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MHS 'deal' on climate change
Cael Losenegger speaks during a simulation of a United Nations panel on climate change in the library at Monroe High School on Friday morning. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Seventy-five Monroe High School students tried and failed to save the world from climate change Friday morning.

In a three-hour long class experiment, students participated in a simulation of a United Nations summit to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change on the Earth.

The goal of the simulation was to reduce global temperature increases to "only" 2 degrees Celsius or less compared to pre-industrial averages. However, after two rounds of negotiations, students were only able to reach a global increase of 2.1 degrees.

"Technically, they failed," said teacher Katherine Lehto, who organized the simulation. "But the takeaway is that they understand how climate change will affect everyone."

The participating students - taken from freshman honors English and science courses as well as an upperclassman-level international issues course - were tasked with representing various countries and negotiating with each other. However, students representing developing nations were given fewer resources (represented by bottles of water and candy) and were made to sit on the floor.

After the first round of negotiations, representatives of developing nations were forced to crowd together with those of developed nations as the effects of climate change displaced the nations' populations.

Lehto, who has taught at the Monroe High School for five years, said she had had the idea for the simulation for two years, but never had the time to implement it.

"Climate change is my one major passion," Lehto said.

Lehto pointed out that July and August of 2016 were the hottest months on record within the last 136 years.

Two degrees Celsius is generally regarded as the highest acceptable average global temperature increase before the consequences of climate change become catastrophic. An increase of 2 degrees is predicted to cause rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans and mass extinctions of thousands of plant and animal species worldwide.

World leaders met in 2015 to address climate change and made a pact - the Paris Agreement - to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius or less, with developed nations contributing a total of $100 billion per year to help other nations adapt to renewable energy sources.

President Donald Trump, however, has promised to withdraw America's participation in the Paris Agreement and has previously said that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government to undermine America's economy.

"Even if humans aren't directly causing climate change, even if it is a natural cycle, we still have an effect on climate and we still need to do something about it," Lehto said.

Monroe senior Josh Smith, who represented China, said the simulation was "an eye-opener" and a good demonstration of how nations work together to achieve a shared goal.

"It's definitely more interactive and interesting than a Power Point," Smith said.

Freshman Francisco Ocampo, who represented the European Union, said it was challenging to find the best way for the EU to contribute without overextending itself.

"I think a lot of people assume climate change is something that's already been solved," Ocampo said. "But this showed us how much everyone still needs to do."