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AU Experts Available for United Nations Climate Change Conference Analysis

WHO:     American University experts

WHAT:    UN Climate Change Conference (COP21)

WHEN:    December 7 - ongoing

WHERE: In–studio, on campus, via email or via telephone

Background: American University faculty and students join Heads of State this week in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Conference leaders will try to reach a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions and keep global warming below 2°C. Two American University professors are attending the conference, which runs through Dec. 11. School of International Service professor Paul Wapner is attending COP21 to conduct research on the negotiations. He will be tracking negotiations about "loss and damage" –how developed countries will respond to the climate change hardships experienced by developing countries. School of Public Affairs professor Todd Eisenstadt, who has a National Science Foundation grant regarding climate change in Latin America, is also attending and blogging from COP21. 

AU Washington College of Law students with the Sustainable Development Law & Policy Brief are also in Paris attending COP21. The group is primarily attending adjacent events in the Climate Generations area of Le Bourget conference complex and writing posts for AU WCL's Sustainable Development Law &Policy blog: Prior to COP21, SDLP held multiple events, including its annual symposium on climate change, and published blog posts related to the international negotiations as well as some of the major issues that COP21 is focusing on. 

Climate Justice, Policy, Hardships and Adaptation Experts:

Paul Wapner is an expert on global environmental politics, environmental thought, transnational environmental activism, and environmental ethics. He is currently editing a book, "Reimagining Climate Change," and continues to lead workshops for professors that explore contemplative practices and environmental engagement. Wapner is also the author of "Living through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism," (MIT Press) and co-editor (with Simon Nicholson) of "Global Environmental Politics: From Person to Planet" (Paradigm Press). He can discuss climate suffering, adaptation, and climate justice. 

Wapner says: "Paris will not be an answer to climate change but a crucial pivot for turning toward a post carbon world. Paris needs to build global solidarity for climate protection and then direct such concern into meaningful policies. Final agreements will be simply a down payment on the hard work ahead. But, make no mistake, that work can only be done if state officials, corporate actors, and civil society groups demonstrate genuine leadership in Paris. They must unite behind an uncompromising vision to reduce and then stop the use of fossil fuels and build a more just global society. The city of light offers a chance to light up the world with clean energy and social compassion."

Todd Eisenstadt's research focuses on the intersection of formal institutions and laws with informal institutions and practices, mostly in democratizing countries in Latin America. While in Paris at COP21, Eisenstadt will produce a daily blog about this international climate change discussion that can be viewed here. He teaches in the government department and is presently a Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation (NSF) project, "Lawsuits for the Pacha Mama [Mother Earth] in Ecuador: Explaining the Determinants of New Indigenous Movements to Mitigate Environmental Impacts." He can discuss the relationship between constitution-making processes and democratization across scores of nations.

Eisenstadt says, "The optimism of people going in to the Paris meeting has been of hope, but also wishful thinking. A better chance for an agreement would be between the world's top six emitters. If they are able to come to an agreement, that would cover about 60 percent of the world's emissions. The top two, the U.S. and China, started this process via a voluntary, unilateral agreement they signed last year. They will reach an agreement, but it will, as they have every year over two decades, fall woefully short of what is needed and what the top six emitters can do, or even the top three emitters. There is also a vital role for the private sector and for technological innovation."

Dan Fiorino
is the director of the Center for Environmental Policy and executive-in-residence in the School of Public Affairs. He teaches courses on environmental policy, energy and climate change, environmental sustainability, and public management in the public administration and policy department. Fiorino had a career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before joining AU. He can discuss environmental policy. 

Fiorino says: "With our work at American University, we're trying to identify the sweet spots, the potential for positive outcomes and how you design energy, environmental and economic policy. It's not necessarily a tradeoff, despite what the critics say that you can really get some economic health and other kinds of benefits from clean energy."

Kenneth Conca, professor in the School of International Service, is also a member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Expert Advisory Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding. His research and teaching focus on global environmental governance, environmental peacebuilding in war-torn societies, environmental politics and policy in the United Nations system, water governance, and environmental policy analysis. His latest book is "An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance" (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Conca says: "The UN must make full use of all of its powers under the UN Charter. When the right to clean water and air become a human rights issue, the UN can deploy its most powerful tools for accountability." 

