CSU faculty, students head to COP27 in Egypt to advocate for aspects of global climate change policy

Indigo dyed fabricx hangs from a drying line.
"Voices and Visions," and art collaboration created by ecology master's degree students Melissa Morales and Alyssa Connaughton, with the help of art instructor Kristen Bukowski, is part of CSU's presence at the Convention of the Parties, or COP27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

Colorado State University will be sharing its climate research and playing a big role in helping university students worldwide raise their voices and share ideas at the 2022 United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change Conference of the Parties, more commonly referred to as COP27. 

CSU is a global leader in climate change education and research and has been selected to host a unique art exhibit and side events at the U.S. Center Pavilion in the negotiation zone of COP27. In addition, the CSU team will be hosting a booth and several panel discussions in the main area of the COP27 during the 12-day summit Nov. 6-18. in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula. 

CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) manages CSU’s participation as an official observer organization in the UNFCCC as part of its charge to facilitate cross-campus sustainability research and education. 

“Our delegation to this year’s U.N. climate meeting really shows the strength and breadth of CSU climate change work,” said Peter Backlund, SoGES’ associate director who is leading the CSU contingent. “Our student participants are working with peers at other universities to organize an exciting set of displays, exhibits and press conferences highlighting their perspectives on climate change, and we have organized a side event that will showcase important climate adaptation research conducted by CSU faculty.” 

CSU’s display —one of four exhibits in the U.S. Center pavilion and the only university exhibit — is focused on educating students and research on climate change and climate action.  

“We are the lead of a network of institutions and put forth a highly competitive proposal focused on art and science as a way to amplify youth voices and personal climate action,” said Gillian Bowser, associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, who will accompany the CSU delegation of six CSU faculty and staff and 12 students from four different colleges at CSU. 

The conference will be special for Hussam Mahmoud of CSU’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, who will join Courtney Schultz of the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Backlund from SoGES, and researchers from the international Future Earth program in a side event on research and policy related to managing the increasing wildfire risks caused by climate change 

“It’s going to be exciting to spread the word on the work we’ve been doing on how we can model damage or predict wildfire damage at a community level because the problem is a global problem,” Mahmoud said. “Presenting the work at a global conference like this, where there’s going to be people from all over the world, is exciting because they’ll see what we might be able to help them with toward lowering the impact of wildfires on communities. The work is new and hasn’t been done before, nor presented, so the more people who see it, the more benefit it would be for everybody.” 

CSU’s College of Liberal Arts is also contributing to the COP27 effort. Lynn Badia, assistant professor of English in the Department of English, and Erika Osborne, professor of painting, and Kristen Bukowski a fibers instructor and both in the Department of Art and Art History, have selected writing and artwork from past courses to both display and share as a slideshow. 

“The goal … is to place the humanities — and specifically the arts — within the political and scientific conversations around climate change. It’s the first time ever that a U.S. Center at the COP summit will feature artworks, and specifically that of students,” Osborne said. 

For Mahmoud, it is also a chance to return to his home country of Egypt. 

 “Twenty-some years ago when I was a teenager going on vacations, never in a million years would I have thought at one point I’m going to come back here to present on climate,” Mahmoud said. “It means a lot to me; it will be in my home country. Going on a work-related trip to talk about climate, which is something I care a lot about because it’s a big emphasis of what I do and it’s also super critical for everybody, and to know that Egypt is hosting, it is great. Egypt is one of the top countries at risk from climate change, particularly sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.” 

CSU, along with Michigan Technological University, Colorado College, Boston University, the Ecological Society of America, and the University of Connecticut, as part of the Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education (YEAH) network, will co-host a side event on Educating Youth on Sustainable Development Goals at the U.S. Center with NSF and the Smithsonian Museums. The network will also host a U.N. sponsored side event on the Climate Leaders Program with two U.N. booths, four press conferences led by student research teams on the SDGs, and an art exhibit: Voices and Visions: The Art and Science of Climate Action, in the U.S. Center. Other partner institutions include Monash University (Australia), Brandeis University, Vanderbilt University and Moravian University 

 CSU, joined by the France Global Hub of Future Earth, will co-host a side event, “New Approaches to Wildfire: Managing Climate Risks in Urban, Suburban, and Wilderness Areas.” 

“The climate problem is not going to be solved any time soon, and for CSU to be present there and say, we have a strong role to play in tackling climate change, not only is it good for researchers who get involved, but it puts CSU on the map as one of the major players in that area,” Mahmoud said. 

CSU’s delegation includes: 

  • Peter Backlund (head of delegation), School of Global Environmental Sustainability 
  • Courtney Schultz, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship 
  • Hussam Mahmoud, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 
  • Colleen Duncan, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology 
  • Aleta Rudeen Weller, School of Global Environmental Sustainability
  • Gillian Bowser, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (also badged for one week through the Ecological Society of America) 
  • Six graduate students in Bowser’s ESS course, sharing badges: Susan Elizabeth Allison, Madeline Carlson, Ashlee Patacsil-Hardin, Jorge Rico Reyes, Leisha Tally, Nicole Bailey 

CSU attendees, going part of other organizations’ delegations: 

  • Julia Klein, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (badged by the Mountain Institute) 
  • Six graduate students in Gillian Bowser’s ESS course: Colleen Kennedy, Alyssa Connaughton, Daniel Domingues, Natalie Wiley, Daniel Briggs, Cristal Domingues-Vasquez (badged by Boston University)