C+S Breaks In Columbia’s New Manhattanville Building With Public Climate Presentations

After a semester learning the basics of climate science, this year’s C+S class took that knowledge out of the classroom and into the public light.

Last Saturday, students convened an all-day series of talks at The Forum, Columbia’s newly-opened event space in Manhattanville. The talks were arranged as the final project for Dynamics of Climate Variability and Change, one of the core C+S classes.

As light streamed in the all-glass atrium, students spoke about the hottest topics in climate science (sorry, couldn’t resist). Throughout the day, members of the public took a seat and listened to half-hour presentations covering everything from El Niño to cyclones in multiple oceans to wildfires. Q&A sessions followed each talk, allowing the audience to ask questions and hear from burgeoning experts.

The goal of the presentations was to take hard science and make it accessible to the public, and groups found a variety of avenues to do that. For a talk about El Niño, a climate phenomenon marked by warming in eastern tropical Pacific that rearranges weather patterns around the world, students asked the audience to shout out where their Facebook friends lived and then described El Niño’s likely impacts. A talk about wildfires featured personal stories about experiencing fires firsthand as well as Smokey the Bear fashion statements. A group framed their presentation about the impact of climate change on the Antarctic as a game show.

As evening approached, the sky turned slate gray and flurries began to fall. It was a fitting backdrop for the final presentation of the day on shifts in the jet stream and its link with changes in the Arctic. The final slide showed Jetstream, an obscure Marvel comic book character who overheated and burned up. While the real world jet stream is unlikely to do the same, it was a great reminder that opportunities for climate communication are all around us. And if Saturday’s presentations are any indication, a whole new group of communicators is ready to grab them.

Photos by Brian Kahn

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