Category Archives: University of Miami

COP27: Egypt, Here I Come!

I will never forget that Sunday afternoon nearly six years ago when I was applying to college and my parents tried to talk me into applying to a school other than the University of Miami. It’s not that they don’t love UM, after all they like my grandfather before them are proud graduates, but they did their best to suggest I consider another school whose name will not be mentioned as my first, early decision choice. As I listened to their last ditch pitch I looked up from my computer and said with all of the respect for their perspectives I could muster “sorry, it’s too late,” as I simultaneously pressed SEND and thus applied Early Decision. That decision, and the acceptance and brilliant education that followed has confirmed time and time again that the University of Miami, was the perfect choice for me. As we say around here, it’s great to be a Miami Hurricane and with today’s post I once again can share news that supports that sentiment more than I will be able to ever fully explain or write.

I’ve not been able to post as much as I’d like this semester because I am in the midst of my second year of law school and have just stared the first year of my Ph.D. work in the dual degree grad program I am ever so honored to be in here at UM’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. And, speaking of honored, I am pleased to share that I’ve been selected by the University of Miami School of Law to attend the United Nations Conference of the Parties 27 (COP27) and that this coming Friday will be off to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

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I’ve closely followed the annual COP meetings as well as the United Nations’ important climate-related work for nearly a decade now but this will be the first time I’ve actually attended the Conference in person. As you can imagine I am super excited to return to Africa, to explore Egypt, and to participate in person.

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A few years ago I was honored to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, but being able to see the world’s climate leaders negotiate an international treaty designed to address the most important topic of my generation’s lifetime (our climate crisis) in person is an incredible honor. Let me thank my professors Dr. Jessica Owley and Dr. Daniel Suman for selecting me, as well as President Frenk, Provost Durek, and the entire University of Miami family for making our climate crisis a priority for our university, community, and the world beyond.

“This is a unique experience for our students to gain a front-row seat to international treaty-making. The COP brings together policymakers, academics, and activists from around the world — working together to find solutions to the climate crisis that threatens us all.”

Dr. Jessica Owley, Esq.
Faculty Director
UM School of Law Environmental Law Program

The focuses at COP27 will include economic and environmental loss and damage from climate change in developing countries including the Global South and increasing carbon financing from the Global North to address these losses. Our current global energy crisis, largely caused by Russia’s invasion of and war with the Ukraine and the continued degradation of our environment, certainly including here in South Florida and the United States, will be important topics.

New challenges that Member States will discuss in COP27 are the impacts of the war in Ukraine and the increasing European dependence on fossil fuels (coal), the industrial and consumer rebound after the pandemic; new evidence of significant climate change impacts (accelerated melting of Antarctic glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet, Pakistan monsoon flooding, intensification of hurricanes); and difficulties in the implementation of US promises to reduce carbon emissions (U.S. Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency making it difficult to take direct action to mitigate climate change) and subsequent impact on other nations’ efforts”

Dr. Daniel Suman, Esq.
UM Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science
Department of Environmental Science and Policy
(He also teaches my coastal law class this semester!)

And, COP27 could not come soon enough with a new United Nations Report out just this week, (Emissions Gap Report 2022 (unep.org)) that shows truly pathetic “progress” by the world’s nations since last year’s national pledges at COP26 that took place in Glasgow, Scotland. You might recall that the Paris Agreement, signed at the COP21 in 2015 held in France, announced a global goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C, and an aspirational “stretch” goal of +1.5°C, as compared to pre-industrial carbon levels.

The UN’s new report sadly finds that policies currently in place around the world predict at least a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century (a result that, if it comes to pass, would be nearly twice the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C and truly catastrophic to environments, species, and communities around the world). The report also makes clear that only through an urgent system-wide energy transformation can we limit greenhouse gas emissions and, once again, makes clear how dire the problems are including noting that:

  • Based on current approaches around the world there is only a 10% change that we will reach the 1.5 degree goal that the Paris Agreement sent. As the report concludes, there is currently no credible path based on current efforts around the world to reach the 1.5 degree goal.
  • To avoid a climate catastrophe we must reduce the worlds greenhouse gas output by 45% by 2030. To accomplish this we must, essentially, drop everything else and make protecting our climate (and our future) our number one priority and that starts by dramatically accelerating our transformation away from fossil fuels and to sustainability.
  • A global transformation to a low carbon economy will require an estimated $ 4 to 6 Trillion annual investment.

And with so far to go in such a short time frame, much less with an immense mind boggling cost, you might ask yourself “how in the world can the world do this?” With this in mind, let me end this post with the words of Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, who within the recent report makes this call to action to the nations of the world:

I know some people think this can’t be done over the next eight years. But we can’t just throw up our hands and say we failed before we have even really tried. We must try, because every fraction of a degree matters: to vulnerable communities, to those that are yet to be connected to the electricity grid, to species and ecosystems, and to every one of us. Even if we don’t get everything in place by 2030, we will be setting up the foundation for a carbon-neutral future: one that will allow us to bring down temperature overshoots and deliver other benefits, like green jobs, universal energy access and clean air.

