University of Michigan Delegation to COP 23

As a Research and Independent Non-Governmental Research Organization (RINGO), the University of Michigan will be sending a team of ten students from across the university and one faculty member to COP-23 in Bonn Germany. The conference will last two weeks, from 6-17 November, 2017, with one U-M faculty member staying throughout the entire conference and five students attending during each week.

Week 1 Delegates (November 6-11, 2017):

Cesar Barraza-Botet is a PhD candidate in the Mechanical Engineering Department and a student of the Science, Technology and Public Policy program at Ford School.  His research is focused on the reaction kinetics and the physicochemical interactions of different blends of ethanol and fossil fuels to increase thermal efficiency while reducing pollutant emissions.  In his dissertation, he also analyzes the effectiveness of U.S. biofuel, fuel efficiency and emission regulation to integrate cellulosic ethanol into the transportation sector, and how biofuel combustion research can inform energy policy-making.  At COP 23, he plans to focus on the strategies developing nations—especially in Latin America—can implement to decarbonize their economies with the support of developed countries through effective cooperation. 

Samantha Basile is a third-year PhD student in the Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering Department and is director of the Climate Blue student group, which works to disseminate climate policy information to communities in southeast Michigan. Her academic research focuses on the natural components of the carbon cycle. She is currently investigating the impacts that climate drivers, such as precipitation, drought, and soil moisture, have on the natural turnover of carbon stocks. At COP 23 she plans to follow sessions on implementing Paris Agreement mitigation and adaptation contributions from developed countries. She is particularly  interested in the role of non-party actors like cities, municipalities and private companies from the United States. She is also interested in sessions led by developing countries and small island nations on their adaptation strategies.

Emily Gargulinski is a graduate student in the Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering Department with a concentration in applied climate studies. Her experiences working with air quality in metropolitan areas while interning at NASA, as well as her interests in urban planning strategies, inspire her to pursue a career of seeking justice for low-income communities disproportionately affected by pollution, as well as communities particularly vulnerable to climate change-related events. She hopes to follow events related to climate justice in underrepresented communities, citizen climate engagement, and sustainable development. She intends to propagate these lessons throughout her local communities.

Chris Karounos  is a second-year master’s student studying environmental informatics and conservation ecology at the School of Environment and Sustainability. His thesis is on improving reforestation techniques in Ecuador to not only optimize the scale of carbon sequestration but its resilience to the increasing levels of climate-related disturbances by creating more diverse communities above and below ground. He is also interested in using cacao in reforestation in order to balance sequestration and biological conservation with human livelihoods and climate adaptation. Chris cofounded Abaca Games, which is making Climate Crisis, a text-based game that donates ad revenue to reforestation projects. Chris was a co-creator of the Act on Climate Coursera course. At COP 23 he hopes to learn more about negotiations related to Reducing Emissions due to Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and incorporating agroforestry and reforestation into the REDD+ framework.

Julia Schoen is a medical student with master’s and bachelor’s degrees in environmental engineering. Prior to coming to medical school, she worked internationally on public health and engineering research projects in Brazil, South Africa and Honduras, where she came to feel that health and environmental issues are inextricably linked. Her current interests are strategies to minimize carbon emissions from the healthcare sector, estimated to account 10% of our national greenhouse gas emissions, without compromising patient care. She would like to follow events related to the health impacts of climate change and adaptation strategies at COP 23 and raise awareness of these issues at the medical school.

Week 2 Delegates (November 11-17, 2017):

Sindhu Bharadwaj is a second-year M.S. student at the School of Environment and Sustainability studying environmental justice and planning. Her academic focus is primarily on climate adaptation issues, examining how U.S. cities and municipalities can leverage infrastructure and transportation systems to achieve greater resilience in the face of a changing climate. Sindhu has a professional background in communications and digital organizing and currently works with the Nashville MTA to assess the environmental and equity implications of the city’s new transit plan. At COP 23, Sindhu plans to follow ongoing conversations about adaptation strategies and financing in urban centers in both the Global North and South. 

Tyler Fitch is a second-year master’s student focusing on energy policy at the School for Environment and Sustainability. His academic research focuses on social and political elements of transitioning to a distributed, de-carbonized electricity grid. Currently, he is mapping the distribution of benefits and costs of fossil energy and the potential for participatory planning and autonomy in energy transitions. At COP 23, Tyler will monitor emerging conversations on adaptation and mitigation pathways and the role of non-state and regional actors in driving climate action.

Michael Lerner is a second-year PhD student in the Political Science Department at the University of Michigan. His academic research focuses on topics in environmental politics, with a particular focus on how stakeholders make decisions in adapting to environmental change. He is currently studying the role of non-governmental and development organizations in the international diffusion of innovations in environmental governance. At COP 23, he plans to follow sessions on loss and damage, technology transfer, and adaptation and response measures. He is also interested in observing the relationship between party and non-party actors.

Kaihui Song is a second year master’s student in the Sustainable Systems track within the School of Environment and Sustainability. Before joining Climate Blue, she worked at WWF providing strategic policy suggestions on promoting green products between China and Latin America trades. Her current research focuses on the environmental impacts, especially carbon emissions, from the international trade network. She aims to further understand the embodied emissions along the supply chain since the countries that can best adapt to climate change might not be the same countries who bear the brunt of it. At COP 23, she plans to follow sessions related to the greenhouse gas emissions embodied in international trade and related geopolitical strategies for different stakeholders. 

Pierre van der Schaft is a graduate student studying sustainable systems and policy at the School for Environment and Sustainability and is the chief strategist for a downtown Ann Arbor investment research firm. He also holds an M.S.E. in Industrial and Operations Engineering, an M.B.A. from the Ross School of Business, and is a member of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. He previously worked in various roles, including managing over a billion dollars of research and development programs, leading spacecraft design and operation enterprises, negotiating national/international/private science agreements, and innovating federal information policy. Concurrently, he coordinated environmental disaster recovery efforts and led numerous international environmental research expeditions over land, sea, and air. At COP 23, he will engage the diverse party stakeholders and learn how they prioritize their climate objectives with respect to their natural, economic, political, and social realities. These insights will inform optimal sustainable investment decisions and policies.