Climate change politics are of global significance. On the morning of September 6, 2007, ambassadors from the United Nations (UN) gathered on Stony Brook’s campus to participate in a working retreat on climate change. The retreat, “Climate Change, Here and There,” was sponsored by the European Commission to the UN, the UN Alliance of Small Island States, and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University (SBU). Representatives from over 20 different countries met with scientists at SBU’s Sunwood estate in order to discuss climate change science, and brainstorm mitigation strategies and global policy needs. Specifically the group discussed island nations that have already begun to witness the devastating effects of climate change and associated sea level rise.
SoMAS Associate Dean and ITPA Director Dr. Minghua Zhang co-organized the retreat with Head Ambassador Fernando Valenzuela of the European Commission to the UN. Following a welcome from SBU’s President Shirley Strum Kenny, Dr. Zhang gave a keynote speech on the current scientific understanding of climate change and sea-level rise. Another keynote presenter was Dr. David Levy, from the Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Massachusetts, and author of several books on the economics of climate change. He discussed his analysis of the future direction of energy development, practices of large oil companies in the US and Europe, and policy recommendations.
Human activities are having unprecedented effects on the world’s climate. Yet, the regional manifestation of climate change and its impact on social and economic activities around the world are still unclear. For small island countries, however, impending sea-level rise poses a grave threat to their land and infrastructure, and requires immediate action.
Ambassador Angus Friday of Grenada spoke to the group about his country’s on-going sea-level rise mitigation projects, including building walls around the island to protect its tourism and social infrastructures. SoMAS faculty member Dr. Henry Bokuniewicz then discussed his research involving groundwater and small islands.
“We could not have asked for a better event or location (for this purpose).” remarked Sarah Curran from the European Commission delegation. Diplomats from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Suriname, Palau, Luxembourg, Portugal, Ukraine, Germany, United Kingdom, and a delegation of the European Commission participated in the retreat. The UN’s Assistant Secretary for Human Affairs, Marghareta Wahlstorm, and a representative of the UN’s Development Program, Carolina Jaramillo, were also in attendance.
“We were very pleased to host this retreat, and look forward to working with small island countries on climate change issues. These islands share many common attributes to what we have on Long Island,” said Dr. Zhang.