Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Climate Change Policy – from Obama to Career Aspirations


A few weeks ago, the American president Barack Obama unveiled his much anticipated and long-overdue Climate Change Policy.  Al Gore’s non-analysis can be found on his own blog.  An insightful commentary on the implications on lesser developed nations can be found here.

Unlike President Obama who put his Climate Change Policy into hibernation after making it one of his campaign pillars during his first candidacy, plenty of Climate Change Policy talk had been happening fast and furious at another level and in a completely different context. Over the last 3 years, all our young interns and employees, who were not engineers, have looked at their tenure with us as a stepping stone towards a career in Climate Change Policy.  

There does not seem to be a clear and accepted definition of the phrase ‘Climate Change Policy’. 
The Oxford dictionary defines Policy as “a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organization or individual.” In the context of Climate Change, apart from the environmental concerns, Policy needs to reconcile diverse and sometimes divergent considerations – geopolitical realities – both immediate and long term, economic considerations, various special interest groups, PR agendas; and also one’s own personal moral and ethical inclinations. Even a summary read-through the Obama Plan, and many of these various stakeholders almost raise their hands to identify themselves – the oil lobby, the coal lobby, the shale-gas lobby, the middle east and Israel, protecting Americas interests vis-à-vis technology transfer to lesser-developed countries, moving manufacturing back to America, Republicans and political backlash, expectations of the voting constituency, efforts to reclaim America’s role as a leader to the world, and (perhaps) the American President’s personal convictions towards environmentalism while trying to avoid seeming like a ‘tree-hugger’ – to name a few.

We did a quick search on the internet to see who teaches Climate Change Policy.  Apart from the Johns Hopkins University that offers a MS Energy Policy and Climate and the London Schools of Economics that offers an MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change.
Some other Universities have started offering Graduate courses focused on Climate Change and Policy.  Most other Graduate-level programs on Sustainability seem to have at least one paper on Climate Change Policy. 

In India, TERI University offers an Msc programme in Climate Science and Policy and The Institute of Social Sciences offers an Msc/MA in Climate Change and Sustainable DevelopmentCertificate Courses on Climate Change and Sustainability are also offered by Indian Environment Society and College of Energy,Environment and Sustainability

While we know that there exists ‘Climate Change Think Tanks’ in the developed countries where interns can get research assignments for short durations, it is difficult to find a vacancy advt. for Climate Change Policy position in any of these organisations.

All this begs the question: how is it that an area so niche and complex, almost a super-specialty, has become a buzzword among young and ambitious youth who want to make a career in the field of Sustainability? Should Colleges and Universities be picking up on these signals and designing more courses on Climate Change Policy? Is it possible to package something so interdisciplinary and experiential into a set of neat credit courses? Is this the mis-placed ‘wish-list’ of a generation that wants to fulfill its self actualisation needs by working in the area of Environment, but without getting its hands dirty, or is it the failure of corporates and companies like ours that have not been able to devise a meaningful career path for for the non-technically-minded that takes care of their aspirations and channelises there energy in the most productive way? Will there come a time when one can be a young sustainability professional without being an engineer – and without wanting to work in “Climate Change Policy”?

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