Dartmouth Professor Heads To Paris For Climate Change Talks

Dec 7, 2015

A Dartmouth College professor is heading to Paris this week to join in the global conversation about strategies to combat climate change, and she'll be doing so as the new chair of the Union of Concerned Scientists' board of directors.

Professor of Environmental studies Anne Kapuscinski became the first woman to serve in the organization's leadership role when she assumed the duties in October.

“It’s built an amazing reputation for fairness and accuracy, and independence in the way it applies science to some of our most pressing challenges facing the nation and the world,” says Kapuscinski. She says the group works on developing policy that is informed by science.

Kapuscinski researches sustainability challenges with a particular focus on food and energy systems, and climate change mitigation. She's also served as a scientific adviser to the U.S. secretary of agriculture and the World Health Organization.

When it comes to tackling climate change, Kapuscinski says the global community has to commit to change now.  

“I don't know if I would say that Paris per se is the last chance," says Kapuscinski. "I do think that Paris is absolutely critical moment in which we have to put in place the right structures and the right commitments to ramp up the ambition of emission reductions among all the countries.”

Kapuscinski says misinformation about science has been a real impediment to mobilizing the U.S. Congress to be part of the global solution.  

“For example, we know that one of the most effective ways to get the whole world community on this path to ending up with no more than a 2 degree rise in average global warming would be to put a price on carbon.”

Kapuscinski says this would be achievable if Congress would get behind the plan. She says the current administration in the White House has done the best they can, for example with the passing of the Clean Power Plan for the Environmental Protection Agency.

China has recently made a commitment that it is going to put in place a program to put a price on carbon in the year 2017, says Kapuscinski. It would likely be a cap and trade program.

“So it's clearly time for the United States to step up and do the same thing,” she says.

When asked if the Doomsday Clock has started, Kapuscinski says she thinks the global community has about a decade or so: “Between now and the next 15 years we have to have made the pivot in our policies.”

She says many of the actions will happen over the rest of the century, but we have to commit now to making a real change of direction.  

As a world, she says, we need to “move from a path right now that's leading to an average warming of 4 degrees centigrade by the end of century to instead a path that would limit the warming to no more than 2 degrees centigrade by the end of the century.”