FIU Hosts 7th Annual Geopolitical Global Summit Virtually: An Uninhabitable Earth?

Screenshot of the Geopolitical Global Summit

Jordan Coll / News Director

The pandemic has affected countless lives on both local and global levels, which has highlighted socio-economic disparities existing on our planet.

With all hands on deck, the immediate response to handling the spread of COVID-19 has led the scientific community to take a closer look at how we have handled the global phenomenon of climate change.

FIU hosted its 7th annual Geopolitical Global Summit on Monday, Oct.26, to discuss the issues presented by climate change and its challenges.

The summit focused on alternative ways to avert facing an uninhabitable planet. It covered a range of complex topics from global warming to the effects of sea-level rise in South Florida.

“The safety of our planet is not only a relevant one that our FIU wishes to tackle but a global matter as well,” said President Mark B. Rosenberg as he opened the summit.

Keynote speaker David Wallace-Wells speaking on the climate crisis

Featuring keynote speaker David Wallace-Wells, an environmental activist and novelist said the lack of action to mitigate the climate crisis may lead to irreversible ecological consequences.

“There’s a fingerprint of climate change, which means that no matter what you care about in the world, whatever kind of justice you hope to engineer in your future, climate will have to be a part of that reckoning,” said Wallace-Wells.

He pointed out many of the environmental inequalities seen today are a result of a failed climate system. “The federal government has done virtually nothing about climate change in the last few years, but I am optimistic it’s not too late,” said Wallace-Wells.

Mireya Mayor who moderated the summit

Mireya Mayor, who is the current director of exploration and science communication initiative in FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences, and Education moderated the summit asking questions dealing with the nature of climate change.

She started off by asking, where President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden stand politically in terms of the environment.

“The environmental platforms of both candidates are vastly different; their opinions on climate change, renewable energy, and pollution are complete opposites,” said Dr. Sarah Moats, FIU associate professor of politics and international relations.

“Donald Trump argues that environmental protection and climate prevention tend to be detrimental to the economy and leads to high job loss, particularly in the fossil fuel sector in oil, gas, and coal,” she said.

Biden’s stance on climate change is the opposite of Trump’s administration.

Dr.Sarah Moats speaking on the political platforms presented by the Trump and Biden administration

“Running as the challenger, he [Biden] has a detailed environmental plan that is basically a complete reversal of the Trump administration,” said Moats.

Biden intends building off on Obama-era environmental policies such as rejoining The Paris Accord, strengthening pollution prevention policies, and reducing carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2050.

His administration will “particularly focus on reducing the disproportionate impact pollution has on low-income communities and communities of color,” said Moats. “So we would expect Biden’s administration to embrace the Green New Deal, limit the fossil fuel industry, and be more supportive of renewable energy in general.”

Gearing off from elections, Mayor asked how a post-pandemic world has led to the imminent social, political, and economic crisis faced today.

Dr.Simone Athayade speaking on the international environmental policies

“It’s an opportunity, a window of opportunity perhaps from the pandemic to really look into the challenges found in climate change,” said Dr.Simone Athayde, FIU associate professor from the Department of Global and Sociocultural studies.

Athayde believes the Green New Deal policies are vital for the preservation of the planet, but pledges made by nations are not enough.

“These policies can help us but they should be viewed upon new values, like much more human values, as opposed to unlimited growth or just purely economic values, bring that human perspective to these new policies,” she said.

Athayde emphasized the significance of restoring ecosystems back to their natural state. She blames humans for “crossed limits in our relationship with nature.”

Mayor directed the next question to Dr. Pallab Mozumder, FIU professor of the FIU Department of Earth and Environment, asking what were a few ways to combat climate crisis misinformation.

“A lot of misinformation is floating around us…we cannot make use of it in a significant way or in our daily activities,” Mozumber said. “We have a lot of computational power to organize this information, but you know a lot of critical information is still missing.”

He acknowledged the spread of misinformation has hindered the public from addressing the realities of climate change.

Dr.Steven Oberbaur addressing the question on the misinformation of climate change

Dr. Steven Oberbaur, a professor from the FIU Department of Biological Sciences discussed military involvement and if a disconnect existed between the national government and Americans who question climate change.

“The military are fully onboard with the scale of the problem, and the types of conflicts that are going to arise if we don’t do something really quick and really drastic,” he said. 

“But that information is not leaving the military which has been out for 10 years, you know the level of planning they are doing… I could see a disconnect existing,” said Oberbaur.

Mayor’s next question focused on the influence climate change has on Miami voters who will cast their votes this coming election.

Dr.Kevin Grove discussing Miami’s infrastructure

“Miami is a city of the Anthropocene, in the sense that you know this is a city that has grown up and emerged alongside all of the technological changes mentioned by David,” said Dr.Kevin Grove professor of the Department of Global and Sociocultural studies. 

“This is an urban environment, very much dependent on social and economic dynamics that have led us to this problem [climate change] in the first place,” he said.

Grove says the approval of the Miami Forever Bond in November of 2017 is one of the main contributors to the development of resilient infrastructures in the city 

“The $400 million bond which introduced, not only additional funds available to the city to invest in resilience projects, but it also created a framework…for introducing new sort of long overdue governance changes,” he said.

Miami mayor Francis Suarez and city leaders pushed for the proposal of this bond in combating sea-level rise and flooding.

“A bit more responsive to public concerns opened up some opportunity for greater public involvement in decision making in local governments,” said Grove.

Dr.Emal Ganapati discussing on how the environment will influence government

A question on how an uninhabitable earth can transform the role of government was directed to Dr. Emel Ganapati, a professor from the FIU Department of Public Policy and Administration.

“Hopefully we are going to see more resources dedicated to emergency management of accounts that are beyond the need of environmental conservation,” said Ganapati.

She expects to see a government putting out short term climate issues such as natural disasters rather than dealing with the long term issues.

“We are going to see a government in a constant response phase of disasters, we would think that once governments start realizing, okay, we have more wildfires and hurricanes…would start to pay attention to the long term,” said Gananpati.

Wallace-Wells followed up saying a successful model in bringing change on an institutional and societal level has yet to be seen. 

“We’ve seen pledges taken by local governments and local communities, and hardly anywhere in the world is there any kind of decarbonization trajectory at all,” he said. “The planet is now warmer than the entire history of human civilization.”

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