Students share their perceptions of the inaugural Miami Climate Symposium

University of Miami students attended the Miami Climate Symposium 2020 public forum on Friday at the Watsco Center Fieldhouse. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami 
By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

University of Miami students attended the Miami Climate Symposium 2020 public forum on Friday at the Watsco Center Fieldhouse. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami 

Students share their perceptions of the inaugural Miami Climate Symposium

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
A large number of University of Miami students attended the final day of the symposium, and a few shared their perspectives of the event.

Students attending the public forum of the Miami Climate Symposium on Friday—which featured a keynote speaker and panel discussion—said they were glad to see the University host an event about such an important topic.

Olivia Watts, a junior who is majoring in marine affairs and also is a member of the organization Climate Reality Project, said she decided to attend as soon as she saw an email about the symposium because she wanted to hear some of the latest climate news from expert scientists. Watts was eagerly waiting for the public event to begin with her friend, Jessica Green, also a junior, who is studying marketing.

"It’s so important to bring something like this to campus and it shows that the University of Miami is aware of this issue and is doing its part to make a difference,” Green said. 

“I hope this will pave the way for other universities around the country to do the same,” Watts added.

iPhone shot of Miami Climate Symposium panel discussionKurt Hansen, a Ph.D. candidate studying tropical cyclones in the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, attended most of the three-day symposium. Hansen was intrigued by a session led by Libby Barnes, associate professor at Colorado State University, who spoke about using computer algorithms to create sub-seasonal forecasts—which predict the weather two to three weeks ahead of time. Hansen said he listened with great interest as a few presenters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also shared that they are working on similar forecasts. He is currently working on a way to forecast hurricanes in the same timeframe.

Hansen hopes there will be more climate symposiums in the future, with even more interaction between scientists and South Florida municipal leaders.

“This was a good way to get the public, as well as other scientists interested in climate change, and I hope we’ll have it next year with an even bigger attendance,” Hansen said. “There are a lot of city planners that could learn a lot from this conference.”

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Read about the symposium public forum

Blog coverage of climate symposium scientific presentations

Climate Change Special Report

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More than 500 people attended Friday’s public discussion, which Provost Jeffrey Duerk said was the “inaugural” Miami Climate Change Symposium. The University hopes to host a symposium each year, or every other year.

Raymond Leibensperger III, a senior who is studying marine science and applied physics, said he went to the event because he is considering pursuing a Ph.D. in atmospheric science. Besides having a strong interest in the topic, Leibensperger is also glad that the University is tackling the issue head-on.

“It’s critical for UM students to see that we are taking climate change seriously, because in Florida there has been a lot of brushing it under the rug,” he said. “This [symposium] shows that we want to be at the forefront of climate change, and we have faculty that are talking about it. So, hopefully, it will inspire students to get involved.”

Jasson Makkar, a sophomore who is a health science and biochemical engineering major, said he is glad the University had a public portion open to everyone.

“It’s important to have students understand the implications of climate change,” he said. “I’m interested to learn what’s coming next.”