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A Simple and Powerful Reminder About Climate Change Conversations

By Sharon Chen
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Harvard students have been working hard on energy and environmental issues. Supported by the Harvard University Center for the Environment, students have focused on issues ranging from growth limitations in New England forests to mapping the experiences of those who contribute the least to climate change but will suffer the most from it. Through his research, Jason Kwon, a government concentrator who analyzed political and social responses to environmental problems, found that Americans in general tend to care less about climate change than citizens of other developed countries. While alarming, Kwon remains positive: “in some cases something as simple as having a conversation can lead to pretty powerful change.”  

Higher ed provides many opportunities to effect change: through academics, networking, research, and access to ideas. But let’s not forget that college campuses, with their diversity of students, ideas, and backgrounds, are also great places to have conversations, and these conversations have the potential to change the world. 

Students bring fresh perspective to environmental issues

Amanda Beattie | Harvard Gazette | October 2, 2015

When Evan Sandhoefner ’17 was hired as a research assistant in December 2014, he wasn’t planning for it to turn into research and co-authorship of a paper about climate change, labor productivity, and global poverty.

Sandhoefner, a junior studying economics and computer science, was one of the 25 undergraduates who received summer funding from the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) for research focusing on energy and the environment.

Each year HUCE awards funding to promising students who have an interest in working with faculty members and their research groups. Once again their research covered a wide range of topics — from growth limitation in New England’s forest trees to housing and air pollution — drawing undergraduates in concentrations from environmental science and public policy to East Asian studies.

Sandhoefner partnered with HUCE Director Daniel Schrag, a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). He also worked closely with Jisung Park, a Ph.D. candidate in economics in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a President’s Climate Change Solutions Fund grant recipient.

Sandhoefner’s assignment: to gather cross-sectional data on wealth, occupation, and climate for 52 developing countries, some 700,000 households. The goal was to map the experiences of people who oftentimes contribute least to climate change and yet who will suffer the greatest damage from it. For Sandhoefner, the project was challenging but never lacking interest.

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