Friday, December 4, 2009



When I was in graduate school at Michigan State in the early 1980’s, I worked in a plant biochemistry lab where much of the research centered on mechanisms of inorganic carbon uptake (now referred to as carbon sequestration) and how photosynthetic organisms respond to environmental stresses. The term “global climate change” wasn’t yet commonly used, but we certainly heard a lot about rising levels of greenhouse gases and how they might impact agriculture, algal growth in aquatic environments, etc.

Since those days, I have taught a number of environmentally-related courses for both non-science and science majors. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be headed to a major international convention on climate change to witness tens of thousands of people coming together to negotiate, advocate, protest, and network. I have yet to completely wrap my imagination around what I am about to experience – along with some wonderfully bright and engaged students, two colleagues, and other members of our delegation who are alums or friends of Moravian College. And I thought visiting the UN when I was in high school was cool!

When my colleague Dr. Binford talked to me last May about applying for “civil society observer status for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” I wasn’t even sure what she was talking about. I was pretty sure, however, that there would not be much of a chance for a couple of faculty from a small private liberal arts college being taken seriously by the UN! Apparently I was wrong, because at the end of September, we received notice that the college now had official NGO observer status.

Since then, it has been a wild few months as we planned, organized and rallied to pull together a delegation by the early November deadline and boned up on the UNFCCC “speak” and international issues – all while trying to do our regular jobs.

But now, the time has come to depart and we invite you to join us through this blog on our adventure. As a group, we plan to blog regularly to report on events as experienced by a very diverse group in terms of age, experience abroad, disciplinary interests or jobs, etc.

If you want a bit of background or more information on the events that are happening we suggest two websites specific to Copenhagen: and for staying up on the news.

The Climate Action Tracker ( ) provides a current assessment of commitments and actions proposed by individual countries for greenhouse gas emission reductions in preparation for the UNFCCC conference.

If you are new to following this topic, the EPA recently updated their webpage dedicated to climate change: The page has a nice explanation of why the term “climate change” is preferred over “global warming” – a basic thing, but an important one and something that skeptics like to pounce on.

If you are a bit more daring and want to delve deeper into the background, you can review the “synthesis report” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment from 2007. According to their official website, the IPCC “is the leading body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences.” Find the AR4 report at

We also like the Union of Concerned Scientists report on climate change and Pennsylvania at

So until next time....

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