School of Engineering Discusses Climate Change in International Workshop


Panel experts discuss the issues of climate change at the workshop. Courtesy of CUA Engineering

Panel experts discuss the issues of climate change at the workshop. Courtesy of CUA Engineering

By Katie Ward

Catholic University held its first ever international climate change seminar on Thursday, November 16th, to discuss various topics including the impacts of global warming, prospective energy substitutes, and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Over 140 people registered to attend the event held in the Great Rooms of the Pryzbyla Center which was co-hosted by the School of Engineering and the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy. John Judge, Dean of the School of Engineering, explained that Catholic University had a history of individuals researching the environment and climate separately, but that they did not collaborate with each other.

“After Laudato si’ came out, we got together and discussed, ‘We really need to do something more organized, bring people together from other disciplines, and get publicized’,” Judge said. “So rather than just having individuals working on their own, we’re trying to bring people together. Laudato si’ was sort of the spark.”

Laudato si’ is one Pope Francis’ writings that has had the strongest influence on the Catholic environmental community in the past. The 2015 encyclical struck a chord with many engineering faculty members at Catholic, who decided to form a ecological center in 2016. The Engineering Center for Care of Earth goes by ECCE, which is Latin for “behold”, because they aim to behold the created world and identify areas that need to be protected. ECCE was addressed in a letter by Pope Francis last November, in which he thanked “the faculty of the School of Engineering for this concrete sign of their commitment to the protection of our common home”.

Dr. Ozlem Kilic, one of the chairs of the event, mentioned that the seminar was being held during an environmentally-charged time in politics, due to the United States backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement in June.

“Lately, [climate change] has been so politicized, that people who were already passionate about it feel the drive to act more now, because the government kind of let us down,”  Kilic said.

The focus of Washington politicians on climate change has extended to the Catholic University campus. University Communications announced last week the implementation of its new energy project, which will significantly decrease the energy consumption of the university.

The seminar included talks on the rising sea level, increasing worldwide CO2 emissions, and climate change that affects food, forests, and natural landscapes. However, the overall tone of the seminar was optimistic and hopeful, and focused on the great progress that has been made to decrease climate change and improve international sustainability.

The speakers included two professors at CUA who gave talks on sustainability efforts. Dr. Sen Nieh spoke on “Climate Changes and Energy Systems”, and Professor Jason Davison gave a talk titled “Integrated Water Resource Modeling”.

Juliette McGuire, a freshman in the School of Engineering, attended the event after one of her engineering teachers told her class about it.

“It’s interesting how alarming these statistics are. It’s crazy that it could be that bad; I didn’t realize the extremity of it,” McGuire said. “I think a seminar like this is really necessary for students.”

Faculty and staff from the School of Engineering, as well as attendees of the workshop, echoed these sentiments that the conversations were necessary for the university community.

“We’re hoping this will be the first of many events like this; we’re going to shoot for one workshop like this every year,” Judge said. “In future events, we may try to get more of our own students participating, and have grad students and undergrads give talks.”

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