COP28 climate conference in Dubai: U-M experts available to comment


Negotiators from nearly 200 countries have gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for the two-week COP28 conference in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst ravages of climate change. University of Michigan experts are available to comment.

Jonathan Overpeck is an interdisciplinary climate scientist and dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability. He is an expert on climate and weather extremes, sea-level rise, the impacts of climate change and options for dealing with it. He served as a lead author on the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 and 2014 reports.

"There is no room left for failed climate agreements, and yet it appears COP28 is on track to major failure. COP28 will be judged by one thing: a global agreement to phase-out the use of fossil fuels,- he said. "Climate change is on track to exceed adaptive capacity in many parts of the world, particularly parts of the world where countries are already being hit hard and lack the resources to rebound or build greater resilience.

"Human-caused climate change, as well as the impacts of this change, appear to be accelerating, heightening the urgency for aggressive climate action. The year 2023 is warmer on a global basis-and by a record margin-compared to all previous years on record, supercharging climate extremes and their impacts like never before and likely propelling the planet toward tipping points that could accelerate the climate crisis even more.

"The world needs to reach ’peak fossil fuels’ as soon as possible and then ramp their use down to zero as fast as possible. This goal must be articulated into a global agreement that includes all the major carbon polluters as signatories, both corporate and national. By 2030, global carbon dioxide emissions need to be cut in half. Only by creating such an agreement will COP28 be judged a success.-

Jennifer Haverkamp , a veteran of seven United Nations climate summits, is a former ambassador and special representative in the Obama State Department, where she led U.S. negotiating teams to successful climate agreements under the Montreal Protocol and the U.N. International Civil Aviation Agreement. She is the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute and a professor at the Law School and Ford School of Public Policy.

Haverkamp’s areas of expertise include U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change diplomacy and negotiating dynamics, short-lived climate pollutants such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons, and issues at the intersection of climate change and international trade and competitiveness.

"Every COP is significant, but this one even more so. It’s the first five-year ’global stocktake,’ where we’ll see if countries will bridge the gap between their prior commitments and what the U.N. stocktake report says is still needed,- she said. "In the face of this record-breaking year of disasters and heat waves, it’s a critical test of the Paris Agreement’s self-improvement mechanism.

"For COP28, all eyes should be on methane. This potent climate pollutant must be controlled in this decade to have a shot at avoiding some perilous tipping points. What countries and companies pledge to do about methane is far more important than what Sultan Al Jaber was heard saying about the future of fossil fuels. The commitments announced at Monday’s Global Methane Pledge Ministerial are an encouraging though insufficient step in the right direction.-

Richard Rood is a professor emeritus of climate and space sciences and engineering at the College of Engineering and a professor emeritus at the School for Environment and Sustainability. He is an expert on U.S. weather modeling and can discuss the connection between weather, climate and society. He is also a co-principal investigator at the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments, a federally funded partnership between U-M and Michigan State University.

"This year’s Conference of the Parties in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is fascinating because of the outsize presence of delegates and participants with strong ties to the fossil fuels industry,- he said. "Many scientists, myself included, are concerned about the outcomes and, especially, the messaging being co-opted by this presence. This is especially likely in excessively optimistic framing of carbon capture and storage in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.-

Joseph Eisenberg , professor of epidemiology and global public health in the School of Public Health, is an expert in infectious disease epidemiology, including the effects of climate change on the spread of contagious disease. He has extensive experience using infectious disease transmission models to study how environmental determinants impact the spread of pathogens.

In a recent study , Eisenberg and U-M colleagues developed long-term projections of the impacts of warming temperatures on Zika and dengue risk in Brazil. They found that Zika or dengue may increase by 10% to 20% in the next 30 years in Brazil due to warming temperatures linked to climate change. Additionally, transmission seasons will lengthen by about two months per year, with increasing potential for seasonal outbreaks, even in the cooler regions of the country.

"Increasing extreme weather events will result in shifting patterns of infectious disease spread around the world,- he said. "Some regions will have more stable transmission and other regions less stable transmission, and this will vary across infectious diseases. Public health surveillance will need to be adapted to these changing patterns.-

Todd Allen , professor and chair of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the College of Engineering, is director of the Fastest Path to Zero Initiative , which helps communities find the right sustainable energy solutions for their needs.

