AUK Student Government’s Debates Committee holds a Forum on Climate Change
By: Aram Omar, Student, College of Business
The newly elected Debates Committee at the American University of Kurdistan’s Student Government held its first forum on 28 November, 2021. The Debates Committee preselected and invited six informed students from various colleges and departments at AUK, to discuss climate change, and to outline their involvement and concerns with the issue, touching on numerous sub-topics of climate change, as well as its direct relation to the Kurdish region’s future. The student participants were: Ali Mohamad (College of Arts and Science), Adnan Sadeq (College of Arts and Science), Baniz Wasman (College of Arts and Science), Helien Mohammed (College of Arts and Science), Nadya Osman (College of Business), Sakra Hasan (College of Business). Aram Omar (College of Business) moderated the session.
The seminar, organized by the Debates Committee with the assistance of the Logistics Committee, began with eye-to-eye student perspectives, in which the six students discussed environmental issues, such as anthropogenic global warming and related potential environmental disasters, political and social hindrances, as well as economic challenges, and their possible ramifications for the Kurdistan Region. The key premise behind the forum was to allow the participating students to share their perspectives with AUK’s community, in order to inspire more conversations about crucial matters that both current and future generations need to address.
After the opening statement welcoming the participants, each student delivered a four-minute synopsis on their sub-topic within climate change, and how it relates to their studies. The first sub-topic focused on climate change and its repercussions in the Kurdistan area, as well as the links to the shortage of water. Various important factors/aspects of climate change were explained, including the impact of fossil fuels on water resources caused by a lack of rain and water preservation; an increase in greenhouse gases (reasons and consequences); the need for renewable and clean power; and how water preservation systems and dams might help provide renewable energy to the Kurdistan region.
The second sub-topic centered on the negative effects of rapid population growth in the Kurdistan region and Iraq as a whole, and its future effect on future generations’ ability to meet their needs. It also addressed the implications for the region given increased soil degradation, deforestation, food insecurity, as well as energy, commercial and industrial shortages.
The third sub-topic focused on how a student at AUK can influence, aid and motivate the AUK community, family, friends and the general public to action concerning issues of climate change. Key involvement areas include sustainability, recycling and reusing resources.
In the fourth sub-topic, the panel discussion focused on the business aspects of global warming. The first issue that was discussed was how business-driven economic activity affects the climate, particularly across the Kurdistan region, and basic (simple) steps that can be taken to manage or combat climate change. In the discussion, a variety of business-driven activities were highlighted, ranging from mining to industrial effluents, as well as industries and factories that have the greatest impact on climate change in the Kurdistan Region, particularly the Duhok Governorate.
The fifth sub-topic discussed how climate change (and other environmental factors) affect businesses, and the scale of the need for corporate social responsibility. Various opinions and beliefs were shared about supposed remedies to climate change that would actually make the situation worse, and the fact that sudden climatic changes might drive more people into poverty. This discussion also featured disagreements between students on short-term costs and long-term benefits.
The final sub-topic centered on the political aspects of climate change, and whether political (and other influential) leaders in the region should advocate for a greener and more sustainable Kurdistan. Viewpoints were expressed that in order to combat climate change, political will and the involvement of people with climate-friendly policies are key.
Following these six discussions, the moderator and the audience asked questions. Some key questions were:
“How does climate change affect a company’s business operations and value creation in the foreseeable future?”
“Given that renewable energy sources provide only a small percentage of Kurdistan’s energy, and that nuclear power is not a viable option (too expensive), when can Kurdistan realistically expect to ‘get off’ fossil fuels?”
“What are the most critical challenges that the Kurdistan region will face due to future changes in climate (climatic variability), and the persistent lack of water?”
“How does climate change affect the exports and imports of a nation?”
“What was the impact of Covid-19 on climate change? Was it positive or negative?”
“Given the prevailing economic situation in Kurdistan, what emergency measures can the government enact to mitigate the climate crisis?”
The forum concluded with the moderator stressing the importance of such discussions for AUK’s community, and the role of the Debates Committee at the Student Government on leading these discussions.