Gender Mainstreaming into a Slow and Polluted Stream?

By: Bi Zhao

In a highly technical, economically-driven process like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), how do social dimensions, such as human rights, gender equality, find their entries into the dialogue? With this question in mind, I came to my first ever UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. My research is focused on gender related issues in climate change. Therefore, besides following the negotiations among the national delegates, I also attended the daily caucus at the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) at UNFCCC, the various gender/human rights related side events, and I interviewed experts and practitioners from different women’s groups.

The narrative of gender equality is under the backdrop of integrating human rights into climate change and climate policies at the UNFCCC. Overall, the negotiations related to human rights are still moving forward very slowly. The discussions are not yet at a level of details that would create space to include proposals related to the integration of rights principles throughout the implementation of the Paris Agreement. For the most part, the discussions are still addressing overarching principles and structure. By the end of the first week at COP23, the atmosphere at the WGC caucus was gloomed by the fact that the Parties are moving very slowly in finalizing the text of the Gender Action Plan, which is a concrete plan of integrating gender into all policy making. Some representatives of women groups at the WGC commented that gender related texts are often suffered as casualties in the closed-door negotiations.

In contrast to the slow negotiation among the national delegates, women and gender groups around the world have already been involved in various advocacy and practices of gender-responsive policies at the grass-root level. Lisa Goldner from GenderCC told me about their project, Gender into Urban Climate Change Initiative, which tries to find relevant entry points for gender-related climate policy in urban settings. Usha Nair from India explained how UNFCCC COP enabled her organization, All India Women’s Conference, to form partnerships with other groups, especially those from the global north, and bring the practical climate policy and adaptation strategies back home to implement at the local level. Gotelind Alber, one of the co-founders of the WGC and the key person brought indigenous people to UNFCCC, told me that, throughout the years, the gender related side events at the annual COP meetings have moved from simply raising awareness, to showcasing a deeper understanding of the integration of gender in climate change, such as national policy implementation.

Nevertheless, even with such robust national and local level implementation of gender-related climate change policies, the advocacy groups still express their concerns about the challenges for women at the UNFCCC process. For example, the stereotype of women being vulnerable may fit in the discussion of climate change adaptation, but such stereotyping does not assume women as agents of change, and thus they remain rather irrelevant in the discussion of mitigation. Furthermore, the women and groups I talked to expressed frustration that the current narrative or discourse is still highly masculine, and that many people still fail to see the linkages between women and climate change. They view such dominate normative structure as the root cause for the difficulty of mainstreaming women and gender concerns. While at the same time, they are reflecting on the question: do women want to be mainstreamed into such an already “polluted stream” (referring to the male-dominate norm)?

By the time I came home, news came that the Gender Action Plan was adopted by the COP. Adopted text is always good news. Yet how exactly the plan is going to be followed through and carried out remains a question for all.

About the author: Bi Zhao is a 6th year PhD student in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University. Bi’s research focuses on the collaboration of international NGOs at intergovernmental organizations.




Impact of Climate Change and Economic Prosperity

By: Sushant Mehan and Sarah Daly

Hurricane Harvey was one of the most expensive storms in U.S. history and the greatest rainfall event ever measured in this country. In a lot of places, it was a 1 in 25,000-year storm. Hurricane Irma ultimately led to over 100 fatalities and extensive economic damage. It is widely believed that Hurricane Irma was caused by higher than average ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean this year.  Warmer ocean temperatures can increase atmospheric temperatures, feed storms, and ultimately increase hurricane intensity.

At its current rate, global climate will lead to the rapid collapse of Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets which could lead to rising sea levels of twelve feet or more.  As a consequence, major coastal cities will be at an increased risk for flooding. Additionally, projected shifts in the Atlantic Golf Stream would make Alaska’s climate more similar to that of Europe’s (IPCC, 2007, Stern, 2007). Additionally, global violent crime rates are projected to increase 0.88% per 1°C (Hsiang, 2017). Global annual mortality rates are projected to increase ~5.4 deaths per 100,000 persons per 1°C increase (Hsiang, 2017).

Global climate change will not only negatively affect natural resources, but it will jeopardize the world’s economy. The combined market value of market and nonmarket damage from analyzed sectors (agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor) increases quadratically with global mean temperature, costing roughly 1.2% of global GDP (gross domestic product) per 1 °C increase (Hsiang, 2017). The worst impact will be felt by third world countries. By the end of the 21st century, the poorest third of countries are projected to experience damage between 2 and 20% of their country’s income (90% chance) under business as usual emissions (Hsiang, 2017).

