Climate Change and Poverty: Global Inequalities

This blog was written by St. Edward’s Chemistry major Chris Jackson, who attended and presented at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting on March 15th, 2016. Chris was also one of eight students selected from around the country to represent the American Chemical Society as a student ambassador at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of Parties (UNFCCC COP21) in Paris in December of 2015.

Climate Change and Poverty: Global Inequalities

Over the past three days, I’ve been surrounded by thousands of chemists at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in San Diego, CA.  Traveling with a contingent of St. Edward’s students and professors, all presenting our research, I was also fulfilling my last responsibilities as an ACS student delegate at the Paris Climate Talks this past December.  With seven other delegates from around the country, the symposium highlighted a wide variety of topics at COP21, ranging from air quality to forms of protest to water.

My presentation focused on the disproportionate effects of climate change faced by developing and developed countries and how this played a key role in the Paris negotiations.  While developing (i.e. third world) countries only contribute to 1% of global emissions, they experience 99% of the casualties due to climate change because of increased exposure, sensitivity and less adaptive capacity.  At COP21, developing countries made significant efforts to get their voices heard and integrated into the text, with groups such as the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Climate Vulnerable Forum lobbying for a 1.5 ˚C global temperature rise limit (as opposed to the 2 ˚C standard widely recognized).

Ultimately, their efforts were somewhat successful, resulting in finance promises of $100 billion/year (with further promises to increase this amount after 2025) for developing nations.  The treaty also promised to “pursue efforts” to stay below 1.5 ˚C.  From my perspective as a chemist and attending several presentations by NGOs and governments at the COP, I believe that these goals will only be possible if changes are implemented at the local (i.e. city) level and we make significant advances in renewable energy technologies.

If interested, I’ll be presenting on the topic again at the SOURCE Symposium on April 15th and the Honors Thesis Symposium on April 22nd.