The University of Miami hosted the Miami Climate Symposium 2020, a three-day climate change summit to dissect the link between climate change and extreme weather events.
The University of Miami used its geographic, cultural and intellectual resources to gather the scientific and public community to examine the world’s most pressing environmental issues. The event took place from Jan. 22-24 at the Rosenstiel School Auditorium at the University of Miami’s Key Biscayne campus.
The Symposium was centered around the state of science on climate dynamics and extreme events–such as South Florida’s vulnerability to climate extremes. Speakers emphasized that Miami is at significantly high risk of catastrophic weather events that pose risk for its residents, wildlife and future. The success of the city will depend on management of its land-water relationship.
University of Miami’s President, Julio Frenk, began the summit by presenting his views regarding climate change. He emphasized the role universities have in attracting stakeholders who understand how to manage issues prevalent to our society.
“We are both the producers and beneficiaries of knowledge,” said President Frenk.
He highlighted how universities must aim to uncover solutions in research, and turn the science into evidence for public policy.
As President Frenk concluded his speech, he handed the stage off to Ben Kirtman, Director of the Center for Computational Science Climate and Environmental Hazards Program at the University of Miami RSMAS. Kirtman discussed the vast spectrum of climate-related topics.
He warned listeners about the high possibility of experiencing more dangerous hurricanes within the next decade. Although hurricane risk dominates in South Florida, other types of risk that were explored throughout the three-day lecture series were insurance risk, legal risk, fire risk and heat risk.
Adam Sobel, Director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University,took the stage to cap off the symposium with his keynote speech titled Disasters and Climate Change: The Global and the Local.
Sobel’s main points were:
- Adaptation is local, mitigation is global.
- Both are political, and politics intertwines them.
- Science is not as important as we often make it out to be.
In terms of local changes the question – how do we quantify the value of undergoing a sustainable development project in the community? – was raised. Sobel explained the laundry list of contributing factors, including the value of the environmental impact, externalities and human interest which involves politics.
As the speakers finished presenting their perspectives, the symposium came to an end and the discussions began. Bill Weir, CNN chief climate correspondent, lead the panel discussion of planet thought leaders and reporters.
To kick off the panel discussion moderator Bill Weir posed the question: “How high, How fast?” to Michael Jarro, Vice President of transmission and substation for Florida Power & Light Company (FPL).
“We are either responding to a storm, or preparing for one,” said Jarro in response to another question about FPL’s power plan.
FPL is open to solar energy and is focused on affordability, equity and public participation to accelerate the technological transition to renewable energy.
“Even though you don’t see this every day – it’s happening,” said Steve MacLaughlin, NBC6 meteorologist and reporter.
People connect the dots when extreme events happen, like when Hurricane Michael rocked the Bahamas and made landfall in the U.S. as a Category 5 hurricane in October 2019.
After the presentations, environmental policy solutions such as resilience dividend budgets for Florida were discussed. Students in Miami and around the world were encouraged to get involved in climate action, research candidates and vote.
The University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is recognized for its superior research and academic programs –holding the core value to be a platform for science to be turned into environmental policy – regarding current issues. Key speakers repeatedly emphasized the cutting-edge research conducted at UM, as well as other universities around the world, for predicting extreme events within a changing climate from the local to international scale.
The challenge is on because pressure is on you, as the consumer, to do the right thing. As students and future leaders, we must ground ourselves in humanity and equality. Are you still asking what you can do? Remember – it is crucial to research candidates and vote!
words & photo_ sydney burnett