In recent weeks, students all over the country have graduated. Their time in college or graduate school will hopefully have equipped them with knowledge and experiences that will help them make their way down whatever paths they have chosen. Some of those students may choose to use what they have learned inside the classroom to contribute to making the world better.
Climate change and the transition to a sustainable energy future is one of the greatest challenges that the world currently faces. Although the roots of the problem lie in the past, young graduates will be faced with its impacts and inherit the responsibility to implement solutions. The complexity of climate change – and its interconnectedness with other issues – demands equally complex solutions. In order to create a sustainable path forward, we must take into account the whole system, its interdependencies, the intended and unintended consequences of any actions, and the most effective levers for change.
In order to help equip future climate and energy leaders with the analytical and leadership tools they will need to be effective agents of change, the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) has partnered with Climate Interactive to develop the Grounded Hope Program. Undergraduate and graduate students from all academic fields will have the opportunity to participate in interactive workshops, led by trained facilitators, to work through their own solutions for mitigating climate change and ensuring an energy transition that would limit greenhouse gas emissions. After a brief climate change and energy tutorial, students use a fast climate model simulation developed by Climate Interactive and MIT in a roleplaying exercise. Acting as international business and government leaders, students propose actions in energy efficiency, renewable energy, economic policy, land use, and other measures. Participants must cooperate and negotiate with each other to deliver on their shared goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions to a level that would ensure no more than a 2 degree increase in global temperature through the end of the century. At the end of a day of education and innovation, the simulation is used to calculate how successful the proposed scenarios are in ensuring a sustainable energy future.
It is our hope that these workshop experiences will connect emerging young leaders around the world. This March, CCI and Climate Interactive hosted a Grounded Hope Workshop for graduate students in the fields of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate-smart agriculture at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi. Participants included students from the Young Future Energy Leaders (YFEL) Program at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, one of the leading institutions for research in renewable energy and sustainability in the Middle East.
After the three-hour workshop, everyone involved was left with a sense of accomplishment and a deeper understanding of the dynamics that underlie the energy and climate systems. For some, systems thinking helped them understand the many possibilities they have to take on leadership roles within the larger global context.
Through experiences like the Grounded Hope workshops that have already been held in the Middle East and the United States, we hope to convey to young leaders that there is not a single, silver-bullet solution to complex problems like climate change, but rather a number of targeted silver-buckshot solutions. We are enthusiastic that not only is a sustainable future within reach, but that it is our collective responsibility as emerging leaders to try our best to work towards it together. After the event, one participant remarked, “It has to start with me. I need to have the passion and the ability to engage. It starts with me.”
It does indeed start with each of us. We began the Grounded Hope Program because we know from our own personal experiences how this next generation is full of leaders who will tackle climate change and lead the transition to a sustainable energy future. Last September, we both participated in the People’s Climate March in New York and witnessed firsthand the energy and commitment of young people to be force for change. We also know how important it is to equip young future leaders with the tools and skills they need to participate in the discussion and make lasting contributions. Both of us combined what we learned in university with our passion for advocating for the climate and empowering young leaders. At CCI and Climate Interactive, we recognize that solutions to complex challenges like climate change and energy transition require the efforts of all of us. It is vital that the next generation of global citizens, decision makers, young future climate and energy leaders work together to take on this endeavor.