Baylor Environmental Science Student Attends UN Conference of Parties

January 18, 2018

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WACO, Texas (Jan. 18, 2018) — Baylor University student Thomas Watson was among nine undergraduate observers selected by the American Chemical Society to attend the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Attending the conference of 25,000 people in Bonn, Germany, last November allowed the junior environmental science major to experience Europe for the first time while observing scientists, policymakers and national leaders as they discussed how the science of climate change may be incorporated into international policy. The students blogged about their observations while at the conference. Although he did not know what to expect, Watson said he was excited to attend the conference because it was an opportunity for him to become a part of fostering change.

“You can be a scientist and you can get all the data and do some of the best reports ever done, but if you can’t actually encourage people to listen to your data and encourage policies that implement what your data is saying needs to be done, then you can’t have the biggest impact,” Watson said. “The United Nations is a huge organization, and I thought that I could actually be a part of causing change for the better by going to this conference and meeting people who are achieving that.

Watson said his biggest focus at the conference was coal divestment. He said coal is significant because it produces the most carbon dioxide.

“Carbon dioxide is the main reason for the warming we’ve seen. So, lowering and ending these emissions would cause us to emit half of the carbon dioxide that’s being emitted now,” Watson said.

Watson works as a student research assistant for Rebecca Sheesley, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental science in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and a fellow of the Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. Watson and Sheesley conduct research on urban, organic and elemental carbon particulate matter, which is associated with most diseases.

He recently returned from doing research on icebergs in Antarctica over the Christmas break.

“I chose environmental science because I liked how diverse and interdisciplinary it is. I get an education on biology, chemistry and physics, and you kind of get a broader sense of how they all interplay to make what happens on earth,” Watson said.

Watson grew up in Chicago in a Christian household and is determined to try to make the world a better place than it was when he entered it.

“I figured that doing anything other than that doesn’t make sense,” Watson said.

As Watson learned about issues such as habitat destruction, climate change and the rapidly growing human population, he recognized the magnitude of environmental crises and wanted to be a part of making life better for people on earth in an efficient manner. He sees the climate change dilemma as an opportunity for collaboration rather than a fearful response to danger.

“I don’t see climate change as a threat or as a death sentence for people,” Watson said. “I think climate change is best thought of as an opportunity because it presents an unprecedented opportunity for humanity to work together.”
by Joy Moton , student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.