On June 27, the Washington University Climate Change Program partnered with the WashU College Prep program to give 36 rising high school seniors a wide-angle perspective on climate change.
The students, all from the 3rd Cohort of the College Prep Program, listened to an introduction from Vice Chancellor of Sustainability Phil Valko, who went over the University’s role in combating climate change.
This was followed by a lecture on global climate trends from interglacial cycles up to the present from Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jen Smith and a breakout discussion facilitated by interns from the Office of Sustainability.
The day culminated in a Climate Negotiation Simulation, facilitated through software from Climate Interactive. After a short presentation on the potential global consequences of a business-as-usual approach to climate change, the group was divided into groups representing six inportant UNFCCC negotiating blocs; the European Union, China, the United States, India, Other Developed nations, and developing nations.
With the goal to limit potential global temperature rise to under 2 degrees celsius by 2100, each bloc was responsible for setting emission reduction targets, deforestation and aforestation commitments, and an amount to contibute to a U.N. climate fund. Each of these variables were then inputted into C-ROADS software developed by Climate Interactive, which calculates the potential global warming as a result of each commitment.
Students quickly learned first-hand the challenges and importance of international collaboration. After the first round of negotiations, the 2 degree goal seemed far-off. Rising to the challenge, the students faced the next two rounds of the simulation with urgency and enthusiasm. After three rounds and 90 minutes of negotiations, coalition-building, and spirited discussion, the 2 degree threshold was met.