Despite increases in non-conventional fossil fuel use and improved drilling and reserve location technology, fossil fuel reserves are limited. Current projections estimate that we will reach peak oil reserves by 2044 assuming reserves of 3.3 trillion barrels and a production growth rate of 2% (US DOE). By current estimates, oil will be depleted in 113 years, natural gas in 52 years, and oil in 50 years, and uranium in 230 years (Scientific American, 2009).

To mitigate climate change, the global economy will have to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; this will involve changes in production patterns, lifestyles, and underlying supply chains. 85% of U.S. energy is from fossil fuels, 8.5% nuclear, and 10% renewable energy (USA EIA). It is projected that by 2040, 80% of our energy will still come from fossil fuels. Despite dependence on fossil fuels, there are efforts being made to promote the use of cleaner fuels.

For example, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot initiative aims to reduce the price of solar energy by 7% from 2010-2020, so that by 2050, 27% of U.S. energy demand is met by solar technologies. There may be over 100 GW of geothermal electric capacity in the continental U.S. which would account for 10% of U.S. electricity capacity (US DOE, 2016). Geothermal plants emit twelve times less CO2 per unit of electricity than the average U.S. coal power plant (Geothermal energy Assoc., 2012). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided up to $364 million in new funding for geothermal research, development, demonstration, and deployment (US DOE, 2012). 2% of U.S. electricity was from wind in 2015, but the capacity is increasing rapidly (EIA, 2016), and could provide an annual 689,000 TWh of electricity to the U.S. The national consumption is 3,700 TWh. Wind energy could provide an $14,000 annual income to farmers of a 250-acre farm (AWEA, 2009). In addition, it avoids 96 million metric tons of CO­2 and reduces water by 37 billion gallons (AWEA, 2014).

We cannot deny the fact that the changing climate dynamics is adversely affecting the planet Earth. There have been efforts at both national and international levels to reduce the impact of climate change.  However, there needs to be an even more radical change; the solution is to shift to cleaner sources of energy. Researchers need to bring in more effective and productive system to reduce GHGs emission by promoting harmony among the different nations in the world.

About the authors:  Sushant Mehan and Sarah Daly are Ph.D. candidates in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University.


No debate needed on climate change

As the world’s population deals with accelerating sea level rise, intensifying droughts and floods, and dying coral reefs, our Environmental Protection Agency should not be spending taxpayer dollars to distract Americans with a fabricated, made-for-TV debate.

Recent surveys reveal that many Americans are rapidly recognizing the causes of climate change, including those responding to a survey published in the IndyStar. According to the poll, fully three quarters of Indiana voters understand that climate change is predominantly caused by human actions. While this is a dramatic increase from past polls, we’re still not in line with climate scientists. Well over 90 percent of the scientists studying Earth’s climate (most measures suggest around 97 percent), agree that the heat-trapping gases humans have released to the atmosphere are the main cause of change. The science is clear.

Although climate scientists, and scientists in general, overwhelmingly attribute climate change to human actions, special interest groups have been working for decades to obscure this consensus.

Now, as Hoosiers show a better understanding of the science, an effort from within our federal government will again try to confuse matters. A flashy performance is being planned that will portray the science of climate change as controversial, rather than widely accepted. It will even go by a colorful, patriotic-sounding name: A “red team/blue team exercise.”

This is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s production, designed to give a big microphone to a “red team” drawn from the tiny minority of scientists who consistently, against a flood of contradicting research, dispute man’s role in the warming of our planet.

Pruitt wants to take a page out of the cynical playbook to “teach the controversy” on issues seen as potential threats. Long ago this was the strategy for the hazards of smoking; today a few well-funded think tanks continue this practice with climate change. But the science has moved far past questioning the role of humans in our climate system. We should be doing more productive things – identifying and solving the problems of climate change.

Televised debates are not designed to deeply test our understanding of complex subjects like the natural world, or of human maladies. These topics are vetted by the rigorous peer review that is part of all sound scientific research. Peer reviewers are our everyday red team. These scientists in our discipline carefully look over proposals and papers and search out their flaws. The reviewers send their anonymous, unvarnished criticisms to the editors and evaluation panels who serve as the gatekeepers for science. This peer-review process is the foundation of the scientific understandings that we have today.

Ask any climate scientist and you will hear that there are plenty of active areas of research that are worth further study. Some issues sound fairly basic: How much warming will a given amount of a heat-trapping gas cause over time? Others sound more complex: How much longer can nature soak up increasing amounts of these gases, partially compensating for human emissions?

