Michigan Tech Students Participate in COP25

Seven students from a range of academic disciplines present research, observe negotiations at global conference on climate change.

Michigan Technological University was granted official observer status to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP25) earlier this year.

A man and a woman, both seated, looked at each other while smiling. They sit underneath a banner that reads "COP25 Chile Madrid 2019 UN Climate Change Conference".
Adewale Adesanya and Alexis Pascaris chat with each other between sessions at COP25 in Madrid. Image Credit: Sarah Green

Michigan Tech sent seven students to Madrid, Spain, in early December 2019 to present research findings related to four of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG): SDG 6, clean water and sanitation; SDG 7, affordable and clean energy; SDG 9, industry, innovation and infrastructure; and SDG 11, sustainable cities and communities. The students are also in Madrid to observe negotiations between nations concerning the threats climate change pose to humanity.

COP25 brings together policy makers, nongovernmental organizations and scientists Dec. 2-13, 2019. Originally slated to take place in Chile, the conference was moved to Madrid because of social unrest in Santiago. Sarah Green, professor of chemistry and scientific reviewer of the UN’s Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), leads the group.

“Michigan Tech students are fully immersed in international climate science and policy this week at COP25,” Green said. “I see very wide eyes as they experience the deluge of data at COP25 on everything from science of the cryosphere to climate finance. In collaboration with Colorado State University and Clark University, Tech students are presenting their work on links between the SDGs and climate action.” 

These UNFCCC meetings are where science is translated into policy. Students are able to see this firsthand by observing the actual negotiating sessions.

A portrait of Sarah Green.
Sarah Green
Professor of Chemistry

The students attending COP25 are Adewale Adesanya, doctoral student in environmental and energy policy; Jessica Daignault, doctoral student in civil engineering; William Lytle, doctoral student in environmental and energy policy; Alexis Pascaris, master’s student in environmental and energy policy; Shardul Tiwari, doctoral student in environmental and energy policy; Kenny Larson, doctoral student in environmental engineering; and Karuna Rana, master’s student in environmental and energy policy. Also attending is Bruce Woodry, a Michigan Tech alumnus and CEO of Sigma Capital Group. Gabriel Ahrendt, master’s student in geology, was selected to attend the conference and participated in the research and presentation development, but was unable to go to Madrid when his flights to Chile could not be reimbursed.

The COP25 Experience 

Three of the students attending COP25 are also blogging about their experiences. Visit mtu.edu/unscripted to read more.

The students are part of a university consortium with Clark University, Colorado State University, Monash University in Australia, University of Indiana, Scripps Institute and the Mountain Institute.

On Dec. 3, some of the Michigan Tech students presented research, in partnership with students from Colorado State and Clark, in support of SDG 11. Their presentation focused on sustainability case studies they examined, from the residential to the community scale: Michigan Tech’s Sustainability Demonstration House; the Aldo Leopold Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin; Artefact in Glücksburg, Germany; and a middle class community Lake County, Illinois.

Others of the Michigan Tech contingent will present two case studies about renewable energy access at Clark University and Colorado State, and about a project to build microgrids out of solar panels in rural Rwanda. The students also participated in a press conference.

“Climate change, a global issue, requires cooperation and coordination with a multitude of actors and policy makers,” Tiwari said. “COP25 gives the ideal platform for the actors to negotiate the targets for the global goal. Climate change mitigation and adaptation does not have to be a zero-sum game where one group’s losses profit another group.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.