The climate crisis is the focus of the event in Miami Beach


Researchers, scientists and scholars from the University of Miami present at the Aspen Ideas: Climate 2023 conference, which focuses on climate solutions and adaptations.

Drones used to reforest areas destroyed by wildfires in California. A growing momentum in the aquaculture industry to produce sustainable, healthy seafood that will feed humanity. And the recent opening of Bristol, England’s tallest onshore wind turbine to generate electricity has given a group of community leaders a wake-up call.

These were just a few ways businesses and communities are trying to adapt to climate change and improve the world offered at the second annual Aspen Ideas: Climate 2023 conference, taking place this week in Miami Beach, Florida. The event, which continues through Wednesday, will draw 2,500 professionals and 300 speakers from around the world to the Miami Beach Convention Center and the New World Center, including scientists, climate industry leaders, politicians, journalists, artists and even people like mountaineers, Tommy Caldwell.

University of Miami faculty members and alumni speak and present at the conference. And some registered attendees, including journalists, will tour the Alfred C. Glassell Jr. SUSTAIN wind wave tank and Rescue a Reef lab at the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Also on Tuesday, School of Architecture Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury, who also serves as Interim Director of the Climate Resilience Academy, and Katharine Mach, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, moderated two panels. In addition, Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, Assistant Professor of Engineering, and Daniel Benetti, Professor of Marine Biology and Ecology and Head of the Rosenstiel School’s Aquaculture Program, participated as speakers in two-hour panels.

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor GeCheng Zha also presented at the Climate Solutions Showcase. And on Wednesday night, University graduate, Trustee Emeritus and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-actress Gloria Estefan will interview Vice President Kamala Harris on her administration’s progress on climate policy.

Mach led the discussion in a Tuesday morning session titled “Come Hell or High Water” about the managed withdrawal process, in which the Federal Emergency Management Association and other agencies pay people to move away from coastal areas where sea levels are high rising and floods are threatening the safety of their homes. However, in an attempt to protect these people, panellists explained that these policies often uproot people – particularly minorities and indigenous peoples – who may have lived in the region for hundreds of years. As a result, these displaced residents often struggle with the transition, both financially and emotionally.

In an afternoon session led by el-Khoury titled “Where Buildings Meet Breakwaters: Design Solutions for Resilient Coastlines,” Rhode-Barbarigos explained how he and a team of faculty members created a design for hybrid reef structures called ECoREEF that were submerged off Miami Beach last week.

Additionally, Kate Orff, architecture professor and co-director of the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes at Columbia University, spoke about a project she’s been working on in New York Harbor called Oyster-tecture that is helping to restore some ecosystems in Hurricane Sandy damaged and provides some protection for the coast around New York City. Orff helped design oyster reefs that now serve as living breakwaters. At the end of the session, Rhode-Barbarigos was peppered with questions from interested local leaders. He said he was pleased to be a speaker at the conference and hoped to attend a session on Wednesday.

“It’s important to participate in these discussions because the University of Miami is located in South Florida, ground zero for climate change, and we need to demonstrate the great work we’re all doing in this area,” Rhode-Barbarigos said. “This conference is a great platform with lots of great ideas and very interesting discussions and we all hope that by attending we will make connections with others that will allow our projects and innovations to take to the next level and make an impact. ”

Meanwhile, Benetti participated in Tuesday afternoon’s “Clearing the Pipeline for Investment in Sustainable, Values-based Blue Food Production” roundtable, when the panelists discussed the thriving aquaculture industry and the challenges it faces. Aquaculture offers an alternative to declining wild fish populations by allowing fish to be raised for human consumption. According to Benetti, more than half of the seafood sold for human consumption today is grown in aquaculture facilities, so he was glad that conference attendees supported the practice.

“An important advance we’ve made recently is that most people now understand that it’s important to develop sustainable aquaculture, so they’re joining academic and industry leaders,” Benetti said. “I am pleased to see that representatives from government agencies and the non-profit sector are on the same page that we need to develop sustainable aquaculture. It is the only alternative to the dwindling supply of wild fish and the growing demand for sustainable seafood in the future.”

The Aspen Ideas Climate conference began last year in Miami Beach as a collaboration between Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and his friend Dan Porterfield, who is also President of the Aspen Ideas Institute, which aims to ignite human potential to build understanding and to offer new opportunities in free, just and just societies. They plan to host the event annually.

“What makes this summit a truly novel summit is that we will be working from a tremendous variety of perspectives because of your variety of solutions,” Porterfield told the audience. “This is important because the climate and energy issues before us are deeply complex and cannot be solved overnight.”

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