In the weeks leading up to COP21, the UN Climate Negotiations, I had fantasized about walking the cobblestone streets of Paris, filling my nose with the smell of pastries, and feeling the romantic rhythm of Paris’s bustling energy. Then, the horrific terrorist attacks occurred just days before my flight was to arrive. As I boarded the shuttle to attend my first day at COP21, I pushed inside the tight confines of the shuttle’s interior with hundreds of other climate activists, I couldn’t help but feel a nagging sense of fear: What if somebody decided to attack the conference? What if... Read More

Something’s different about COP21. We can all feel it in the air — the sheer number of people, the various art installations dotting the city, the businesses and local governments that are here to show their support, and the romantic beauty of Paris also doesn’t hurt. People are finally having conversations about the relationship between the science and the human rights impacts of climate change, and the private sector is getting involved to drive innovative solutions in a warming world. While the final Paris agreement may not be ground-breaking, it will undoubtedly be a step in the right... Read More

What's the difference? Life or death for millions of people, if you ask island nations and poor countries.

In the years leading up to COP21 in Paris, poor countries have been pushing for a 1.5˚C warming cap instead of the 2˚C cap that rich countries feel much readier to agree to; however, 2˚C (an already ambitious and possibly unrealistic ambition) is associated with rapid sea level rise of “several meters” in coming decades, according to Jim Hansen and his colleagues in the 2015 paper “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and... Read More

Imagine an earthquake has destroyed your house, leveled the homes of all your neighbors. The nearest clinic, which is not very near at all, has suffered structural damage, and landslides make the roads nearly impassible. Even more importantly, the clinic is without electricity and has no mechanism of back-up power.

For those in the direst need of immediate treatment — women giving birth, those with grievous injuries — there is no prospect of good help without light. Search and rescue, too, operated largely by friends and neighbors, must halt when the light fades. Without light,... Read More

Last week, over 150 world leaders gathered together in Paris for the launch of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), indicating that climate change is finally becoming a forefront issue in global policy. And the vast majority of these world leaders were men.

As 50% of the world’s population, it’s obvious that women need to be a part of the conversation surrounding climate change. But even more importantly, many groups of women disproportionately feel the impacts of climate change, which makes it even more critical that their voices be heard in the COP negotiations and that the... Read More

“Imagine Earth without an ocean. We’d look a lot like Mars,” says Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and explorer. Discourse surrounding the perils of climate change is largely confined to the reduction of carbon emission without proper links to the ocean, even at COP21 where hundreds of nations made calls to action on mitigating the effects of fossil fuel consumption.

Earle and a community of marine biologists argue that relegating oceans to second-class citizens on the climate agenda can have deep implications on the planet’s chemistry. Perhaps it’s the very "mystery" of the ocean that... Read More

In the past few days here in Paris, there’s been excitement about the possibility of including mention of a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature limit in the COP21 agreements, a shift from the historical limit of 2 degrees endorsed by most developed nations. World powerhouses like the U.S., Canada, China, and the EU have come out in support of a 1.5 degree agreement, showing solidarity with frontline communities in Africa that have long said a 2 degree rise in temperature would mean climate catastrophe.

It would seem, then, that COP21 may truly bring about justice for frontline... Read More

The Faces of Solar at COP21 (see part I)

Laura Stachel: Eliminating Childbirth Mortalities in Underserved Countries

In 2008, Dr. Laura Stachel traveled to northern Nigeria on a graduate research project. She spent two weeks observing care in a hospital as a part of a research program through University of California, Berkeley. As an obstetrician, her original purpose was to examine how to lower the staggeringly high rates of maternal death.

But the results of the experience were more salient than she expected — and not just for her project.

“There... Read More

That unifying moment that we’ve waited for has arrived: the moment that division and fear do not guide our behavior but, rather, hope and science coalesce to ignite a societal shift toward sustainability and justice. The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), the United Nations Climate Negotiations, can be the foundation for such a collective movement for real change. Historically, human civilization has been divided. Rulers and their subjects, the proletariat and bourgeois, the 99% and the 1% — they collectively embody a common theme of power — those who have it and those who don’t.... Read More

In 1977, the world was just beginning to learn about solar power. With only 500 kW worth of panels installed worldwide, one watt of solar-produced energy sold for a staggering $76 USD. Also that year, the now-ubiquitous solar-powered calculators first came to market.

Forty years later, the total installed solar power in the world has increased by a factor of 500, and the same amount of solar energy now costs only $0.61 — nearly a 100% decrease. Solar energy has transcended from low-consumption devices to now powering entire office buildings and neighborhoods (and, in the case of... Read More