The United Nations’ annual climate summit, the 27th Conference of the Parties, or COP27, has convened in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, through Nov. 18 to discuss the global response to climate change. Several Michigan State University experts are available to discuss the conference and climate change topics.
Environment and Engineering
Yadu Pokhrel is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in MSU’s College of Engineering. Pokhrel is an expert on climate and human-induced changes in the water cycle and their impacts on social and environmental systems.
“It is undeniable that climate change is intensifying the water cycle, leading to increased frequency and intensity of weather extremes. On one hand, we are facing unprecedented droughts in many global regions and, on the other hand, unprecedented storms like the recent Hurricane Ian are becoming increasingly common. We will likely face stronger extremes even if we implement stricter measures to reduce future emissions. Therefore, it is imperative that we develop a better understanding of the consequences of such extremes on various societal sectors and critical transportation and energy infrastructures. It is equally important that we better prepare our societies to adapt to the impacts of such extremes. A transdisciplinary integration of climate, hydrologic and social sciences is essential to address these growing challenges and safeguard our societies and infrastructure systems. Use of computer models to simulate the scope and extent of the impacts under such growing extremes is a starting point to understand and assess the impacts and develop adaptation strategies.”
Kyla Dahlin, associate professor of geography in the College of Social Science, uses data collected from satellites and airplanes to estimate how much carbon dioxide gets absorbed by different types of trees. These technologies are making data available that hadn’t been possible previously and could be a game changer for measuring the amount of carbon stored in forests across the globe.
“With climate change, there isn’t a perfect road map for what to plant now because what has grown in an area historically might not be the best choice anymore. I would recommend planting something that will be there in 100 years considering location, climate, potential disease and insects. The longer a tree can stay healthy, happy and appreciated, the more carbon it will take up.”
Phoebe Lehmann Zarnetske, associate professor of spatial and community ecology in the College of Natural Resources, can discuss climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, nature-based solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as potential climate intervention impacts on ecology.
“Already this year climate change has amplified weather, including: devastating floods in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India; intensified hurricanes that pummeled the Caribbean, the U.S. Gulf Coast and Canada; super typhoons that slammed into the Philippines and Alaska coastlines; and record-breaking heatwaves and drought worldwide, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. Developed nations are primarily responsible for anthropogenic climate change through high emissions of greenhouse gasses, yet people and nature in developing nations are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. COP27 will bring world leaders together in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to focus on the implementation and financing of climate mitigation and adaptation, especially assistance for the most vulnerable regions of the world, including Africa.
“Now more than ever, we need global cooperation, commitment and follow-through on previous pledges to mitigate climate change and help areas in most need to adapt to ongoing climate change. We don’t have more time. We need action. Does it take a village? Yes, but even bigger than that, it takes the world to act on the global climate and biodiversity crises. Everyone is part of this.”
David Skole, professor of global ecology, climate change, earth observations in the College of Natural Resources, can discuss the relationship between forests, land use change, the global carbon cycle and how that can help to understand global climate change, and identify mitigation and adaptation solutions.
“There is no uncertainty that human activities have increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Long standing understanding of climate systems, supported by considerable empirical and analytical evidence demonstrates that this increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide is responsible for radiative forcing that is changing the global climate system, often called global warming.
“At the 27th meeting of the Conference of the Parties -- COP27 -- in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt participating MSU scientists have joined the international community in highlighting a global interest in solutions. Policies and actions involving forests and other tree-based systems are important in this way because they are the only way to remove excess carbon already in the atmosphere while at the same time being important to livelihoods of more than a billion people.”
Maria Knight Lapinski, is a jointly appointed professor in the Department of Communication and Michigan AgBioResearch, and director of MSU’s Health and Risk Communication Center: Healthy People-Healthy Planet, an interdisciplinary research, teaching and public engagement network of more than 50 faculty. Lapinski’s research connects global health and environmental issues, cultural dynamics and communication science. Her work examines the impact of interpersonal and mediated messages and social-psychological factors on health and environmental behaviors with a focus on cultural dynamics.
