Bringing Paris Climate Talks to CNY: Local Actions, Viewpoints on Climate Change

Dec 18, 2015

About 60 people turned out to WAER's Let's Talk Climate event Tuesday night on the Paris Climate Accord
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News


Central New York Environmental and climate change researchers and professors weighed in with opinions about the Paris Climate Accord that came out of the COP 21 meeting.  Participating in a panel hosted by WAER were: Maxwell Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs Peter Wilcoxen; Senior Research Associate Campbell Public Affairs Institute Sarah Pralle; Cornell Soil Scientist Johannes Lehman; and Maxwell Associate Professor of Geography Bob Wilson.  

Panel members (from left) Bob Wilson, Sarah Pralle, Pete Wilcoxen and Johannes Lehman offered opinions and discussed ideas from the audience.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

  The panel discussed the agreement that came out of Paris, generally agreeing that the final accord was an important step forward, while being the first of many steps needed to achieve worldwide global warming reduction targets.  They also believe the tenor of the negotiations was different, less contentious, and more focused on a positive outcome than previous international talks on climate change.  

Members of the audience shared ideas, practices and programs here in Central New York that can assist for those who want to make a positive impact on climate change.  Ideas that were presented included: more attention on efficiency in homes and buildings through local programs administered by PEACE and others; Paying attention to state and federal policies that support various alternative energy projects; and education n the K-12 area to teach more progressive science curricula that would include more information on climate change for students.  


The topics of nuclear power and natural gas brought out some debate and differing opinions.  While Nuclear power is included in Governor Cuomo's plans to reduce emissions by 50%, there was disagreement as to whether it should be included in an energy future.  Some attendees say not only is nuclear power unsafe because of the storage and radiation concerns, it's also not emission free as Cuomo suggests, due to the energy required to produce the fuel.  

WAER News and Public Affairs Director Chris Bolt organized and moderated the panel discussion, with technical help from WAER Chief Engineer Dan Gurzynski
Credit Anne Cywilko-Bolt/WAER News

  Natural gas drew even more concerns.  Some members of the panel asserted that it produces less greenhouse gas emissions than coal, and is therefore an improvement for electricity generation in power plants - though still a fossil fuel.  Audience members pointed out the problems of methane being released during the drilling process for natural gas, concerns over increasing hydrofracking (effectively banned in New York), and the idea that using another fossil fuel is counterproductive.  

The discussion drew a crowd of about 60 people to the Central New York Philanthropy Center.  The Central New York Community Foundation hosted the event.  The group Climate Change Awareness and Action helped with publicity and organization at the event.