Students and teachers from 24 Princeton-area high schools gathered at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association April 23 for the Student Climate Change Conference, an event designed to delve into some of the details surrounding climate change. The conference was organized by the Princeton Day School (PDS) and Princeton University's Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars Program (PECS) with support from the Watershed Association and the Princeton Environmental Institute.
The climate-change conference stemmed from PECS and PDS' past efforts to educate local students on climate change and sustainability. Two years ago, PDS established a scholars program for its high-school students based on the model of PECS, which began at Princeton in 2008. PECS brings together a select interdisciplinary group of Princeton graduate students with wide-ranging research experience in energy, climate science and policy to share information and collaborate on projects. During the past two years, PECS and PDS have held monthly dinners to discuss a range of energy and climate topics, and PDS hosted eco-conferences in 2011 and 2013 that featured speakers on sustainability and the environment.
Ryan Edwards, a graduate student in Princeton's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and PECS scholar, delivered the keynote presentation at the recent student conference. He provided scientific background on the Earth's climate and addressed commonly encountered myths about climate change, such as the significance of daily weather (as in, "It's cold today, so climate change isn't real.") and that scientists still debate its existence (they do not).
Students then broke into groups for tours led by Stony Brook-Millstone Association staff of the organization's LEED Platinum certified Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education building that opened in 2015. Features of the building include the reuse of storm-water runoff to recharge groundwater, native-habitat restoration, passive lighting, wetlands-based wastewater treatment, and solar and geothermal heating and cooling systems.
The conference continued with "deep-dive" sessions that examined specific issues related to climate change. Jim Waltman, director of the watershed association, led a session on water. Levi Golston, a PECS scholar and graduate student in Princeton's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, discussed food and agriculture, while PECS scholar Aubrey Paris, a Princeton graduate student in chemistry, discussed politics and policy. Edwards presented on technological solutions to climate change. Between sessions, students and teachers attending the conference broke into small groups to discuss the material and strategize ways to implement sustainability in their schools.
"As conference organizers, we are optimistic that those discussions will continue as the participating students and teachers take the newly acquired information and ideas back to their home schools," Paris said.