“We all have a role to play in protecting our climate, and communication about climate change plays an important part in this. The things that people do that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect their local environment, like reducing energy use and driving their cars less, are in part shaped by information from people around us. Our research shows that highlighting the behaviors of others around us and talking about positive social norms can have impacts on peoples’ decisions to reduce energy use.”
James Dearing, is Brandt Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at MSU. Dearing studies the diffusion of innovations, including the adoption and implementation of new evidence-based practices, programs, technologies and policies. He works with research and practice improvement teams in environmental remediation, nursing care, water conservation, injury and fatality prevention, public health and health care.
“There are so many promising and evidence-based programs, practices and technologies that can help to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Some of these are well-suited for individuals like farmers, while others of these innovations make sense for towns and municipalities to consider adopting. And for many of them, they save money, too.”
John Besley, the Ellis N. Brandt Professor of Public Relations, College of Communications Arts ans Sciences, studies public opinion about science and scientists’ opinions about the public. Besley studies how people’s perceptions about science and technology communicators can impact human health and the environment. He also examines how scientists’ perceptions about communication shape the choices they make when they share their research.
“Being a jerk to people who don’t currently believe in the benefits of climate action seems unlikely to build trust in scientists and help move society toward more sustainable choices. The urgency of action does not change the fact that changing behavior is hard. At the same time, the scientific community could almost certainly communicate more effectively if it could find a way to better organize itself around shared communication goals.”
Bruno Takahashi is a Brandt Associate Professor of Environmental Communication at MSU with a joint appointment in the School of Journalism and AgBioResearch. Takahashi is the research director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. He is also affiliated with the Health and Risk Communication Center, the Environmental Science and Policy Program and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at MSU.
“Climate summits, such as the current COP27 in Egypt, tend to significantly increase climate news coverage around the world for short periods of time. News media will highlight potential catastrophic scenarios as well as the conference’s focus on implementation of climate commitments and issues of climate justice between rich and poor countries. In the United States, news organizations are primarily covering the midterm elections, and climate change is discussed in that context, since the results of the elections could have significant impacts on President Biden’s climate agenda and the country’s ability to meet any climate-related goals.”
Kelly Salchow MacArthur is a professor of graphic design at MSU. MacArthur’s creative research explores environmental issues through the integration of different materials, technology and formats in graphic design. She uses her expertise in visual communications to inspire and support environmental action, which MacArthur views as fundamental and urgent to the survival of humankind and our ecosystems.
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“Collective and individual response is urgent and imperative to the health of humankind and the environment. Graphic design is a powerful tool to catalyze empathy and positive action toward the protection and nourishment of our planet in crisis. Whether through apps, posters, advertisements or information design, visual communication portrays big ideas to society and has the capacity to instigate change. In order to mobilize, the message must be clear — graphic design is the medium through which text and image convey the message.”
Christina Boyles is an assistant professor of cultural engaged digital humanities at MSU. Her research explores the relationship between disaster, social justice and the environment. Boyles is also the director of the Archivo de Respuestas Emergencias de Puerto Rico, a project that works with community organizations to collect and preserve oral histories and disaster-related artifacts about Hurricane María. (Video: Responding Ethically to Disasters)
“When disaster strikes, media narratives often position the event as beyond human control or understanding, when, in fact, disasters are inextricably linked to human behavior. Human responses to disaster can produce, intensify or prolong dangerous conditions, increasing harm to and vulnerability of survivors. Colonialism and capitalism encourage the production of disaster-response mechanisms that are profit-driven and inequitable by design, often doing little to address the underlying causes of disaster or climate change. To respond to climate conditions with the urgency they demand, we must foreground approaches that emphasize community, equity and justice.”
Jason Miller, associate professor of supply chain management in the MSU Broad College of Business, can share insights and provide commentary on the magnitude of supply chain disruptions resulting from extreme weather events.
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“The February 2021 polar vortex knocked out about 25% of plastic material and resin production in the USA, a blow from which we still haven't fully recovered given the high utilization rate of those plants and making it effectively impossible to burn down backlogged demand.”