By Natalie Ambrosio, ND-GAIN Fall 2015 Intern

We live in a time of apprehension, prevalent poverty, and a changing planet, but this can also be a time of hope. Pope Francis finds hope in COP21. This is the upcoming 21st annual gathering of 1961 nations to discuss the urgent action that must be taken to confront climate change. Following his Laudato Si encyclical Pope Francis has expressed his “… hope that a fundamental basic agreement is reached.”2

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation strategies since its first meeting in 19943. To prepare for COP21, each nation will submit an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) which outlines the commitments each country will make to keep global temperature from rising.4 However, climate is already changing and some INDCs also include the crucial element of adaptation.

“Young people demand change.”
This line grabbed our attention the most when reading the papal encyclical released over the summer. ‘Laudato si’ is the latest and most drastic move taken by the Vatican to address the worldwide climate crisis. As interns at the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, we spend a lot of our time working on and thinking about environmental issues. After this encyclical, and the momentum it has garnered, we feel it is time to recruit our fellow students in the fight for environmental justice.
Notre Dame is the world’s leading Catholic university and has always been a global force in combatting social justice issues such as poverty and injustice. ‘Laudato si’ has shed light on our new mission. We share a home with 7 billion other people and it is quickly becoming sick. Pope Francis issued a call to save our planet and we are obligated to answer. We can wait for other people to work it out or we can take action now. This is the greatest challenge our generation will face.
By Lauren Russman, ND-GAIN Summer 2015 Intern
In the last few years, one country on ND-GAIN’s matrix has moved up in the readiness rankings faster than any other: Rwanda. This quick shift is mostly attributable to rapid increases in its economic readiness for the country, measured by the World Bank Doing Business Index. Increases in governance readiness, in particular, the progress in political stability and corruption control, have also had a large influence on Rwanda’s increasing readiness score.
Since the devastating genocide in 1994, Rwanda has seen enormous increases in GDP along with the improvement in public health. Many attribute Rwanda’s success to its President, Paul Kagame. Kagame has made gaining independence from foreign aid a top priority by creating a zero-tolerance corruption policy, investing heavily in education and minimizing barriers to foreign investment.
By Lauren Russman, ND-GAIN Summer 2015 Intern
In May 2015, Pope Francis released an encyclical concerning sustainable development called “Laudato Si’.” In the encyclical, Pope Francis says, “The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty. A more responsible overall approach is needed to deal with both problems: the reduction of pollution and the development of poorer countries and regions.” Some have claimed these two problems are counter to one another, and believe developing nations need cheap energy from coal to achieve rapid development. 

This is the talk that I gave at the 2015 Ecological Society of America Annual meeting in Baltimore, MD. (Will add images/graphs soon.) Thank you to Jesse Lasky for including me in the special session he organized, The Effects of Eco-Evolutionary Feedbacks on Communities, Ecosystems, and Responsee to Environmental Change.


My talk, sitting in the last slot of today's session, draws on several presentations we have heard today. This final talk will put eco-evolutionary research and knowledge in the context of conservation and climate change.

Le me first remind you that climate change is a big deal with a large influence on biological systems. Under a business as usual emission scenario, temperatures on land are predicted to increase 5-6 deg C this century. The last time the world was this much cooler, Death Valley was covered with mesic forest, a habitat that has since been replaced with drought and temperature tolerant plants and animals. The last time the climate was this warm, there was a relative of the alligator living at the pole.