In reality, these knowledge gaps remain because our climate system involves so many different processes, chemicals and interacting species. But although some uncertainty about the details of our climate system remains, the general effects of heat-trapping gasses on the atmosphere have been clear for decades. Our confidence that these gases are the dominant cause of warming has only risen with additional scrutiny. At the same time, three consecutive years of global temperature records have brought many of the negative consequences of climate change for people and nature into sharper focus.

What we can do locally – the thing that we really need a team for – is to figure out how to deal with the ongoing changes, and how best to slow down the rate of change. The good news is, many Indiana scientists and citizens have already formed teams to work on these issues.

One major effort now underway, involving 59 participating organizations and nearly 100 scientists from across the state, is the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment. This project, led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, will give Hoosiers information that they can use to plan for the future. Climate change will affect our agriculture and infrastructure, our health and our ecosystems; for each of these topics, and many more, top researchers from around the state are bringing together the best available information to help describe what we can expect in Indiana over the course of this century. The next step will be to get groups together to address specific challenges.

By treating climate science as a controversy, the head of the EPA is misreading the political climate. Instead of using uncertainty as an excuse for inaction, he should be working to protect the planetary climate and to ready the country for the changes underway.

The recent poll found that most Hoosiers already understand the science – they’re already on the blue team.

Jeffrey Dukes

Director, Purdue Climate Change Research Center

View the story on the Indianapolis Star website: No debate needed on climate change


Stay Connected with the IN CCIA Newsletter

The Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC) has launched an e-newsletter to keep everyone informed about the latest news and events surrounding the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA).  Please join our mailing list if you would like to subscribe to the newsletter. Archived issues are available on the IN CCIA website, and you can read the inaugural issue below.
Issue 1 – February 2016Picture2.png


Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) newsletter! You’re receiving this newsletter because you’ve expressed interest in learning more about the IN CCIA. We’re planning on sending these brief updates on a regular basis to keep you informed about the latest news and events surrounding the assessment.

About the IN CCIA


Our climate shapes our lives. The ways we build our roads, manage our farms, move our water, and use our energy are all influenced by our unique Indiana climate. But our climate has been changing, and we expect it to continue changing in ways that will affect our productivity, our safety, and our livelihoods.

Driven by the need to know what climate change means for Indiana, scientists and decision makers from across the state are coming together provide accessible, credible climate science to Hoosiers.

Led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) will bring together the best available climate change research into a series of reports that will help Hoosiers better understand climate change-related risks so they can prepare for challenges and capitalize on opportunities.

Upcoming Events

We are committed to creating information that matters. That means your feedback throughout this process is essential! Here is a look at some of our upcoming events.

February 10, 2016
West Lafayette, IN

The Joint Transportation Research Program (JTRP) will be hosting a poster session for INDOT Executive Staff and Directors. The IN CCIA will have a poster titled: “Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment – Finding Useful Information for the Transportation Sector.”

February 18, 2016
Indianapolis, IN

Melissa Widhalm, IN CCIA Coordinator, will be meeting with planners to discuss climate change information needs for state and local hazard mitigation planning.

March 3, 2016
Northwest Indiana

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) and the IN CCIA team will be co-hosting two listening sessions with environmental and municipal planners to discuss climate change issues and information needs.

Would you like to get involved? Contact Melissa Widhalm, IN CCIA Coordinator for details.

Climate Facts

Did you know…

December 2015 was the warmest December on record for Indiana (dating back to 1895). Warm winters have the benefit of reduced heating costs and improved travel conditions. However, unseasonably warm winters can be harmful to plants that rely on a specific dormancy period, and it can lead to increased insect populations later in the year.

Observations show an on-going warming trend in winter temperatures across Indiana, and this trend is predicted to continue into the future.


Copyright © 2016 Purdue Climate Change Research Center, All rights reserved.

Contact Us:
Melissa Widhalm, IN CCIA Coordinator

Footsteps of the Indigenous Peoples

Written by Suraya Williams


Participating in the events at COP21 has been a great learning experience. I have been getting a glimpse of the entire world and how climate change affects it. From the conferences and presentations that I have analyzed over the past couple of days, I have gained a better understanding of what it is going to take to really slow down climate change. It’s going to take a change of mindset of how people view each other and the Earth. People need to be able to think beyond themselves and beyond the here-and-now. Individuals need to be aware of their differences and commonalities with each other. For example, indigenous peoples share this world with us and need to be recognized because climate change has the largest effect on their livelihoods and threatens their cultures. They are often ignored when it comes to fighting climate change, and I have realized that their traditional knowledge should be valued because it has sustained their lives for numerous generations. The knowledge of indigenous peoples has been passed down and evolved from their robust connection with the earth, which is a connection that all people should have. Indigenous people set the example of how to be in tune with the Earth and to be aware of their actions. Once people can do this, I believe true progress can be made. We need to follow in the footsteps of indigenous peoples.

“Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature”: Conservation International’s Approach to Climate Change

This is the fifth in our digital ethnography series.
Written by Zachary Reaver

Throughout COP21, I have been following the online presence of Conservation International (CI).  I usually wait until late in the evening to collect my data, making sure I don’t miss any tweets or Facebook posts that have been made throughout the day and evening.  I begrudgingly made a Twitter and Instagram account for this project, although I have been fascinated by how much all of these different types of social media are produced and consumed.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with CI, it is a very large environmental nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO) founded in 1987 by Spencer Beebe and Peter Seligmann.  Mr. Seligmann still serves as CI’s CEO and is actually one of the attendees at COP21.  Starting with modest beginnings, CI now has offices in over 30 countries and works with more than 1,000 other organizations, including businesses such as Starbucks and Walmart.  CI tries to champion many different causes, but their main push is to emphasize the importance of nature.  In the context of COP21, CI has claimed that nature can provide up to 30% of the solution for climate change in terms of restoring and maintaining forests, coastlines, etc. for carbon sequestration.

Conservation International has been very active both leading up to and during COP21.  In preparation for the negotiations, CI actually released its own final position paper with specific goals, metrics, and recommended text for the final agreement on such areas as adaptation, mitigation, and finance.  In addition, CI started two major “campaigns” for COP21: the first is a video series called “Nature is Speaking”, in which CI has enlisted famous actors and actresses to voice various components of nature, such as Liam Neeson as Ice, Kevin Spacey as The Rainforest, and Harrison Ford as The Ocean.  These videos have been released over the past year leading up to COP21, with a final video, “Home” being debuted on December 10th at the conference (by the time you read this, you should probably be able to go watch it online!).  These videos are definitely worth a watch, and enforce the message that “Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature.”  The second campaign is through social media with the hashtag #INeedNature.  This campaign encourages anyone around the world to take a picture in nature and submit it to CI, either through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or their main website.  CI has been collecting these photos and will also be showcasing them on December 10th at COP21. Conservation International also hosted a session at COP21 on December 8th with CEOs and chairmen of Walmart, IKEA, Agropalm, and Kellogg to discuss the importance of businesses and corporations in contributing to climate change solutions.

I think it is impressive to see the presence and influence that a non-state actor such as Conservation International can have, bringing together celebrities, CEOs, and even heads of state (Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, which is one of the most at-risk nations due to sea level rise, is a prominent CI board member) to combat climate change.  I am very interested to see the final outcome of COP21 and hope that a strong agreement is made!

If you are interested in the “Nature is Speaking” and #INeedNature pictures, please see the following sites:

1.5 to stay alive, #blacklivesmatter

Written by Sarah Huang


As we come to the final days of the climate negotiations here in Paris, you can hear and see the presence of voices of masses coming together asking for more than what is currently on the table. Well as of right now, there is language to hold the temperature increase below 2 degrees C and to make efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C. But is 1.5 enough? On any given day you can hear the chant, “1.5 to stay alive”, calling for the climate agreement to set the limit to an increase of no more than 1.5 degrees C. But today, the chants and movement of people in Climate Generations was different. Instead today you could hear, “1.5 to stay alive, Black Lives Matter, We Can’t Breathe, We Gon Be All Right” as a group of young black and white individuals marched around with signs saying “My Life, My Fight” and other sign. And as the crowd marched around, I heard in the crowd, “Does this have anything to do with climate change?”. And to this person in the crowd, YES!

Black and brown bodies are disproportionately discriminated against in the effects of climate change. Black and brown bodies are made criminal to their very existence on this earth and are put into scenarios where their lives, experiences, and histories are delegitimized as elite, privileged, wealthy, and white majorities continue a saga of oppression. Because if we are truly honest with ourselves, the economic and political order that is built on the oppressive, imperialist, and colonialist history of most of these wealthy nations will only continue to oppress these people. But most importantly, what the Black Lives Matter movement brings to the climate justice fight, is the intentional oppression and discrimination placed on black and brown bodies as wealthy nations continue to deny their responsibility towards the destruction of environments and livelihoods.

It has been hard to hear the stories and experiences of individuals, families, and communities of indigenous peoples from all over the world as they open their hearts and their lives to strangers here at COP21. I have struggled as I try to understand how we can live in a system that continues to be ignorant of the pathways of destruction that targets communities of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities while silencing their experiences and voices. But as I hear these voices being raised in the climate spaces and throughout Paris during these past two weeks, I know that people are not dying in silence. So listen when groups and movements are aligning and to the voices saying that we can’t breathe in contaminated air and we won’t be silenced.