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Cornell climate expert says progress made at CoP27, but not enough

A group of people sitting behind a long table on a stage stand and applaud.
Kiara Worth
Delegates at the United Nations CoP27 conference in Egypt applaud an agreement among wealthy nations to create a fund for poorer countries dealing with the impacts of climate change, Nov. 20, 2022.

A Cornell University professor who participated in the international climate conference applauds progress made during the session but also calls it a lost opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Cornell Global Development Professor Rachel Bezner Kerr presented at the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties climate conference, known as CoP27, held earlier this month in Egypt. She said a major sign of progress was an agreement among the world’s richest countries to help poorer nations hit by the climate crisis.

"To recognize that there are significant costs of loss and damage being experienced because of climate change. Poor countries, in particular— those highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change—can't afford to pay for those costs, so wealthy countries are going to help to contribute to those costs," she said.

Bezner Kerr, who spoke at CoP27, is one of the authors of the International Panel on Climate Change report, specifically on the impact of food systems. She said there are links between extreme weather events—flooding, droughts and heat waves—and a country's ability to feed its people.

"There's now research showing that these acute events can be linked to increases in acute food insecurity," Bezner Kerr said. "So you have both chronic food insecurity being connected to climate change. And then these acute events of drought or flooding or marine heatwaves being linked to increased incidence of acute food insecurities."

But she said the climate conference missed an opportunity to have countries take a stronger stand on reducing emissions—the final agreement included little mention or commitment to move off of fossil fuels, the main driver of global warming.

"I think that, as citizens and as a scientist, we all will have to keep putting pressure on governments because I think the message coming out of CoP27 isn't strong enough," Bezner Kerr said.

Bezner Kerr said she wonders if that lack of commitment slows New York state’s ambitious goals of reducing emissions in power, transportation and building sectors. She said she does remain hopeful, however seeing so many groups and institutions working on science-based ways to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.