"The important contribution of nuclear energy in a transition to a net-zero carbon energy system was made clear as the United States plus 21 other countries pledged to triple the nuclear energy capacity by 2050. They also set plans for a major international summit on nuclear energy in Belgium in March of 2024. This is a much more visible support for nuclear energy than in previous COP meetings.-

Liesl Eichler Clark of the School for Environment and Sustainability is U-M’s first director of climate action engagement. She leads a new initiative aimed at linking the university’s expanding sustainability research, collaborations and engagement with external partners to accelerate climate action across the state of Michigan and beyond.

Previously, Clark served as director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She is an entrepreneur in the clean energy and sustainability space and co-founded the clean energy consulting firm 5 Lakes Energy. She was instrumental in the creation of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council and served as its president for three years.

"When the latest COP rolls around, it causes us to reflect on how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. In the last year in our own backyard, Michiganders have felt the effects of climate through a summer of hazy, smoke-filled skies and regularly setting records for warmest temperatures,- she said.

"Ingrained in our DNA is the understanding that water is both precious and powerful. The pressure of changing climate increases how important it is to protect this resource both for quality and quantity. And the more frequent severe storms remind us of the power.

"Water will be front and center in COP28 discussions and will only increase in importance, reminding us of our responsibility to the Great Lakes Basin. In addition, the science is clear: We must end our reliance on fossil fuels to halt the climate crisis. Michigan is a manufacturing powerhouse and the state that puts the world on wheels. Now is the time to focus on our autonomous and electrified future.-

Ben van der Pluijm is a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. His work focuses on societal resilience and environmental change.

"Rapid reduction and zeroing of greenhouse gas emissions will avoid future catastrophic change, but current conditions will require large societal adaptations, unless we proceed with removing excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,- he said.

"Such corrective geoengineering efforts are technologically hindered by relatively low greenhouse gas concentrations, and their development remains in its infancy. The alternative-blocking incoming solar radiation-would be an immediate stop measure, but with poorly understood socioeconomic impacts and potentially dangerous
geopolitical implications.

"Nonetheless, corrective actions must be included in our response to protect Earth’s human, animal and plant populations. The costs of these measures can be borne by the wealth of historically fossil fuel-producing and consuming nations and the rapid, worldwide implementation of renewable energy resources-especially solar and wind.-

Volker Sick , professor of mechanical engineering at the College of Engineering, is the faculty director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and the director of the Global CO2 Initiative. The initiative aims to accelerate the development and deployment of commercially viable technologies that capture and convert carbon dioxide, in collaboration with research organizations and industrial partners around the world.

"COP28 started on a high note with the announcement of the Climate Fund to help compensate nations harmed by climate change. It is also encouraging to see the efforts to curb methane emissions,- he said. "However, fossil carbon remains the elephant in the room. Stronger commitments to transition to other carbon sources-such as direct-air and ocean capture of CO2, recycled carbon products and biomass-and other energy carriers are still lacking.-

Gregory Keoleian is a professor at the School for Environment and Sustainability and co-director of the Center for Sustainable Systems. He is also co-director of MI Hydrogen, U-M’s hydrogen initiative. Keoleian has led more than 100 research studies, analyzing life cycle energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and the costs of conventional and alternative vehicle technology, renewable energy technologies, buildings and infrastructure, consumer products and packaging, and a variety of food systems.

"It is very troubling when certain politicians and industry leaders repeatedly ignore the international consensus of experts around basic climate science and strategy. We are in a critical stage of the climate emergency,- he said. "Carbon emissions trajectories are off track with national pledges, and IPCC targets that limit warming are slipping away.
Given the disastrous consequences of climate change, all parties-including governments, industry and communities-need to heed the science and align on reduction commitments and policies.

"A timeline to phase out fossil fuels is a key topic at COP28. But given recent statements made by the COP president, prospects for reaching meaningful agreements toward phasing out fossil fuels are in doubt. Despite this discouraging outlook, climate action is growing exponentially, and bold solutions are being implemented worldwide across transportation, energy, building, industry and food sectors and across scale from global corporations to local communities.

"Accelerating clean energy transitions and climate solutions that overcome powerful entrenched interests and institutional inertia are essential to limit the degree of future climate damages and impact.-