Arizona’s three major universities — NAU, ASU and UA — will join together to confront the comprehensive issues of climate change in the state of Arizona. Climate 2020: Seven Generations for Arizona is a two-day statewide summit that will take place in Flagstaff at the High Country Conference Center Nov. 15 and 16.
Brian Hungate, the director for the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss) at NAU said the idea began after he and some colleagues decided to “change the conversation about climate change.”
“If we can start with the premise that everyone has something interesting, useful and valuable to contribute to the conversation, it will be a success,” Hungate said.
Ecoss coordinator Kate Petersen said collaboration between the institutions could be highly effective.
“World-class research is being done at all three universities, but coming together is something so obvious we never thought of before,” Petersen said.
All three schools were ready to join the effort and contribute, Hungate said. Ultimately, this willingness to interact and work together led to the decision to host a public forum. The forum will discuss various topics, such as the dangers, influences and solutions for climate change.
“We want to create a space for a different kind of conversation to try and highlight success stories about the cities making changes, like Flagstaff,” Petersen said.
The summit will include 30 keynote speakers, panel discussions and performances from leaders of all ages and backgrounds. One of the scheduled speakers at the summit is Kathrine Hayhoe, a well-known atmospheric scientist who has served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, discussing the threats climate change poses today. Alongside Hayhoe will be former Governor of Arizona Bruce Babbitt.
On a broad scale, the forum will focus on the dangers of climate change within Arizona. The discussions at the summit will cover a variety of topics, including gender, climate, preparation for increased temperatures and dryness, and increasing the state’s renewable energy markets. Additionally, there will be extensive discourse regarding what each community can provide to their environment in order to achieve various goals.
“We want this to be a cross-generation conversation,” Petersen said. “It can no longer be specific people in conference rooms.”
While the conference is geared for all participants, the focus is on educating the youth, Peterson said. The conference is free for students in K-12. An important aspect that separates this summit from others is that at Climate 2020, students will be some of those 30 keynote speakers, leading breakouts and speaking on panels.
“The summit is centered around youth voices,” Petersen said. “They are powerful.”
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the director for the youth Earth Guardians, is one of the scheduled speakers at the climate forum. Additionally, Martinez will perform at the Orpheum Theatre on the first evening of the summit. Martinez said he has spent his youth traveling to educate his generation.
Earth Guardians organized global youth climate strikes that occurred all over the country, including one that took place in Flagstaff, Sept. 20.
According to the Climate 2020 website, Flagstaff will host the summit, because it is considered a model of partnerships and advanced research. NAU itself has received recognition both nationally and internationally for its research on the implications of climate change and impacted communities.
The climate forum is structured to create a strong local community that can come up with ways to move the conversation of climate change into the national spotlight. Petersen said the population can show that it cares by coming together to change the status quo.
Hungate said that with the summit approaching, he wants Flagstaff and NAU to join the conversation.
Climate 2020: Seven Generations for Arizona Summit, is a public platform for the discussion to advance.