UMass Boston to Host First Global Conference on Oceans, Climate, and Security

Colleen Locke | May 16, 2012

Two and a half years after its founding, the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate, and Security (CIOCS) is hosting the world’s first global conference on oceans, climate, and security, drawing participants from 16 countries.

The Global Conference on Oceans, Climate and Security (GC '12) will take place May 21-23 at UMass Boston, with Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Jane Lubchenco as keynote speaker for the event.

“CIOCS wanted to have an opportunity to pull together various sectors concerned with climate, oceans, and human security to talk about how they are related,” CIOCS Director Robbin Peach says.

With a theme of “Collaboration and Action to Address the Impacts of Climate-related Ocean Change on Human, National and International Security,” the conference will look at the conditions that are likely to be produced by climate change, how these conditions will affect coastal and ocean ecosystems and communities, and how they may affect human and national security interests.

“UMass Boston is at the leading edge of looking at these issues. The military and defense have been looking at this for quite a while, but academics and civil sectors have not,” Peach says.

Peach says 60 percent of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of a coastline, so there’s a lot of interest in this kind of groundbreaking conference. More than 225 people from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private industries, the government, academia, and the military have registered for 250 spots; a limited number of tickets are available for $250 (prices go up to $450 starting May 21).

“People are excited about an academic institution taking the lead on this,” Peach says.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hurricane hunter Jeff Masters, and the Energy & Environmental Security Award recipient, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, will also be in attendance. Peach says Mabus has taken a strong leadership role in trying to “green” the U.S. Navy, which is one of the largest energy users in the Department of Defense.

Captain Wayne Porter of the U.S. Navy will moderate the opening plenary panel on oceans, climate and security by the White House, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the navy.

“It’s time we retool the education and job training needed to create a new model of growth, one based on clean and renewable and reusable resources: energy in addition to food, water, and minerals. Darwin stressed the importance of adaptation and strength gained through competition. As a species, we need to evolve along with our environment,” Porter says.

On the third day of the conference, there will be a role-playing exercise that looks at how climate change affects the coast, population, and human health called the “Climate-smart Coastal Infrastructure Investment Game.” At the closing plenary session, panelists will review preliminary recommendations that come out of the conference.

“It’s a dialogue-driven conference, so for me, the best thing that could happen would be people working together to tackle the action items identified,” Peach says.

After the conference, CIOCS will develop a paper that identifies specific opportunities for collaborators to work on coastal adaption issues. They will also work with government officials to help define contributions that CIOCS can make to the continued global discussion on climate change and security. Peach says there is the potential for the conference to become a recurring event.

To check out the conference agenda or to register, visit the GC ‘12 website.

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