So, I urge every nation, every government to pore over the solutions offered in this report and build them into their climate commitments. I urge the private sector to start reworking their practices accordingly. I urge every investor, public and private, to put their capital towards a net-zero world. This is how we can jam open the sing window for climate action and start to change our world for the better, for everyone.

Inger Andersen
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme
Nairobi, Kenya

So, I’m off to Egypt to see what I can do to have an impact, to find solutions to the most important challenge of my lifetime, our climate crisis, and to learn. As always, I will do everything in my own power to make a difference but it’s important to keep in mind that transforming the world’s energy systems will require each of us to play an important role. I’d implore you to think about what you can do today to make that transformation take place in your community right now.

Summer Time 2022

I’ve just finished my first year of graduate school, in this case my first year of law school in a dual degree program at the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy here at the University of Miami where, in the years to come, I hope to earn both my law degree as well as a Ph.D. The last year has been incredibly interesting, fascinating really, but everything you’ve heard about the first year of law school being rigorous is, well, true. Reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of cases and related work every day has led to countless late nights and more than a few occasions where I found myself having fallen asleep on my books, but I’d not trade it for anything in the world. I’ve learned a great deal, made some incredible new friends, and been inspired by my professors.

I’ve also been honored to be selected to join the Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic; organized a wonderfully received symposium on campus related to the Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit and Florida Rule setting goals for 100% renewable energy by 2050 that was led by my friend and Senior Litigation Attorney Andrea Rogers from Our Children’s Trust, who visited from Eugene Oregon; and to top things off no sooner than the school year ended, I learned that I’ve been chosen to attend the Conference of the Parties (COP) 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt this coming November. Thanks so very much to Dr. Jessica Owley and Professor Abigail Fleming for your friendship, inspiration, and dedication to the law, our environment, and, well, me. I am grateful.

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With the arrival of a much needed summer break I have spent the last month away from the law library, books, and computer as much as possible while traveling to some of North America’s truly beautiful places. The start of the summer saw me travel to upstate New York to visit my brother at Cornell University and while there check out the gorgeous nature that surrounds Ithaca, including some of the tallest waterfalls I’ve ever seen. When I typically think of New York I think of New York City, a place where I’ve met some incredible people and done important work over the years, but I am here to say that upstate New York is stunningly beautiful.

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After a quick stop in NYC my next stop was a visit to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia where I drove the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, stayed at the nearly 100-year-old Skyland Lodge, and explored the mysterious Stony Man trail amidst some of the most fabulous rock formations, while being followed for several minutes by the largest deer I’ve ever met. Shenandoah is simply breathtaking, a treasure for sure and my visit there allowed me to check off having visited my 11th of America’s 63 National Parks (one of my life goals is to visit all 63).

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And speaking of National Parks, my next trip was to Congaree National Park in South Carolina, a stop that allowed me to check off number 12 on that loft list of 63 National Parks. Talk about a great way to start my summer! Congaree was once owned by a Chicago logging company and as you kayak through the park’s South Cedar Creek River, as I did early one morning, or hike the Boardwalk trail, as I did one afternoon, you can understand why that would have been the case. The Cyprus, Tupelo, and Loblolly Pine Trees that the park is well known for tower one to nearly two hundred of feet above the forest floor.

The park is a fascinating place for many reasons including the fact that it floods by as much as 12 feet several times during the year and thus much of the habitat is a dense, near swamp like, environment filled with mystery. 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, then the largest natural disaster to hit North America, did an estimated $4 billion in damage in the region and while it thankfully missed most of Charleston to the South, much of the dead remains of its damage can be found in Congaree as once majestic gigantic trees killed by that storm lay decaying amongst their cemetery of the forest floor. Seeing those trees ominously silent in their final resting place three decades after that storm led me to think about the increasing number of devastating hurricanes you and I will face from our global climate change crisis that is warming earth and makes me wonder what special place will next suffer the fate so many in Congaree did in 1989.​

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A few days after my time in South Carolina I enjoyed my first visit to the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Pisgah is comprised of over 500,000 acres and is the home to America’s first School of Forestry, a site I visited while there that includes a wonderful exhibit hall with a large section related to our climate crisis. While there I also enjoyed hiking on a part of the Appalachian Trail, a horseback ride through the mountains, a picnic along the South Mills River next to a rushing waterfall, and exploring the highest elevations of the Blue Ridge Parkway where the views of the surrounding mountains were nothing less than stunning. If you love the pink blooms of wild mountain laurel and endless mountain views in every direction, then the ridges along the top of the Pisgah are for you.

