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Energy & Climate Change Conference

Guest blog submitted by Sarah Melissa Goss (sarmgoss@iupui.edu). Sarah is a graduate student in the Department of Earth Sciences, IUPUI interested in environmental education and attitudes; she has a strong interest in climate change.  Sarah is also a graduate intern at CEES IUPUI helping with "E-STEM" - environment, science, mathematics and engineering - in our Discovering the Science of the Environment program.

Recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the 15th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment: Energy and Climate Change. This conference is held annually in Washington D.C. with differing themes by the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE). The conference has a live-web feed on both the IUPUI and the IUB campuses.

Although this was my sixth time attending the conference, this year’s theme, Energy and Climate Change, fell squarely at the center of my research interests. I jumped at the chance to once again join scientists, other academics, and policymakers from all over the country in serious discussions about the future of energy use and curbing carbon emissions.

This conference always impresses me.  Leaders from diverse fields such as public policy, public health, geology, biology, physics, chemistry, and engineering come together to educate one another and brainstorm solutions to serious environmental problems. Participants proactively recommend advance action, research development, and policies to solve problems.

This year’s conference focused on energy use in the United States. Panels discussed moving from traditional fossil fuels to clean energy solutions, as well as the various routes necessary for this transition. Because 2014 saw much progress regarding climate change policy in the form of legislation limiting carbon emissions from new power plants and a treaty on emissions signed between the U.S. and China, the conference was focused on solutions and recommendations for the upcoming climate talks in Paris.

Presenters representing the U.S. government offices sat on panels and discussed technical and policy issues with academic directors, administrators of advocacy groups, and industry leaders. Among those presenting this year included John Holdren, science advisor to the President, Governor Bill Richardson, Secretary of Energy and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the EPA, and Gerard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States.

The breakout session entitled Enabling Climate-Smart Energy Use with Real-Time Information featured a tool called Environmental Dashboard developed by Oberlin College. This is a really exciting interactive application that shows real time environmental data to users. Designers have piloted the dashboard in the City of Oberlin, population of 9,000. Data is displayed on screens in public areas such as libraries and schools. Students from elementary schools have used the dashboard to track and reduce their energy use and environmental footprint. Environmental Dashboard is being integrated into other schools and communities. You can find more information here: http://environmentaldashboard.org/.

As part of my volunteer duties, I took notes for the breakout session titled The Energy Water Nexus: Collaboration for Increased Impact. A panel of four experts discussed the challenges, linkages, and justice issues surrounding energy and water. The group then took questions from the attendees. After discussion, the panel and attendees narrowed recommendations to ten bullet points, which were sent to conference organizers. The recommendations from all the breakout sessions were compiled and distributed to participants on the final day of the conference.

At the end of this year's conference, I felt as if sustainable energy solutions are just around the corner. The arguments for moving to green energy sources are strong, and the technology is available now. There are many policy and research leaders that are aware of the complex challenges and are moving toward solutions. Renewable energy makes sense and can contribute to an intelligent and secure energy policy. As earth scientists, we have a responsibility to not only contribute to the discussion on climate change, but we should also focus on solutions.

Even though the weather is always frigid in January, the NCSE annual conference is worth the trek to Washington D.C. More information on this year’s conference can be found here.  I hope you will think about joining me in 2016 for the conference themed The Food, Water, Energy Nexus.

- SMG

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