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Professor Attends U.N. Climate Talks in Germany, Shares Insights on Pathways for Student Involvement

A globe can be seen inside the German pavilion at the World Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany, on Nov. 6. (Photo courtesy of AP)

One thing we love about Dartmouth students is that they are eager to connect what they learn in the classroom to real world projects and advocacy that address sustainability challenges. A critical forum for addressing climate change globally is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Each year students, alumni, and faculty attend the Conference of the Parties (COP) to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities and younger generations, communicate important scientific findings, observe the global negotiation process, and advocate for global policy changes. This past winter, Assistant Professor of Geography, Jonathan Winter, attended COP 23 in Bonn, Germany as part of the American Association of Geographers observer delegation. Winter's experience is covered in the linked Dartmouth Now article and he also offered further insight on how students can continue to connect to this forum for climate change action below: How can Dartmouth students support climate change action within the institution? Students can engage with the issue of climate change at Dartmouth through student organizations, taking classes on climate change, and getting involved in climate change research. Student organizations, including those focused on environmental issues such as the Sustainability Office and Dartmouth Council on Climate Change, as well as others that might be less directly related such as the Dartmouth Political Times or The Dartmouth, can play a role in raising awareness about climate issues . By taking classes and contributing to research on climate change at Dartmouth you vote with your feet. When classes fill up and students are demanding research opportunities in a particular field or topic, departments respond.

How can Dartmouth students be engaged in international climate policy from Hanover? Vote for a president and congress that believe in and are concerned about climate change. You or I can attend the UN Climate Change Conference as an observer, but the real power is held by the negotiators from each country and the governments behind them. You can advocate through your elected representatives or at the conference itself, but again the power for international climate policy is with the negotiators. What can Dartmouth students do to prepare themselves for this kind of work in the future? Embrace the liberal arts education. Classifying climate change as a complex or multidimensional problem is being simplistic. If you’re interested in environmental justice or political economy, buffer your knowledge with with a class in meteorology, physical geography, or climate change. If you’re focusing on spatial analysis and climate dynamics, complement you education by learning qualitative methods or behavioral theory from a social scientist.

Jonathan M. Winter is Assistant Professor of Geography & Adjunct Assistant Professor of Earth Science at Dartmouth College, and Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University. His research and teaching explore climate prediction and the impacts of climate variability and change on water resources and agriculture.

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