary group of people definitely enhanced our conversations. The group visited the COP21 site in Le Bourget, Paris, and toured the public area of COP21, the Climate Generations Space. We also attended a networking night at the Kedge Business School co-sponsored by UConn and Second Nature, called “Higher Education Leads on Climate.”

On Friday, most of the group attended the Solutions COP21 exhibition, while I attended Oceans Day back at COP21. Oceans Day drew high-level attention to how the ocean and climate are inextricably linked. Among the many esteemed attendees were Prince Albert II of Monaco; Laurent Fabius, Foreign Minister of France and President of COP21; and Irina Bokova, the Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

As an American, one of the most sobering aspects of the conference and the international climate conversation in general is the skepticism towards U.S. commitment. Historically, particularly on climate change, the United States has failed to be a leader; if anything, we’ve often stymied the conversation. When I was at Oceans Day, I was asked by a French attendee whether I thought the U.S. would “follow through” this time. My only honest answer was that I believe our negotiators are working in good faith, but that the political climate – pun intended – at home is pretty unpredictable.

What is most interesting to me is that 190 countries convened to address an issue that an unfortunately large number of Americans refute entirely. This demonstrates how critical climate change education is. That is one of the many reasons our group will be advocating for a “sustainability” category to be included in General Education Requirements here at UConn.

Tackling global climate change epitomizes the types of challenges for which a liberal arts education aims to prepare students. The process of burning fossil fuels and forests and how that affects the climate is a fundamentally scientific issue. Why we continue these destructive processes, how these processes affect human civilization, and what we should do to improve our resilience and adaptation to climate change are intersectional issues spanning fields from science to the social sciences to humanities.

Now that we’re home, our group of “COP21ers” will be launching initiatives to improve our University’s carbon footprint, spearheading climate change conversation at UConn, and creating works of art, writing, or media to highlight the impacts of climate change. And we’ll be advocating for a greater role of sustainability education in the curriculum at UConn. We’ll be using the new perspectives we gained from meeting so many people from around the world to help UConn be a leader in this quintessentially global issue.

Originally published on the Office of Environmental Policy’s blog.

Follow the climate change conversation at UConn at the social media hashtag #UConnTalksClimate.

Combating Climate Change: The Power of Multiple Perspectives

Jessica Griffin, OEP Intern

Today I had two experiences that helped me to understand the broad reaching impacts of climate change. At an event called Climate Generations, our group was able to interact with a variety of teams and organizations interested in climate change. The participants came from a wide variety of civil society organizations- some were wildlife focused, others offered suggestions for energy innovation, and many incorporated aspects of social responsibility.


Towards the beginning of the conference, I came across a women’s caucus, which consisted of 6 women who had gathered to speak about their experience in the climate movement and how they felt that being a woman impacted their involvement and perspective in the movement. Each women spoke about different aspects of their experiences, including encounters with sexism and obstacles they faced in getting to COP21. However, they also shared funny stories, spoke about their hobbies and families, and about how they felt that being a woman was an asset to them. I felt humbled to have the privilege of hearing the stories of these women, who hailed from Japan, India, France, and the United States. They asked me to speak about myself, and I felt reluctant. I thought that what I had to say would be of little interest to them. But as I began to speak, I realized that I had a lot to say about the subjects of women and environmentalism. The environment that they invited me to speak in was warm and accepting, and I am glad to have participated in this caucus.

Following the caucus, I went to an entirely different event across the conference center. This event was called “The Messengers,” and it was focused on how researching birds can tell us about the health of the environment. There were several speakers from an organization called BirdLife International, dedicated to the conservation of bird species worldwide. The panel answered questions on subjects ranging from factors threatening birds, policy changes associated with conservation, and the ways in which bird populations indicate a changing world. I enjoyed hearing from a wide variety of perspectives, including speakers from the UK and Liberia.


What struck me about having these two experiences was the range of impacts made by climate change, and of ways to approach solutions. At the women’s caucus, the foci were social factors and environmental justice, which are instrumental in understanding how people of different backgrounds are affected by environmental degradation. At the Birdlife International Event, most discussion centered on conservation and working with nature, both of which are enormously important in the effort to combat climate change.

As a society, we can combat climate change by allowing people of a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to make their voices heard. We can also understand all of the ways that climate change will impact our lives, including socially and ecologically. The broader our shared experience, the closer we can come to finding real solutions.

Originally published on the UConn OEP website.

Climate Change – The Ultimate Interdisciplinary Issue

Rob Turnbull


group lessonClimate change is the ultimate inter-disciplinary issue, and today I learned exactly how many disciplines I understand thoroughly: almost one. Coming from a strict biological science background (I study Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at UConn) I have long considered myself a very literate person in terms the effects, causes, opinions, etc. surrounding climate science. After a few discussions had over breakfast and UConn’s daily group discussion in the lounge of our hotel, I came to understand that even though I thought I completely got the “science” of global warming, I could really only claim to understand the general biological effects of global warming on organisms. The physics and chemistry were, though not entirely foreign to me, far more complex than I anticipated, and it took nearly an hour listening to, and talking with, Dr. Anji Seth, a UConn climatologist, to get a firmer grasp of how solar radiation, heat, earth’s elliptical orbit, albedo, and a slurry of other factors all interact to create our observed climate trends.

I entered into an even more foreign discussion with my fellow UConn@COP21-ers on the economics of dealing with global warming. While I certainly learned plenty from my peers, my ignorance about these topics highlights a major challenge in dealing with such a broad-reaching issue as climate change: the isolation of the many professional disciplines. I wasn’t the only COP21er who had a fish-out-of-water moment today. Among such a diverse group of UConn students – including scientists, political scientists, economists, and social scientists – whenever anyone began to talk in depth about their respective field, the others often found themselves having such a conversation for the first time.

While it is excellent, in my opinion, for different people to develop different types of expertise, especially given the complexity of global warming, this diversity only becomes a good thing if accompanied by strong communication and collaboration. Otherwise, issues aren’t resolved in a holistic sense and accessory problems will persist. While the scientist can unveil the trends to back up climate theories, that scientist needs the economist and the politician to draft viable policy, and the artist to help spread the word.

exhibitsWith this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to find, among the many booths and exhibits at the COP21 “Climate Generations” event, an organization practicing what I’ve just preached. The UN Environmental Program’s Climate Change website can be found at the link below. With a focus, at least for this COP21 day, on influencing ocean climate legislation, the aforementioned group involves academics, political scientists, artists, and many others, to accomplish its goals. Upon arriving at the booth, I was presented with scientific procedures and results, as well as a clear plan about how these results will play into the policy negotiations. Such multidisciplinary collaboration is vital to addressing problems associated with global warming. Those involved with   have shown me that Climate Change is the ultimate inter-disciplinary issue and can only be resolved through multi-disciplinary collaboration on a global scale.

Originally published on the OEP blog.