The young man who sat next to me during a workshop on equity at the Carolinas Climate Resiliency Conference which took place in Charlotte earlier this month was a meteorologist who had been working at Duke Energy for just a couple of years.
Jumping at the too-rare opportunity to have a frank conversation with someone who works for the corporation to which I often find myself in opposition, I asked him his opinion on climate change.
“We talk about 500-year events, 1,000-year events,” he said. “But there have been three of those events this year. I’m finding I’m having to go back and review the projections.”
The workshop began before I had a chance to follow up with a question about energy options, and then I lost him in the scrum at the end of the session. But the fact that he and I had sat at the same table for a time said a lot about how this biennial event, hosted by Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments and co-sponsored by Clean Air Carolina, brings together researchers, industrialists, local government workers, and community advocates in North and South Carolina to prepare for, and put the brakes on, climate change.
Conference speakers ranged from Congressman Bob Inglis, a Republican who lost his job after declaiming the veracity of climate change following a scientific expedition to the Antarctic, to Jacqui Patterson, leader of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, who shocked her audience into recalling how, during Hurricane Katrina, prisoners in New Orleans were abandoned in their cells as the water rose up to their chests.
Communicating Shared Goals
We all were working toward the same goal, of course. Rep. Inglis encouraged attendees to invite their Republican family members to visit his website (republicEn.org) and explore a free-enterprise solution to addressing carbon emissions. Reverend Leo Woodberry of South Carolina’s Kingdom Living Temple recounted how, although South Carolina is suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan, it has a legislative mandate to move forward with a plan anyway, and has been bringing together community members, civic leaders, and industrialists in a series of meetings in the evenings. Susan Joy Hassol of Climate Communications worked on finding an alternative to the phrase “Carbon T—“, an obscenity in conservative circles. WRAL meteorologist Greg Fishel (co-creator of the documentary “Exploring Climate Change“) confessed the moment he realized his ideology was preventing him from evaluating the science around climate change.
East Carolina University’s Christine Avenarius discussed strategies for communicating about storm surge risk to people living in its path (hint, call it a drainage problem, not sea-level rise), and Todd Olinsky-Paul of Clean Energy States Alliance pointed out that, despite all the warnings regarding the unreliability of solar and wind power, the aging US grid breaks down more often than that of any other country, and the breakages are due to severe weather events. The Medical Advocates for Healthy Air presentation advised health care systems to build up resiliency in both infrastructure and staff in order to be able to serve their communities properly, while Nina Hall and Caroline Dougherty of UNC Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center demonstrated the re-designed U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.
Speakers unveiled dozens of tools, websites and strategic programs, such as Clean Air Carolina’scitizen science air monitoring program and the outdoor art exhibit, Particle Falls. With up to six breakout sessions at a time over nearly three days, it was impossible to catch it all. Fortunately, most presentations will be online for further review. But nothing beats the opportunity to sit for a few minutes and chat about climate change with a scientist from Duke Energy.
This post was written by Laura Wenzel, Clean Air Carolina’s Medical Advocates for Healthy Air Manager and was originally posted here.