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BC Faculty Share Perspectives on COP26 and the Climate Change Crisis

Boston College faculty met on Thursday to discuss the University’s involvement in COP26 and the larger climate crisis facing the world today.

“Last November, another chapter of the University’s global engagement opened when BC sent its first delegation as an official UN observer organization to the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland,” James Keenan, S.J., vice provost for global engagement, said.

The Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society sponsored the event, which featured three faculty presentations followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with students.

“The Schiller Institute is leading the organization of BC’s participation in COP26 and developing programming that creates dialogue on the pressing need to address climate change,” Keenan said.

David Deese, a political science professor who led one of the delegations at the conference, discussed the climate initiatives agreed upon at COP26 and steps the global community needs to take to address the climate change crisis.

“If fully implemented, the national commitments that were made in Glasgow would get us to somewhere just under 2.2 degrees Celsius, which of course is not adequate,” Deese said.

The goal of COP27 is to establish long-term strategies across the globe to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and phase out domestic fossil fuels like coal, according to Deese.

“We can surely reach a zero carbon future by deep decarbonization of energy and agriculture with specific limits on carbon pollution and prudent fiscal policies,” Deese said.

Philip Landrigan, director of BC’s global public health program and Global Pollution Observatory, discussed the present dangers of climate change and the way the crisis is unfolding around the world.

“The key message here is that climate change is here today,” Landrigan said. “Yes, it’s going to get worse as the century rolls out, but it’s killing people today.”

According to Landrigan, the climate crisis has shown its impact across the globe through air pollution, natural disasters, drought, and famine, creating a new type of crisis—environmental refugees.

“One of the consequences of drought, of course, is famine,” Landrigan said. “When people starve, they start to try to go someplace where they can find food for their families and for themselves. They go through all of the horrors of migration.”

The 2022 COP27 conference, which BC will send another delegation to, will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Kurt Straif, a visiting scholar and co-director of the Global Pollution Observatory, related the global climate crisis to BC, specifically the University’s position on divestment.

“I think divestment is most critical and central because really, money makes the world go-round, and you really need to put your finger on where the problems are created,” Straif said. “What we discuss is really global policy, but where the rubber hits the road is locally.”

Andrea Vicini, S.J., Michael P. Walsh professor of bioethics and professor ordinarius, said the issue of climate change is a shared problem.

“I think we experienced that we cannot focus only on ourselves,” Vicini said. “The problem of the other is my problem. What is happening to the other is what’s happening to me. We are all in this together. So there is sort of urgency, gravity, and complexity, but we all share it.”

Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

March 27, 2022