Coastal Risk in an Age of Sea Level Rise – Robert Kopp visits EMPOWER

Written by: Laura Markley, Qasim Mehdi, Nick Zaremba and Mandy Klaben

On April 15th Dr. Bob Kopp came to campus from Rutgers University.  Defining himself as a climate scientist and a geobiologist, Dr. Kopp in a well published author on the likely effects of sea level rise and the impacts of climate change.  Dr. Kopp attended a lunch with students from EMPOWER during which he shared information about fellowships including the Science, Technology & Environmental Policy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson School, as well as American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellowships.  Focusing a bit more on the latter, Kopp shared his experience as an AAAS fellow, as well as the skillsets required to be a successful AAAS candidate.   At 6pm Dr. Kopp gave a talk in the Maxwell School which centered around risk management associated with climate change.  He discussed several large impacts that severe weather has had on infrastructure in the past few years including month long power outages from hurricane and flooding events.  Kopp also discusses several adaptation techniques that have been implemented such as raising houses to avoid flooding.  After this Dr. Kopp began to show figures of potential sea level rise estimates for a number of different scenarios.  The main take away from his talk included that sea level rise will be happening, we don’t know by how much, but it is something that will start to effect humans more and more, as well as that the consequences of our decisions last longer than we think, so it is important to design for conditions that we have yet to experience.

During EMPOWER seminar, students Amanda Klaben, Laura Markley, Qasim Mehdi, and Nicholas Zaremba gave an introduction on climate mitigation and adaptation. After discussing the differences between mitigation and adaptation to climate change as a group, seminar students played a board game called ‘Mitigate, Adapt, or Sink!’. In pairs of two or three, seminar students and faculty were given a coastal state and a climate change resource card (either a mitigation or adaptation) and had to fend off their state against climate disasters, such as flooding, sea level rise, hurricanes, or drought as they progressed along the game board. The game also featured question cards about climate change to brush up on key points from the talk and the recent IPCC summary report. Chance spots on the board initiated random events, like policy and economic changes, that could help or harm states as they tried to mitigate or adapt to climate change. In the end, California arose as the victor of the game and were given laser pointers for their knowledge and prowess.