By Raffy Burany
UC Santa Cruz held it’s third annual Climate Science and Policy Conference this past February. Each year the conference brings multiple delegates on the physical and social sciences in order to assess our current situations in regards to change in the environment.
Hosted at College 9 & 10’s Multi-purpose room, the conference took place over the course of 2 days, the evening of February 26th and all day on the 27th. With free admission to the public and students alike, the conference attracted a full house of the environmentally curious and perspicaciously-minded individuals.
During the first night, keynote speaker Dr. Ken Caldeira, an expert in atmospheric sciences visiting from Stanford, spoke on serving scientific facts in a more practical manner for public consumption. Dr. Caldeira’s current research deals in coral reef health. He spoke on how carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, are mostly absorbed by the ocean leading to ocean acidification.
With acidification of the ocean the coral reefs cannot absorb calcium carbonate needed to maintain coral skeletal health. If humanity keeps operating ‘business as usual’, coral reefs will become unsustainable in half a century and likely become extinct within the century.
A few takeaways from Dr. Caldeira’s talk as he summarized include; Not everyone will believe what you say even if you have evidence to back you up your claims, you cannot be an expert in everything so do not pretend to be, and lastly, with the right information, you make better decisions, creating a better world.
On day 2 I had attended one of three available panels, entitled The Geopolitics of Climate Change. Facilitated and introduced by UCSC professor and College Eight provost, Ronnie Lipschutz, the panel included 4 guests: Jacqueline Patterson (from the NAACP Climate Gap Initiative), Stacy VanDeveer (University of New Hampshire), Diana Liverman (University of Arizona) and Steven Lamy (University of Southern California) focusing on topics relating to environmental justice.
Jacque’s talk focused on environmental racism in the United States. She stated that zipcode was the number one predictor of being situated near toxin emitting facilities, and this also correlated with race. Accordingly, roughly 75% of colored people live near these toxic locations known as “sacrifice zones”. This dilemma is caused by capitalist greed, where corporations value capital over lives, acquiring cheap land in the same areas in which minorities often reside, leading to health issues and lost lives in lieu of lost profits.
Stacy VanDeveer spoke on the correlation between climate change and increased violence. VanDeveer’s research covers 20 years, while violence and climate change are not directly related, they are correlated due to institutional change and resource management. Stacy’s solution to the problem at hand was to use less resources and renovate current power generators into more efficient tools, because building more windmills, solar panels, gas generators etc. will not be sustainable for the future due to the precious resources these power sources use themselves.
Diana Liverman a professor from University of Arizona gave a talk on what she called climate adaption. This topic included a multitude of politically charged impacts related to climate change such as impacts in the communities of color, geopolitics affecting the impacts of climate change itself, essentially stating those who are least responsible for climate change disasters are the most vulnerable to them. The countries that hold the most capital in the world, that pollute the most, should be taxed for their role in polluting territories of minorities, indigenous peoples and those generally in poverty that are not themselves responsible for the pollution of their territories.
Lastly, Steven Lamy of USC, spoke on responsibility for climate change in the Arctic. His talk was on the ambiguity of the sovereignty of the Arctic, and states that should be held responsible for climate change occurring in this area. Countries such as the U.S. and Russia which go into the Arctic to exploit resources or atmospherically pollute it, should be held accountable by the U.N. which could deter these nations through proactive and reactive policing and sanctions. It’s a matter of international relations.
All in all, the conference was a very informative and eye-opening experience into topics that are often overlooked in society.