The division between academia and policy implementation, in the field of climate change, has in my opinion never been wider.

When I began this course, I was passionate about the study and implementation of public policy.  Although I knew very little about climate change, I had studied the policy making process in both the United States Congress and the United Nations Security Council.

On the whole, public policy is a field that in theory should aim to address the needs of the global commons.  With this theoretical goal, the common question that arises soon afterwards is how do policy makers go about assessing and addressing the needs of the global commons?

This is where academia can assist.  Recently, I attended the Pennsylvania State University Rock Ethics Institute’s conference on “Integrating Development and Climate Change Ethics.”  Along with a team of five other students, I co-authored a paper that explored climate change ethics and policy from a student perspective.  Within this paper, I wrote a section about how to create public policies that address the practical and ethical concerns of the global commons.

Going into this conference, I was excited about presenting my research and interacting with other scholars in the field about the research they have done and how they have & are applying it.  My hopes for the conference were instead shattered.  Although I had the opportunity to share my research and receive some excellent feedback, I found that many of the presenters struggled with the notion of how to apply their research.

From inside of an air-conditioned hotel conference center, it is easy to present one’s research to their academic peers but it is not so easy to apply ones research to the policy-making process.  In my opinion, the purpose of academics is to research societal occurrences, issues and complexities, with the purpose of disseminating ones’ findings to the global commons.  Because policy makers aim to create legislation that is in the best interest of their constituents, academics is a great way of ascertaining what problems plague society.

In regards to climate change, academia is crucial in ascertaining the current and future affects of climate change.  In theory, this information should provide policy makers with the information that they need to develop legislation.  Unfortunately, this often does not happen.

On one hand, policy-makers are bombarded with practical barriers such as trying to negotiate fair legislation between over 190 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  On the other hand, many academics are doing research but not actively seeking venues to present their research.  Furthermore, when given the opportunity to present their research many of them are unable to persuasively articulate their ideas in a manner that warrants immediate action.

At both the United Nations Conference on Climate Change and the Rock Ethics Institute Conference on “Integrating Development and Climate Change Ethics,” I found myself frustrated by the lack of collaboration between academia and public policy.  Instead of merely complaining, I began to think of ways that this gap could be closed.  While in Copenhagen, I wrote all of my congress members about the severity of climate change in hopes that they will realize that immediate policy action needs to be taken.

In addition to this small action, I have decided to pursue a Master of Public Administration program at the University of Southern California.  After completing my Master’s degree, I hope to either work in the policy field making decisions based on the academic findings or pursue a career in academia (that would require me to pursue a PhD in Public Policy) so that I can do research and apply it to the policy-making process.  On the whole, it is my hope to merge these two fields together into the development of public policies that ethically and practically address the needs of the global commons.

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