Ithaca Community Contributes to the Global Conversation on Climate Change

blue green algae bloom in a lake
Recent algal blooms in Cayuga Lake were among the issues discussed at the Talanoa session. image / Shannon Barrett
two data charts showing rising temperatures and precipitation in Tompkins County since 1950
The final report contained documented historical temperature and precipitation changes in Tompkins County, as well as other local data. charts / provided
four people standing together
From left: Rhea Lopes (M.R.P. '19), Ntiokam Divine (managing director of Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network, visiting from Cameroon), Julie Kapuvari '19, and Matthew Ferraro '20 at the Ithaca Talanoa session. image / provided
Recent algal blooms in Cayuga Lake were among the issues discussed at the Talanoa session. image / Shannon Barrett The final report contained documented historical temperature and precipitation changes in Tompkins County, as well as other local data. charts / provided From left: Rhea Lopes (M.R.P. '19), Ntiokam Divine (managing director of Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network, visiting from Cameroon), Julie Kapuvari '19, and Matthew Ferraro '20 at the Ithaca Talanoa session. image / provided
News
November 19, 2018

City and regional planning (CRP) students enrolled in a cross-disciplinary class titled Global Climate Change Science and Policy recently helped organize a public Talanoa dialogue for Ithaca and Tompkins County. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), "The process of Talanoa involves the sharing of ideas, skills, and experience through storytelling    . . . Talanoa fosters stability and inclusiveness in dialogue by creating a safe space that embraces mutual respect for a platform for decision making for a greater good."

CRP students included Venus Dulani (B.S. URS '19), Rhea Lopes (M.R.P. '19), Khyati Rathore (M.R.P. '19), and Syke Hart (M.R.P. '20). The class worked primarily with one of their instructors, Allison Chatrchyan, director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, and the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) to hold the dialogue and collect stories from the community about the local impacts of climate change.

Approximately 20 people attended the Ithaca event and shared their stories in response to three main questions posed by the students: "'Where are we?', 'Where do we want to go?' and, 'How do we get there?'" According to the summarizing report, community members voiced concerns related to extreme weather events, the gradual loss of green spaces that help keep temperatures down, toxic algal blooms in Cayuga Lake that can be tied to rising water temperatures, and possible solutions to these local problems.

"I first heard about the Talanoa dialogue process at the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn last December," says Chatrchyan. "I was intrigued by the idea of sharing stories of how people around the world are already being affected by climate change in order to keep the pressure on governments to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions more significantly and quickly."

Following the Ithaca dialogue, a summarizing report was prepared by the student organizers and uploaded to the United Nations platform site for the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in that will take place in Katowice, Poland, this December. Chatrchyan and Assistant Professor Linda Shi, CRP, are two of four instructors for the class that has given Ithaca the opportunity to follow hundreds of communities in submitting dialogue reports to the UNFCCC.

In addition to Chatrchyan and Shi, the Global Climate Change Science and Policy class is also taught by Natalie Mahowald, Irving Porter Church Professor in earth and atmospheric sciences engineering, and Sharon Sassler, professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology. The class is cross-listed with East Asian Studies and includes more than 20 students from a wide range of academic backgrounds who contribute to the collaborative and cross-disciplinary aims of the class.

"Fiji has long played a leading role in global climate negotiations, pushing for more ambitious emissions mitigation targets and greater funding for small island nations, indigenous peoples, and others who have contributed the least to climate change but will bear the brunt of climate impacts," says Shi. "Talanoa dialogues are a way to gather the voices and stories from communities around the world to complement the science-policy basis and show that people have shared interests despite different negotiating platforms across different home countries. The stories will likely highlight how people are already experiencing climate change, thereby underscoring the imperative for global action."

By Edith Fikes