News

Young scientist goes to climate change conference



11 May 2009

Michael West, a fifth year combined Bachelor of Science (Advanced) and Bachelor of Engineering student, was sponsored to attend the Greenhouse 2009: Climate Change and Resources conference in Perth in March.

Professor Ross Garnaut addressing the Greenhouse 2009 conference, which science student Michael West was sponsored to attend. Photo: CSIRO, Christian Sprogoe.
Professor Ross Garnaut addressing the Greenhouse 2009 conference, which science student Michael West was sponsored to attend. Photo: CSIRO, Christian Sprogoe.

Sponsored by both the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor David Day, and the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Gregory Hancock, Michael had the opportunity to attend the four day climate change summit to learn more about his area of interest.

"I have a strong interest in the intersection of technology and policy, and this is vitally relevant to climate change, so it was a wonderful learning experience," said Michael.

"The Honourable Penny Wong, federal Minister for Climate Change and Water, opened Greenhouse 2009, saying "There is no greater challenge than climate change," and the scientific presentations that followed her remarks reinforced the gravity of the situation.

"We heard how the Pacific Ocean is in danger of falling into a permanent El NiƱo state, bringing further scorching droughts to Australia. We heard how carbon emissions are rising faster than even the most aggressive scenario considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And from Professor Ross Garnaut, author of the Rudd Government's review, we heard how "time is running out" to take decisive global action," said Michael.

"Professor Garnaut emphasised Australia's special place among developed countries - being the earliest to feel the effects of climate change and generating the highest per-capita emission - we have both practical and principled obligations for reductions."

Senator The Hon. Penny Wong, federal Minister for Climate Change and Water, opening the Greenhouse 2009 conference. Photo: CSIRO, Christian Sprogoe.
Senator The Hon. Penny Wong, federal Minister for Climate Change and Water, opening the Greenhouse 2009 conference. Photo: CSIRO, Christian Sprogoe.

Greenhouse 2009 brought together national and international climate experts to discuss climate impacts, mitigation and adaptation strategies for industry, government and households. The conference attracted an audience of scientists, representatives from all levels of government, industry leaders, environment officers, students and members of the public.

"The multidisciplinary composition of the conference provided expertise in the many aspects of addressing climate change: from understanding the scientific basis for action, to creating solutions for different environments, to determining what is most cost-effective. Particularly interesting was a symposium on communicating these issues to the public, which revealed that creating awareness of climate change and getting people to alter their behaviour are two radically different propositions," said Michael.

"A constantly looming presence was the global financial crisis and whether it would make policies harder to implement. Senator Wong underlined the government's resolve, stating there will "never be an easy time to start the transition to a low-carbon economy". Most speakers were cautiously optimistic, but stressed that acting soon would save a lot of economic, environmental and social hardship in the long run - there is no time for complacency," explained Michael.

"Scientists have a vital role to play in meeting this challenge, and the University of Sydney is taking a leading role, through initiatives like the new Institute for Sustainable Solutions."

"Greenhouse 2009 was a highly interesting and inspiring experience, and I'd like to thank Professor David Day and Professor Gregory Hancock for their generous support in funding my attendance," Michael concluded.

Michael West is majoring in Physics and Mechatronics, and will be undertaking his honours year in the Faculty of Science in 2010. Michael has been part of the Faculty of Science's Talented Student Program throughout his degree, was editor of Aqua Regia the Science Society's newsletter, has been very involved in the Science Society, and regularly volunteers to help at Faculty of Science events such as the Transition Workshops for new first year students.


Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 3a2a1d150b0c197437281e5d362f161853190c06046f0d07