2019 Nobel Conference

The 2019 Gustavus Adolphus College Nobel Conference in St. Peter will focus on the issue of climate change. (Herald file photo)

The 2019 Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter will highlight one of the world’s most noted and pressing issues.

While climate change is already on the forefront of the minds of many, conference organizers are hoping this year’s speakers can give new perspectives and new motivations when it comes to tackling the issue. Climate Changed: Facing Our Future, held Sept. 24-25 at Gustavus, will features seven climate scientists and experts from across the country and world.

“The ‘d’ in ‘changed’ is purposeful, as it acknowledging that our climate has already changed, due largely to human activity,” Nobel Conference Director and Gustavus professor Lisa Heldke said. “It starts with that acknowledgement. And then the question is how do we deal with that? Climate scientists often divide the topic into mitigation and adaptation. How do we reduce the impact? And then how do we adapt as a species to the changes already coming down the pike and those that are going to?”

The conference is sold out to the general public, but those who were able to snag their tickets will be treated to lectures from Richard Alley, professor of geosciences at Penn State; Gabriele Hegerl, professor of climate system science at the University of Edinburgh; Mike Hulme, professor of human geography at the University of Cambridge; David Keith, professor of applied physics at Harvard; Diana Liverman, professor of geography and development at the University of Arizona; and Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuit activist and political representative.

The lead speaker for the 2019 conference is Amitav Ghosh, author of “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.”

“Our leading speaker is one of the most important novelists on the Indian continent. He is also a foreign policy leader,” said Heldke of Ghosh. “He has written the ‘Great Derangement’ and he thinks about climate change as the outgrowth of a particular attitude that presumes we belong everywhere and can do anything we want. He is going to talk about what we can learn what we can understand about climate change by studying Europe’s little ice age. How did human beings respond to that and what can we learn?”

Beyond Ghosh, some very interesting conversations are set to be held. Hegarell, a climate modeler and mathematician, will be talking about the lines that connect extreme weather events with climate change. Liverman has studied the ways in which climate change has impacted the lives of communities that are already marginalized. Ally will talk about how the bubbles of gas in giant ice cores can be examined to understand what is happening to the climate now and what will happen.

“I’m hoping people will come away feeling they are empowered by a greater understanding, and will go on to be more engaged at the levels we all need to be on this issue,” Heldke said.

Gustavus senior Sydney Helburg was one of the first people to influence the 2019 Nobel Conference. She and about 10 other students were in a class together in 2017, building the framework for the 2019 conference. Since that time, Helburg has continued helping with the logistics of the event.

“I’m very passionate about the topic of climate change, and I think a conference like this does a good job of portraying its importance to a general audience, not just scientific,” she said.

Thinking back to her sophomore class, Helburg feels like the lineup that will present Sept. 24-25 honors the vision the students had at the time, and in fact, all of the speakers were on the group’s long list at the time.

“We had a spreadsheet with hundreds of speaker ideas, but narrowing them down to seven was very lengthy,” she said. “But a lot of the speakers that we talked about in the class and read about are coming, so I think it’s what we envisioned.”

Helburg hopes the conference can make an impact on those who attend.

“I think this conference can make a different in how people perceive climate change,” she said. “I’m involved in other environmental committees, and we do other things and raise awareness on campus, but it’s sometimes hard when we’re a small group of students. But a conference like this, we know so many people are going to go, and I think it will just give new perspective on how to think about climate change and maybe new ways to help combat it.”

Find more on the 2019 Nobel Conference at gustavus.edu/events/nobelconference/2019.

Reach Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8567 or follow him on Twitter @EditorPhilipWeyhe.

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