UN climate conference draws experts and USC students in search of solutions

World leaders, scientists and climate activists have descended on Glasgow, Scotland in a last-ditch effort to tackle the out-of-control climate change. And USC researchers are one of them.

They participate in the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, abbreviated COP26. This is the 26th “Conference of the Parties”, a summit of nations held every few years over the past three decades to fight global warming.

Sustainability and tackling climate change are top priorities for USC, so faculty, students, and university leaders are participating in the event in a variety of ways. Here are a few.

USC climate change experts speaking at or observing COP26

Wändi Bruine de Bruin

Bruine de Bruin discusses misconceptions and missed opportunities common to climate change communication. She will share the findings of a USC Dornsife Public Exchange-United Nations Foundation Study which revealed that non-scientists have a hard time understanding climate change because reports and researchers often use complicated terms.

As one study participant put it, “It sounds like you are talking to people. Instead, experts need to talk about climate science in everyday language, said Bruine de Bruin, senior professor of public policy, psychology and behavioral science with appointments at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and USC Price School of Public Policy.

(Want to learn some tips to understand the words that will come out at COP26? Bruine de Bruin suggested that practical Guide.)

Watch Bruine de Bruin’s presentation live from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. PDT on Friday, November 5, or later via the Intergovernmental channel on the climate change YouTube channel.

Joe rvai

Árvai is traveling to COP26 as a member of the delegation of the World Science and Environment Council. He heads the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, headquartered at USC Dornsife, and will provide input to policy makers during the briefings. The Árvai, Dana and David Dornsife Chair and Professor of Psychology studies how people assess risks and make decisions related to the environment and sustainability.

“This is an important step for the Wrigley Institute because, on the one hand, it will give international visibility to the knowledge and science we generate,” said rvai. “On the other hand, the sessions and exhibits will provide an excellent opportunity to bring back ideas to inform the educational programs and the research enterprise of the institute.”

Shannon Gibson

Gibson, associate professor (teaching) of international relations and environmental studies, and her undergraduates virtually attend COP26. They will attend a retreat hosted by the USC Wrigley Institute on Santa Catalina Island.

Students study the impact of popular protests and activities on language and communication on climate change at formal conferences like COP26. They are also studying how the COVID-19 pandemic has presented both challenges and opportunities for organizations fighting for climate justice.

Climate science discussions and virtual panels

USC President Carol L. Folt and former Tianna Shaw-Wakeman

Folt and Shaw-Wakeman spoke with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – who is in Glasgow at COP26 – during a Facebook Live session on November 3 hosted by the Los Angeles Business Council. Shaw-Wakeman, USC 2021 Promotion Major, is a young climate activist. Other attendees included Lauren Faber, director of sustainability for LA, and Mary Leslie, president of the Los Angeles Business Council and USC alumnus.

The group discussed sustainability challenges and progress in California and around the world. To verify registration here.

Arnold Schwarzenegger on climate action

Schwarzenegger, namesake of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute on State and Global Policy, speaks with LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue about creating green jobs and a booming economy based on sustainable practices in California.

Click here to watch the virtual discussion scheduled from 9 a.m. to 9.45 a.m. PDT on Thursday, November 4.

How are countries doing 5 years after the Paris Climate Agreement?

The USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future organized a panel of November 3 with updates from COP26 to assess the success of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and prospects for future action on climate change. To view the recorded event, visit the center’s past events page.

  • Moderated by Bob Shrum and Mark Murphy of USC Dornsife, the event included these faculty members:
    Monalisa Chatterjee – Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, USC Dornsife
    Shannon Gibson – Associate Professor of International Relations and Environmental Studies, USC Dornsife
    Robert O’Brien – Fulbright Incoming Research Chair in Public Diplomacy, USC Center on Public Diplomacy

Alumni committed to climate action at COP26

Sultan Al Jaber

Al Jaber received his BS in Chemical Engineering from USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He became Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology in the United Arab Emirates and is the country’s special envoy for climate change. At COP26, he met with prominent figures from Bill Gates to John Kerry to discuss inclusive and sustainable green energy initiatives.

Elizabeth shakhnazaryan

Shakhnazaryan, a 2020 USC Dornsife graduate, helped the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, prepare to attend COP26. An intern in international climate policy, she conducted research and planned events for the independent, non-partisan political institute.


Lance Ignon of USC Dornsife contributed reporting for this story.

More stories on: Climate, Climate change, Faculty, Sustainability

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About Mark A. Tomlin

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