Alexander Golub teaches in the environmental science department. Golub has a Ph.D. in mathematical economics and 20 years of experience in energy and climate change with a particular focus on climate economics and environmental finance, application of instruments for risk analysis and innovative financial tools for building global environmental markets. Golub can discuss how climate policy uncertainty is dangerous for business. A former executive director for Global Environmental Markets at UBS, Golub conducted quantitative analysis of global capital markets in context of pricing carbon emissions and equity formation in response to global and regional climate policy.

Golub says: "Uncertainty over the future of climate policy may cost billions dollars in forgone revenues and stranded assets. Policy uncertainty increases cost of capital and discourages investments. Inability of politicians to agree on climate change sends misleading signals to business and delays an inevitable decarbonization of the U.S. and global economy."

Malini Ranganathan, assistant professor in the School of International Service, is a critical geographer with a special interest in postcolonial cities. Ranganathan is concerned broadly with the political economy of the urban environment and sits at the intersection of urban geography, urban studies, and development studies. Most of her research to date has focused on water and land governance in Bangalore/Bengaluru in India. Her historic and ethnographic research here argues that new water pricing policy is central to struggles over the right to tenure security and urban belonging given widespread urban informality. She can discuss the political economy of the urban environment and the critical need for climate justice between cities and countries. 

Ranganathan says: "We need climate justice not just between countries but also within our cities. While the responsibility for the climate crisis sits overwhelmingly on developed countries, developing countries like India cannot afford to divorce development from sustainability."

Global Environmental Governance/Climate Engineering Expert:

Simon Nicholson, assistant professor of International Relations, is the director of the Global Environmental Politics program in the School of International Service and. His work focuses on global environmental governance, global food politics, and the politics of emerging technologies, including climate engineering (or "geoengineering") technologies. He also co-director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment initiative at AU. He can discuss global environment governance and geoengineering. 

Nicholson says: "One thing that won't be talked about much in Paris is climate engineering or "geoengineering" -- basically, large-scale technological responses to climate change. Yet the bulk of the computer models negotiators are relying on as they search for pathways to limit global warming already have climate engineering built into them. An unspoken assumption is that technologies will be invented that will draw large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. We need a more open and honest conversation about the options for tackling climate change, including a conversation about currently unpalatable technological schemes."

Climate Change Conference Coverage Risk Factors Expert:

Scott Talan, professor of public &strategic communication, is an expert in social media, digital media, new media, personal branding and multimedia. He has been a writer, producer, and reporter for numerous media organizations, including ABC News/Good Morning America. Talan can discuss the risks associated with the large amount of media coverage COP21 has produced that covers the talks and promises made between leaders without including concrete plans for action. Talan believes the public can become skeptical and further disenchanted with the lack of progress as a result of the summit. However, he is also able to talk about the progress made by non-state actors such as NGO's and WWF companies like Coca-Cola.

Talan says: "Looking back these type of global climate summits such as the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro gathering in the early 1990s, then the Kyoto Protocol five years later, and more recently the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, leads some to conclude 'it's all hot air' and no concrete steps are being taken. If there were accomplishments why is there another global gathering? It is a tough challenge for leaders to finesse in terms of meeting and talking, but also taking action as well."

Sustainability Experts:  

Megan Litke, is Director of Sustainability Programs and oversees all sustainability related initiatives, including efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020 and sustainability outreach and education efforts. Litke can discuss higher education sustainability trends and priorities.

Litke says: "Seeing the international community come together to reach an agreement at the global level is inspiring and exciting, and could eliminate some of the barriers we face at individual institutions in creating change." 

Richard Linowes, Director of Sustainability Management Program and Assistant Professor of Management, teaches strategy, global leadership, entrepreneurship, cross-cultural management and sustainability. Linowes studies how companies adjust themselves to operate internationally. He examines the strategic vigilance required for international business and focuses on how multinational companies adjust to cultures around the world.

Linowes says, "The gathering of nations in Paris has two vital aspects that build confidence that humanity may face the crisis brought on by climate change: nations are pledging goals for reducing greenhouse gases, and countries and cities are sharing their innovations and achievements in dealing with the world's changing conditions and resource limits. Whether it is the Dutch teaching others about holding back rising sea levels, or Japanese discussing how Tokyo accepted 82-degree office buildings to cut electricity use, or Perth Australia explaining how they became drought-proof by storing underground water produced by water desalination plants, or Washington, D.C. obtaining electric power via wind farms, countries are learning from each other about how to adjust to our changing planet."

American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.