Extra Credit


I was privileged to listen to Dr. Saikawa deliver a lifelong learning webinar, called “What does Climate Change Mean to Us and What Can We Do About it.” The title foreshadows how she structured the lecture, starting with an overview of the basics of climate change and ending with salient examples of climate action. As Dr. Saikawa demonstrated, it is important to provide people with the facts and then connect them with relevant solutions so they do not feel helpless.

I had not heard about the Alumni Association’s  lifelong learning series prior to listening to this talk. However, I believe the series was a perfect venue for a compelling lesson on the importance of climate change and the urgency of climate solutions. Her lecture was aimed at an audience of people who are not mobilized on climate change.

Framing it as an introduction to the basics of climate science was a great strategic choice and likely brings a broader appeal. People who are no longer in school likely have limited free time to devote to learning about this critical issue. I would guess that if I asked my mom about the Mauna Loa curve, she would have no idea what I was talking about. However, in less than an hour, Dr. Saikawa presents enough information for the average person to feel equipped to talk about climate change.

I recognized much of this information from presentations early on in our course.  It is crucial to share the basics of climate change with as broad an audience as possible to improve climate literacy in the United States. After that, she went into an overview of her research. I love the passion that she expresses when she talks about how nitrous oxide is as important a greenhouse gas as methane and carbon dioxide, which get most of the attention.

The lecture presentation was very accessible and clear, the visuals were engaging, and the information provided was simple. Dr. Saikawa shared the salient message that all of the Earth’s air can be condensed to a diameter that spans the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah to Topeka, Kansas. This interesting idea provides an interesting perspective on resource limitations.

I believe if you arm more people with the basic information necessary to understand climate change, they will be more mobilized to take, at the very least, individual action to reduce their carbon footprints. For example, people may begin to recognize the link between their behavior and the environment and choose to adopt a low-emission diet or more sustainable travel habits.

Finally, I appreciated that she mentioned the report from Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication called “Global Warming’s Six Americas.” This theory is used today to inform many different environmental messaging campaigns. Though climate skepticism is prominent in the United States, it is crucial to understand that there is still potential to mobilize the population to take action.

If it was not for Dr. Saikawa’s dedication to studying climate change and promoting climate action, I may never have been able to attend the COP. For this, I am very grateful. In the future, I plan to take similar opportunities to share my own knowledge of climate change through diverse platforms.


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