Three professors discuss the urgency of climate change initiatives given the perceived impact on local communities at a lecture Thursday.

Vas Mathur / Sun Staff Photographer

Three professors discuss the urgency of climate change initiatives given the perceived impact on local communities at a lecture Thursday.

February 19, 2016

Professors Stress Urgency of Paris Climate Conference

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Professors expressed their hope that the United Nations 2015 Climate Change Conference, will be more successful than previous global climate change initiatives, like the Kyoto protocol at a Thursday lecture.

The Paris conference — commonly referred to as COP21 — indicated a need for grassroots efforts, according to Prof. Robert Howarth, ecology and evolutionary biology, at a panel Thursday.

“What COP21 does is to set the stage for what we can do in the grassroots level, and without grassroots leveling we won’t get to where we want to,” said Howarth, one of the participants in COP21. “When the nations of the world, 195 of them, agreed to what they did in Paris because of the grassroots pressure… we need to keep doing it.”

Prof. John Mathiason of the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs said he believes countries will adopt the measures agreed upon in the Paris Agreement — a global effort to reduce climate change approved by all countries present at COP21 — even though the commitments are voluntary.

“If they are voluntary, any country that is [a part of] the framework convention can say ‘yes, I can agree to this’ because it doesn’t require a new treaty that has to be ratified,” Mathiason said.

While the  Kyoto Protocol in 1997 was not implemented because some countries refused to ratify it, Mathiason said he believes the climate change initiative is likely to be effective this time.

“Climate change has gotten to a point where local climate impacts are changing mindsets, it’s very hard for the human mind to get around global issues,” he said. “It’s much easier for people to deal with local impacts.”

Prof. David Wolfe, horticulture, cited a change in corporations’ stance on climate change issues as an additional reason for the recent progress of climate change innitiatives. He emphasized that it is consumer action that is influencing corporate decisions and industry action.

“I feel like business leaders are going to lead the politicians to the table of both parties about climate change,” he said.

Wolfe also stressed the need for grass root support for climate change initiatives.

“Every nation [needs to] push their governments to live up to their agreement, without that it’s going nowhere and it’ll be dead in months,” he said. “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

After the consensus in Paris, the next step would be to translate the agreement into action, Mathiason said.

“The real issue is that we now have to do a bunch of stuff,” he said. “One of the reasons why you can’t get an international agreement very often is because you put off stuff. The hard stuff, like who’s going to do what and when.”

Howarth further emphasized the urgency of climate change actions in response to the information discovered at the Paris conference.

“The science presented in Paris [suggests that] we need to move very, very aggressively with that 1.5 or well below 2 degrees Celsius and take it very seriously,” he said.

The lecture is part of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Spring 2016 Colloquium series.


    President Obama & other world leaders, Al Gore, Lord Moncton, David Suzuki, Environmentalist & Climate Change proponents etc are fighting a losing battle.

    Big Oil, Koch Brothers, David Tepper, paid off analysts, paid off lawyers & aggressive Short Sellers etc are working overtime to kill companies like SunEdison the largest global renewable energy company in the world.

    Ironically, SUNE tanked with the price of oil tanking when demand for oil is going down but demand for electricity is going up.

    Their stock tanked from $33.45 to $1.50 within 6 months due to oil price tanking & aggressive short selling (over 35% short interest), even though they have a huge back log of projects, $4.43 book value (PEG ratio 0.02, $1.4 billion equity & owns 2 Yield Cos TERP & GLBL but only $490 million market cap) & mostly strong buy recommendations from most analysts. It went from a $11 billion dollar market cap company to $500 million within 6 months!

    If investors keep losing on renewable energy investments & green companies go bankrupt, the Climate Change movement will die off along with Earth.

    You can talk all you want but in reality, cash is king!


      Public Utilities Commission Chair Randy Iwase blasted Hawaiian Electric (HECO) for terminating a contract for three solar farms on Oahu. He threatened further investigation.

      “When the utility kills cheaper renewable projects to announce new fossil fuel plants, it sounds bad. But worse, it could mean the utility is actually killing off competition from cheaper renewable generators that would have competed with its own fossil fuel plants which it wants to maximize profits from.” – Rep. Chris Lee (D, Kailua-Waimanalo).


        “the birth of Big Solar poses a grave threat to those who profit from burning fossil fuels. And investor-owned utilities, together with Koch-brothers-funded front groups like American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), are mounting a fierce, rear-guard resistance at the state level – pushing rate hikes and punishing fees for homeowners who turn to solar power. Their efforts have darkened green-energy prospects in could-be solar superpowers like Arizona and Nevada”

  • The Paris climate summit was not covered in-depth enough so that average people could understand how important its global agreement is, as a universal declaration, as a morally symbolic global human intention, and as a schedule for global action.
    It is very important that we build on its successes and not allow vested interests to cast doubt on it or to derail it.
    I attended COP21 and upon returning to Canada made, with an independent film producer, a freely available user-friendly documentary about COP21, so that more people can understand what this historic conference achieved, and why: