ESA & COP26: Day 5 – People
This is a guest post by Andrew Barton, who is an ESA member attending COP26 in Glasglow, Scotland. Barton is a forest and fire ecologist, a writer, and a biology professor at the University of Maine at Farmington. This post was originally published on Barton’s blog The World Is on Fire. All photos and videos are by Barton.
by Andrew Barton
In this blog, I have talked much about organizations, countries, and the planet, but not enough about individual people. I wish to correct that bias here by introducing you to a very thin slice of the many people at COP26 seeking to solve the climate problem. Sincere apologies to any mistakes I’ve made in identity and people’s stories.
Diana Mastracci works with the European Space Agency to bring space-based monitoring of climate to indigenous communities in the Arctic regions. We’re talking about information from satellites and other remote sources about climate, vegetation, fire, etc. These sources of information have great potential in helping these communities use and manage their resources. She faces challenges in implementing her projects because many of the communities do not have basic infrastructure (internet, computer devices, etc.) for accessing the technologies–a striking example of the digital divide. Funders are generally more interested in shiny new ideas than in basic infrastructure.
I’ve become much more interested in “remotely sensed” data about the world. I am currently working with Helen Poulos, Tom Kolb, George Koch, and Andi Thode on a NASA-funded project using the recently installed ECOSTRESS instrument attached to the INTL space station. We are pairing drought and water data collected by ECOSTRESS with data from field instruments measuring these same fundamental ecosystem metabolic pulses. ECOSTRESS has great potential for informing local communities about drought, heat, and even wildfire. Check out ECOSTRESS at https://ecostress.jpl.nasa.gov.
Aurora Uribe Camalich is an undergraduate in Mexico City. She is one of four youth members in the “party” from Mexico. In other words, Aurora has voting status with the rest of the official party. This is the first COP in which the Mexican government has including youth on their team. I’m not sure whether other parties similarly include youth.
I did not take down her name, but I talked with a medical student at Emory University, who is at COP26 to discuss the vital connection between climate change and health of populations around the world. After obtaining her medical degree, she’s interested in pursuing a career focusing on public health in the context of changing climate. There are now multiple organizations around the world engaging in this issue. I also talked with Eric Balaban, a doctor from Pittsburgh, PA, who is here on a fellowship from a program in global health and climate change at the University of Colorado.
I talked with two lawyers from Norway, who are part of an organization that is promoting the connection between climate change and human rights. I met them at the Science Pavilion, where they were talking with Helene Hewitt, an oceanography and one of the authors of the recent IPCC working group 1 report. The two lawyers are seeking as much information as possible about how a certain amount of emissions translates into heat, sea level rise, etc., and ultimately in human suffering. One of their many goals is to make the case that companies and countries emitting greenhouse gases bear legal responsibility in their impacts.
By the way, we owe Helene Hewitt, who is from the UK, a debt, for she and others on the IPCC have dedicated so much of their time — years — to providing an assessment of the status of climate change. Check out the IPCC AR6 Working Group 1 report, which lays out our current knowledge on the physical basis of climate change. You might start with the summary or the policy makers version, which is short but full of illuminating and clear graphics. Helene works on ocean and sea ice modelling.
Originally from Jamaica, Camille Taylor is a communication expert working on climate change and other issues for the Caribbean Development Bank. She works out of the office in Barbados, helping citizens better understand climate change and solutions.
Sigrid Bjerre Andersen is policy advisor and program developer for a non-governmental organization in Denmark, which focuses on human rights in the country and issues such as climate change, development aid, and LGBTQ rights.
I had dinner with Walid and Fabio (see below). Walid is blackchain expert, but not for public digital coins such as bitcoin. Instead, he seeks to use his skills to provide certainty in international systems of carbon offsets and other approaches to controlling emissions, promoting nature-based solutions, etc. He is working with Fabio (again see below) to figure out how to apply this to elephants as a nature-based solution to climate change. Exciting and kind of mind-blowing.
Now, let me introduce two of my fellow attendees also sponsored by the Ecological Society of America. Originally from Italy, Fabio Berzaghi is now at Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences (LSCE-CEA) in France. Fabio is an ecologist who works on elephants, forests, and carbon cycling. Through their action in feeding in forests in Gabon One, elephants promote uptake and storage of carbon. One of Fabio’s conservation goals is to find mechanisms for the valuing and payment of this nature-based solution to climate change.
Finally, Kaydee Barker is a student at Colorado State University, working on soil ecology in the context of climate change. I was excited to hear that one of the leaders of that soils lab is Matt Wallenstein, my first undergraduate research student many years ago at Franklin and Marshall College! Kaydee is not only an ecology student, she is also involved in the YEAH network of youth climate education (https://www.vanderbilt.edu/climatechange/yeah-network/) and, with other students, she has a fantastic podcast with Cody Sanford, “Livable Futures” (https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/livable-future-podcast-cody-sanford-kaydee-WP_KvtjpBi8/). See her below at the compelling COP26 press conference on the YEAH program.
I want to end with a quotation from a session I’m in on “What are some of the most powerful legal and governance mechanisms for progress on climate change”:
CLIMATE CHANGE REPRESENTS THE MOST PROFOUND FAILURE OF MARKET CAPITALISM