Moravian Students Reflect on Copenhagen Experience

Students share lessons and impressions from historic United Nations Climate Conference.

Students presented papers on topics related to the United Nations Climate Conference, Wednesday evening, Feb. 27. Photo: Eddie Flaherty '12

Besides the sessions on cap and trade policies, carbon sequestration, and deforestation, there were the people—distinguished scientists, artists, and political leaders representing 193 nations; youth from unfamiliar cities and villages; and protestors of all persuasions—recalled the Moravian students who gathered in Collier Hall of Science February 27, to discuss their experiences at the world climate meeting held in December.

Between sessions, Moravian students and alumni exchanged views and asked questions of scientists, artists, political leaders, and other students.

The seven students who traveled to Copenhagen with Professors Diane Husic, chair and professor of biological sciences, Hilde Binford, associate professor of music, Eva Leeds, associate professor of economics and business, and four alumni, presented papers as a requirement for the course "COP15: Negotiating Our Climate Future." Topics included "Carbon Markets" (Sarabeth Brockley '10), "Climate Justice for the Third World" (Connor Skutches '11), and "The Role of Livestock in Climate Change" (Kimberly Benonis '10). Czech exchange student Jiri Hudec and Steven Schrayer '11 also gave presentations.

Armed with statistics and references, the students talked about the complex economic, political, and sociological issues related to climate change, and why reaching global agreement to curb carbon emissions is critical yet so challenging to achieve.

"The South Pacific people are beautiful, spirited, happy people. ... The irony is, they contribute significantly less to global climate change than the rest of the world—but they will be among the first to be harmed by it," said Taylor Evans '11.

But memories and impressions of the people of COP15 seemed most vivid, bringing home the lessons of Copenhagen in a very real and human way. "My first day there, people from the Pacific Youth Delegation invited me to hang out, and we ended up spending every day together," said environmental science major Taylor Evans '11 during his poignant presentation on "Global Climate Change and the South Pacific."

"South Pacific people are beautiful, spirited, happy people. They dance every day ... I will never forget them," he continued. "They have a very distinct culture and live in harmony with their environment. The irony is, they contribute significantly less to global climate change than the rest of the world—but they will be among the first to be harmed by it." A temperature increase of just 2 degrees Celsius or more would destroy the South Pacific islands, he said. (See this video to find out more.)

"They were at the conference to plead for the survival of their cultures. They want a binding agreement to limit CO2 to 350 ppm and limit temperature increase to 1.5 deg. C. It's not too late, but change probably will have to occur at the grassroots level—through education." Read first-person reports and see dozens of photos at the Moravian College UNFCC blog.