In 2005, Ithaca College applied for and was granted permanent observer status, one of only a handful of academic institutions to participate in these annual international climate treaty conferences. Ithaca sent observer teams to prior UNFCCC Convention of the Parties (COP) conferences in Canada, Kenya, Indonesia, and Poland.
In 2006, IC sent a delegation of two observers to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), held November 6 through 17, in Nairobi -- Garry Thomas, recently retired from the anthropology department and Sean Vormwald, at that time an assistant director in the Office of Alumni Relations. Garry is a development anthropologist who has worked and carried out research in Tanzania for more than six years, spread over the past 45 years. He shared his experiences as an observer via a blog entitled Observing Climate Change in Nairobi Through Anthropologist-Colored Glasses.
IC students attending the 2008 UNFCCC in Poznan, Poland shared their thoughts and experiences via a blog entitled IC Poznan Climate Conference.
Twenty students from the International Environmental Policy course at Ithaca College attended the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention's 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) in December 2009. The delegation was accompanied by Susan Allen-Gil, chair of the environmental studies and sciences department, who fully prepared her students for this experience.
Among the five Ithaca College alumni who accompanied the undergraduates was Rick Otis '76, former deputy associate administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has advised the class throughout this semester. Some financial support for this international experience was provided through the Commit-to-Change program, funded through a generous grant from the HSBC in the Community Foundation.
Last year, the Ithaca College delegation was also joined by an interdisciplinary research team from Dickinson College. The collaborative group's application to offer an "exhibit" at the conference was accepted by the United Nations. This group created a social media and public polling service called the POP COP15, or the Public Opinion Polls of the COP15.
Each day during COP15, the students posted a single question on climate change to the public by blogging, tweeting, e-mailing, and obtaining responses in person, and displayed the results online and in a public exhibit space at the convention. With a goal of a million responses per day, the objective was simple: to ensure that other voices were heard and widely held opinions were represented at the negotiations.