Student organization Climate 411 will provide forum for research and debate on climate change
The organization formed to compile existing climate information and make it accessible to students.
By Golmah Zarinkhou and Sarah Khan
Originally published in Daily Bruin
Justin Ong never knew what to believe about climate change.
He had heard contradicting facts since his interest in the subject blossomed during the sixth grade, but he could find little reliable data.
By the time he came to UCLA, not much had changed.
“I was really surprised that all of my professors didn’t have that much data about (climate change). They had doubts about the extent of climate change and the effects it could have on people,” said Ong, a fourth-year economics and environmental science student.
Ong decided to gather existing climate information and make it accessible to students. He founded Climate 411 and is working to establish a website that will link students to information and answers about climate change.
Although Ong started the club in January, the group had its first meeting Tuesday and expects the website to be fully functional in December, Ong said.
The website will provide information on climate change, as well as a forum for people to ask questions that informed professors can answer.
“What we want is to get people to ask questions and (then we) get those questions routed to professors who are knowledgeable in that area,” Ong said.
Paul Bunje, the executive director of the UCLA Center for Climate Change Solutions, will link the group’s website to the climate portal he runs, and he also assists Ong with finding professors to contribute to the site, Ong said.
Ong’s group, Climate 411, is unique because it will create a social network of sorts, where people trust their friends more than they trust Google, said environmental science professor Matthew Kahn, who agreed to contribute his articles and expertise to the site.
Kahn researches the costs and benefits of climate change regulation and how cities will adapt to those changes.
“There needs to be a demographic among (the) nation that wants to be informed rather than entertained. All (web) content has this difficulty,” he said.
Kahn expects it will be difficult to attract students to the website, but said the group is novel in its unbiased and apolitical approach to providing information.
“I think it’s on Justin (Ong) to sample a good size of UCLA professors to not give the website a political slant,” he said.
The group hopes to inform students and not force its own opinions on people, said Janna Lee, the external vice president and second-year environmental science student.
People often hear about climate change and feel shocked for a few moments, but they ultimately do nothing to effect change, Lee said.
“I think the most common and the most dangerous (problem) is that people forget that (climate change issues) exist,” Lee said.
Published: Wednesday, October 27, 2010