What you need to know in advance of the Paris Climate Change Conference

The eyes of the world have been on Paris in recent weeks, and the focus won’t be shifting anytime soon. The city is set to host officials from across the globe on Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 at the United Nations’ COP 21, also knows at the Paris Climate Change Conference 2015.

At the gathering, leaders will work to establish a pact to keep global warming below what most scientists say is a critical threshold.

Professors at the University of Utah will be watching the discussions closely. Many have their own research to add to the debate, and are available for commentary on what’s happening at COP 21 as well as their own academic research on the topic. A few of the many researchers at the U studying issues related to climate change include:

Prospects for the Greatest Snow on Earth in a Warming World
Utah’s climate is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer today than it was in the early 1900s. Scientists expect this warming will continue during the 21st century, with the amount of warming dependent on future greenhouse gas emissions. University of Utah atmospheric scientists Jim Steenburgh and Courtenay Strong project that during coming decades, this warming will exert an increasingly discernible influence on the Greatest Snow on Earth. More winter precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow, especially at lower elevations. Utah’s higher elevations have some insurance against the early stages of global warming due to their cool winter climate. But winter storms will become warmer, the density of snowfalls will increase, and the quality of powder will decline. Eventually, with continued greenhouse gas emissions, the likelihood of significant snowfall and snowpack declines at even upper elevations increases. Ultimately, the future of the Greatest Snow on Earth depends on the decisions we make today.
Jim Steenburgh, office: 801-581-8727, cell 801-230-5715| Email: jim.steenburgh@utah.edu
Courtenay Strong, office: 801-585-0049| Email: court.strong@utah.edu

The kids aren’t alright: Climate change can lead to lower birth weights
From melting glaciers to increasing wildfires, the consequences of climate change and strategies to mitigate such consequences are often a hotly debated topic. A new study led by the University of Utah adds to the ever-growing list of negative impacts climate change can have on humans—low birth weight. In the first study of its kind, a two-year project led by U geography assistant professor Kathryn Grace examined the relationship among precipitation, temperature and birth weight in 19 African countries. The findings show that a pregnant woman’s exposure to reduced precipitation and an increased number of very hot days results in lower birth weights. Grace is available to discuss her study’s results and implications.
Office 801-581-3610 | Email: grace@geog.utah.edu

Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment
Over the summer, Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical on the environment drew much attention, and may be discussed again at COP21. The document calls for urgent action to protect the Earth and fight global warming, a trend the pope declares is a result of the burning of fossil fuels and human activity. The document outlines Francis’ viewpoint on the scientific and moral reasons for protecting the environment. It states low-income people in the world suffer the most from air pollution and toxic dumping. Law professor Lincoln Davies can offer a local perspective on these issues. He previously organized a summit on religion, faith and the environment. A recognized expert in energy law and policy, Davies’ research spans a broad array of energy topics, including renewables and alternative energy, carbon capture and sequestration, nuclear power, utility law and regulatory and technology innovation.
Phone: 801-581-7338 | Email: lincoln.davies@law.utah.edu

Communicating Climate Change
Scholars have called climate change the most difficult communication challenge of the century. Communication plays a major role at all levels of social change to address the issue and involves far more than simply providing more information. Julia Corbett, professor of communication, teaches both an undergraduate and graduate course exploring the major players in climate communication: the public, mass media, climate scientists and their deniers and institutions. Corbett writes both academic research and creative nonfiction about human relationships with the natural world. She’s available to speak about news coverage, attitude and behavior, social and cultural change, activism and protest in regards to climate change.
Office: 801-581-4557 | Email: corbett.julia@gmail.com