Alumnus returns to Union to give talk on climate change

The global distribution of climate change vulnerability. Darker shades indicate greater vulnerability to climate impacts, while lighter shades indicate mild vulnerability to climate impacts. (Courtesy of Wesleyan University and Columbia University)

On Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, Union welcomed back alumnus Erin Delman ’12 to give a presentation on her current research on the implications of climate change to U.S. national security as part of the Minerva Class on Inequality: Economic and Social Perspectives.

In her time at Union, Delman left an indelible mark in organizing for sustainability amongst many other accomplishments. Delman is currently a PhD candidate at the University of California Irvine’s Department of Earth System Sciences.

Delman’s presentation was entitled “The Inequality of Climate Change: A Vulnerability-Benefit Analysis of Fossil Fuel CO2 emissions.”

Delman approached her research by assessing the economic and human development benefits of a fossil fuel based energy system against countries’ vulnerabilities to climate impacts.

The central thrust of her presentation was that climate change will impact the world’s poorest the hardest.

Countries who are least responsible for contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions and have seen little developmental benefits, as a result, are also the most likely to bear the brunt of extreme climate impacts.

This is because developing countries may not have the economic, institutional or technical capacity to respond to the threats of climate change.

Climate change inequality can only be solved if countries place long-term international cooperation at the forefront of their agendas, and actively seek common ground on how to share the cost burden of mitigating to and adapting to climate change, rather than focusing on addressing their own countries’ short-term economic interests.

The United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris at the end of the month will test the countries’ resolve to bridge their differences and whether an international agreement on addressing climate change can be reached.

Delman presented risk-vulnerability models that map out the vulnerability levels of each country in respect to climate change to illustrate her point.

In most cases, a country’s vulnerability to climate change is dependent upon the country’s energy and climate policies. These policies determine how responsive or adaptive a country is in finding solutions to tackle climate change and its unpredictable impacts.

Generally speaking, European countries like Denmark lead in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meeting ambitious renewable energy targets, according to the annual Climate Change Performance Index report compiled by the environmental watchdog agency Germanwatch.

The Climate Change Performance Index ranks countries’ attitudes towards climate protection by measuring emission levels, greenhouse gas emission growth, energy efficiency and favorability of climate policies.

Its aim is to increase awareness and pressure on those countries who have failed to take action on climate protection.

Delman’s talk not only suited her interests in the role of climate change in national and international security, but also brought a new perspective to the reasons behind climate inequality.



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