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Professor Emily Brown Receives University Funding for Climate Change Policy Awareness Project

Posted on Wednesday 6/14/2017
Emily Brown

Legal Writing Professor Emily Brown has received a Syracuse University Campus as a Laboratory for Sustainability (CALS) Grant. The grant will enable Brown to work with two research assistants to review climate change rules proposed by the federal government, to distill the proposed rules into accessible summaries, and to share these short policy analyses via a social media campaign. 

As Brown explains, “My proposal asks three related questions. First, is it possible to summarize and convey complex environmental rules in a way that is both interesting and accessible? Second, how can you inspire individuals to feel empowered to participate in public policy decisions about climate change? And, third, how can you reach a large group of people with this information?”

Brown points to a recent social media phenomenon surrounding the Federal Communication Commission, “Net Neutrality,” and the HBO comedy show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver as a template for what she hopes to accomplish. “On June 1, 2014, John Oliver spent 13 minutes explaining the potential ramifications of destroying net neutrality, and he invited his audience to comment directly to the FCC, proving an online link during his show. The next day, the FCC received so many comments, its website crashed. FCC Chair Tom Wheeler embraced the concerns of these commenters and rejected attempts to end net neutrality.”

To generate the same kind of engagement with climate change policy, Brown’s law student research assistants will review and summarize pertinent climate change regulations enacted by previous administrations, monitor proposed legislation that impacts climate change, and draft short summaries describing rules proposed by the new administration.  Summaries of newly proposed rules will appear on the initiative’s homepage, along with links where individuals can directly access the federal government webpages to comment on proposed rules.  The initiative’s homepage will also include links to additional in-depth analyses of proposed rules. 

In addition to the initiative’s website, the grant will fund the development a social media campaign to harness the potential of college student engagement in public policy debates surrounding climate change rulemaking. “Although this engagement will begin on the Syracuse University campus,” says Brown, “the social media campaign will be designed to engage students throughout the United States.”

Brown’s project was one of five selected by the University during the latest round of CALS funding, which called for projects that address climate disruption and that offer opportunity for communication and outreach to the campus and wider community. Funding for CALS grants comes from the Syracuse University Climate Action Plan. As energy efficiency efforts have been implemented in recent years, so some of the savings have gone into this research fund. 

The initial round of funding, totaling $50,000, was awarded in January 2017. For the second round of funding, 15 applications were received, with requests for funding totaling nearly $200,000. The call for proposals encouraged multidisciplinary projects and projects from a broad range of disciplines, applicants, and collaborators across the University. The selection committee was drawn from an advisory group of faculty from all the schools and colleges.