Given the current state of our country, such as the megadrought in California, the flooding in the midwest, and the 75-degree November days right here in Athens, it is clear that something isn’t quite right with the planet and it’s climate. In early 2015, former US Vice President Al Gore created the Climate Reality Project to catalyze climate crisis conversation across every level of society. While Gore tackles the climate change on a global and political level, Climate Reality Project interns facilitate conversation and increase awareness on the local level.
Students were recruited from universities across the country, primarily in swing states, to clear the air on the true reality of climate change. Universities involved include those in Florida, Iowa, Virginia, Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
At the beginning of fall semester, Ohio University students studying environmental science received notification from professors of an opportunity to take part in the project. Students, Ethan Emery and Evan Bowser, responded to the call of action with great enthusiasm, and quickly became OU’s ambassadors.
“The goal for this organization is to get the younger generation involved. This impacts us far more than the older generation because it affects our futures,” Emery said.
A principal responsibility of these interns is to gather signatures of undergraduate and graduate students that are interested in climate change and want to see action taken. Each university is encouraged to obtain 1,000 signatures by the end of the semester, in time for the United Nations Summit Climate Change Conference in Paris on December 6. A strong agreement will be attempted to increase commitments of UN countries in reaching progress toward a low-carbon economy.
“What we’re doing is capturing the attention of political leaders so they can see that so many young people want to help change the world, so they step up themselves to create regulations,” Emery said.
“They’ve had these meetings before—there was the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord, they have these meetings every few years. But this one is a really important one because if they don’t make some sort of drastic change soon, we’re going to reach the point of no return that most climatologists predict is the year 2050…This Summit taking place in December is vital because they will need to get stricter to assure that the climate stays within the necessary temperatures,” Bowser said.
In addition to collecting petition signatures, Bowser and Emery are organizing two events on campus to educate students on climate change. The first was the screening of Merchants of Doubt, a documentary on the negation of climate change, which took place on November 4. The second event features the 24-hour live stream of Al Gore’s 24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth, a worldwide celebration of the earth through culture and the arts. The goal of the event is to to capture the attention and interest of world leaders so that they remember this international concern come the Summit. Ohio University’s showing will take place Friday, November 13 from 4-6pm in Schoonover 145.
“We’ll have three or four panelists, start with panelist questions, then watch a few hours of the stream. We’re hoping to get some panelists who have done research for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, because there are plenty of professors at OU who have well-known research on climate change,” Bowser said.
The Climate Reality Project has also teamed up with other environmental groups on campus including Eco Reps, The Student Sierra Coalition and the Geography Club.
“In addition to spreading the word, we’re trying to get other people involved, other groups, so this is an inclusive activity,” Bowser said. “It’s been a very educational experience so far.”
“I know climate change is perceived as a kind of ‘belief’ and people fail to recognize the importance of it and the significance of how it’s affecting everyone in the world including us at this time. I want to help out in spreading the word of climate change and to learn more about it for myself,” Emery said.
For more information on the Climate Reality Project, follow @ouclimateprog on Twitter or like them on Facebook.
Alexa, strategic communications major, spanish minor, and environmental certificate candidate, hopes to one day become a tree. Her best friends are plants and the occasional human that can keep it chill. You will always find her with music in her ears and in her head, whistling or even grooving to an unheard tune. When there’s time to breath, she enjoys floating in water, looking at the sky, and cooking delicious, flavorful food.
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