As student representatives of the American Chemical Society (ACS) at the COP this November, we received training in Washington D.C. at the end of October. Our group met for dinner at the Marrakech Restaurant (a most delicious experience) and spent a Monday morning receiving training in social media strategies and journalism best practices. Our afternoon was spent visiting US climate negotiators and policy makers in both executive and legislative branches of government. My notes from the day are compiled in the following word cloud:
For our social media training, we discussed the importance of specifying an audience. It is important to be intentional with outreach, taking the time to understand what our audience values in order to make our message relevant. Social media and journalism can be effective ways to encourage climate literacy, discussion, and shifts in public opinion. This is of particular importance for public policy since policies, particularly in representative governments such as the US, are influenced by public opinion. This was highlighted in Leonardo DiCaprio's recent documentary Before the Flood (watch it here!) when he laments the significant number of US legislators who deny that climate change exists or is significantly influenced by human industry . He encourages his audience to use their opinions and votes to change this.
In discussions at the Department of State and Department of Energy (while other members of our group met with legislators), I learned about US involvement at COP 21, expectations for COP 22 and the process through which our government branches develop and implement climate policy. While the UN negotiation process is largely unintelligible and dizzyingly convoluted, the background knowledge I received in DC helped me hit the ground running... or at least confidently wandering in awe of the vast number of negotiators, advocators, and interests represented here in Marrakech.
As students of chemistry, we interact primarily with academics and research chemists. As ACS representatives at COP 22, we have a unique opportunity to experience work at a boundary between science and society. The UN conference offers a forum not only to increase our understanding of climate science, but to engage in a myriad of political, ethical, social, and economic issues. Science communication on a global scale involves diverse players and complex issues. I am thrilled to be a small part of it all.