Speakers

Experts explore definition and approach to climate change adaptation

United States Secretary of State John Kerry, with his granddaughter sitting symbolically on his lap, signed the Paris Agreement on Friday. The accord aims to mitigate the warming caused by man-made global warming, and also includes plans to adapt to global warming’s most drastic effects.

While this monumental event was taking place in New York City, simultaneously in Eggers Hall Room 220 at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, climate adaptation experts were gathered by the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs to answer one question: “How do we define and approach climate change adaptation?”

The experts present encompassed a diverse group of academics, including a political scientist, a specialist at implementing climate change modifications, an anthropologist and a geographer.

Diana Liverman, a professor in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona, was the first to speak.

Liverman brought up the fact that people have been adapting to climate changes for generations. The main difference between those communities and today’s vulnerable populations, she said, is that the movement of people is now limited because of borders. Borders limit the response to climate effects on a personal level, she said.

She added that more work needs to be done mapping especially vulnerable communities before the worst warming effects take place.

The next speaker, Debra Javeline, a professor from the University of Notre Dame, talked about the lack of attention political scientists have devoted to climate change.

Javeline said that even though the solutions to climate change are available, implementing them requires a battle between two stubborn political oppositions. Many people are invested in the oil and gas industries, she added, and corporations spend millions of dollars to counter any effort to change the status quo.

Regardless, Javeline said adaptation will eventually become necessary because there isn’t enough being done to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

She said figuring out what motivates a community to act on climate change is one opportunity that political scientists often overlook. Another of these overlooked opportunities, she added, is assuring that any foreign assistance the U.S. gives to other countries to combat climate change is spent correctly.

This foreign aid is usually under the direction of the U.S. Agency for Foreign Development (USAID). Edward Carr, a former adviser to USAID, was at Friday’s event to discuss that topic.

Carr contributed to a project in Mali called Nationale De La Météorologie Agrometeorological Advisory Program, which advises Malian farmers about when to plant their crops, and which type to plant.

Carr said the program increased crop yields by over 30 percent.

In total, Carr said, $50 billion is being devoted to climate adaptation in the new Paris Agreement. This large sum of money will help developing countries industrialize sustainably, he added.

The final speaker was Don Nelson, an anthropologist from the University of Georgia.  The theme of Nelson’s lecture was that climate change and its effects are defined by inequity. He said climate change exacerbates current problems, and the trend will continue.

Nelson said the people who are going to be most affected by climate change lack the same voice of those who are contributing to it.

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