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As I write this I am back home on my beloved No Name Key here in the Florida Keys. Like much of North America, the summer temperatures here are high (as are the high tides) but the water over the past week has been glass calm while the Royal Poinciana trees in our yard are in full bloom in a blaze of orange that fills their canopies. Now that I have returned to South Florida I am back to work on a range of important topics including research with my friends at Field School (www.getintothefield.com), progressing my research for my Ph.D., working on the implementation of the energy rules that will allow Florida’s power system to transition to sustainable energy by 2050 and, of course, The Sink or Swim Project’s many initiatives. My studies in recent months, along with the Florida Petition of Rulemaking, kept my schedule full but with the school year behind me I am excited about a summer of work that’s filled with promise and progress including my hope to be able to post more often than was possible during the school year.

I’ve shared some of my early summer adventures with you in hopes that you, too, will get out and enjoy our incredible natural environment. Here’s to hoping you can spend a lazy day floating down a cool river, take a hike off into the woods on an adventurous trail, snorkel amongst a sea of fish friends, enjoy an evening filled with the “fireworks” that only fireflies can provide, or something equally amazing. Our natural environment is endlessly filled with wonder that soothes the soul and is most certainly worth enjoying and protecting forever more, so here’s to you having a fantastic summer and getting outdoors.

It’s All About The U

It’s All About The U
Again & Again

When I decided to apply to the University of Miami as an Early Decision applicant, I just knew in my heart that the “U” and studying here in South Florida was the right decision and place for me. After four years, a Bachelor’s in Science and double-majoring in Marine Science and Coastal Geology, in addition to earning my minor in Climate Policy through the Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, I can happily share that my intuition was right: the University of Miami and staying here in my beloved South Florida was the perfect place for me.

Over the summer, some of you have kindly asked me “what’s next?” and before I share that news with you, allow me to thank a few incredibly special, supportive, and inspirational people in and out of the classroom over these four years while a Miami Hurricane.

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I’d be remiss to not thank the University and everyone involved in honoring me with a Foote Fellowship, as well as a Singer Scholarship, and along the way allowing me to participate in all sorts of campus organizations including and even being named recipient of the Roberta “Bosey” Fulbright Foote Prize last year by President Frenk. Allow me to give a special shout out to Dr. Jim Klaus for being my trusty advisor and who helped me resurrect the Geology Honor Society (Sigma Gamma Epsilon), Teddy L’houtellier for his amazing support of my roles within the Student Government ECO Board and Green Committee, plus my passion to see solar all over campus.

So what’s next?

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Well, I am humbly proud to share that I’ve been accepted into the dual degree program here at the University of Miami’s Abbess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy where over the next several years I will have the incredible opportunity to earn both Juris Doctorate and a Ph.D. while being able to work on a range of environmental issues and causes that are deeply important to me. As part of my acceptance and scholarship I will also have the opportunity to act as a Teaching Assistant, in addition to having the ability to continue to purse my passion for protecting our fragile environment from a range of threats whether they be sea level rise, oil drilling or increasing temperatures.

As I head off on this new academic adventure allow me to thank (Kenny Broad, Catherine Macdonald, Harold Wanless, Gina Maranto, Joseph Matthews, Katrin Schroll, Jessica Owley, and Abigail Fleming) for their kind support of my graduate school application, as well as my passion to explore and protect our environment. I am forever grateful.

Having followed in the footsteps of my grandfather, father, and mother (all Miami graduates) I’ve always been enormously proud of my heritage as a Miami Hurricane, but the idea that one day soon I will be a three-time graduate is, admittedly, pretty incredible. The University of Miami has always been ever so supportive of my educational and environmental dreams in ways that I will likely never be able to repay but will certainly never, ever forget.

My graduate school adventure starts with a requirement that I complete my first year of law school over the next 12 months. I’ve never, of course, attended law school but am consistently told that the first year requires an enormous amount of time and dedication (along with at least a few tears!). With that commitment in mind, I am not yet certain about how much time I will truly be able to dedicate to The Sink or Swim Project in the near term but will, as always, do my very best to stay active and engaged in fighting for what’s important.

I can say, however, that I am excited to put in the hard work that graduate school deserves and to gain the knowledge it portrays so as to allow me to spend the rest of my life pursing my passions in the field as a scientist, in the halls of justice as a lawyer, and, with any luck, inspiring and teaching future generations of thought leaders and agents of change as an educator.

As a graduate, much less now a grad student, making a difference in our world and giving back to our society is what being a Miami Hurricane truly means to me. As I’ve said before, for me it’s All About The U and as I step off on this next grand educational adventure I want to thank my entire Miami Hurricane family, friends, mentors, and colleagues for your never ending support.

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