In a debate about national responsibility concerning climate change, Emory University and Morehouse College participated in the 2015 Lafayette Debates held at the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta.
The April 16 event was organized by the Cultural Services of the French consulate general in Atlanta with the support of the museum located at Atlantic Station. It was the first time that the event was held in Atlanta.
It also was a precursor for the debaters from Morehouse who would travel the following weekend to compete in Washington against debating teams from across the country. The Emory team was slated to compete but one of its members fell sick and the team withdrew from the Washington competition this year.
Initiated by the French embassy in Washington and George Washington University, the debates were launched in 2011. Last year the Emory debate team won the national debate and was rewarded with an all-expenses paid trip to France by the French government.
The Emory team won the Atlanta debate this year by a single vote, six votes to five, determined by a panel of 11 judges including climate change experts from the Atlanta area.
The national winner of the April 18-19 competition held at George Washington was the University of Michigan’s team, which overcame 28 competitors including the team from Morehouse, which won the top qualification for the finals.
Morehouse was represented in Washington by two freshmen from their team, Keith Matier and Best Uchehara, who did not compete in Atlanta but finished their preliminary rounds undefeated and were the #1 seed going into the final rounds. They defeated teams from the University of Toronto, Duke, and Ecole de Guerre (a French university) to earn a study tour to France.
Participants addressed the following topic: “That all states have an obligation to anticipate, prevent and minimize the causes of climate change, and mitigate its adverse effects.”
The climate change topic was chosen in anticipation of the 2015 Climate Conference (COP21) to be held in Paris in December. The two-week conference under the aegis of the United Nations is to be one of the largest international conferences ever held in France, welcoming thousands of delegates and observers.
The wide-ranging debate in Atlanta covered many issues related to climate change. In summary, the Emory team emphasized the importance of every nation contributing to reducing the effects of climate change, including developing nations.
As an example, the Emory team cited the experience of Kenya where the government has supported the proliferation of solar panels enabling many communities not to have to go to the expense of installing electrical grids.
The Morehouse team argued that because developing nations lack resources to combat human problems such as infant mortality and child hunger, they should focus on alleviating these problems rather than climate change.
They also underscored that the poorest countries are the least likely to be responsible for exacerbating the effects of climate change.
“Zimbabwe wasn’t emitting greenhouse gases in 1850,” one of the Morehouse debaters said, in reference to U.S. pollution practices dating back to the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.
Mollie Fiero and Nate Sawyer represented Emory during the Atlanta debates, and Rami Blair and Jonathan Carlisle, Morehouse.
The jury was composed of the following members: Denis Barbet, consul general, Consulate General of France in Atlanta; Roger Casalegno, professor, Universite de Grenoble, France; Heather Clave, press attache, Consulate General of France in Atlanta; Dr. Anne Corval, scientific attachee, Consulate General of France in Atlanta;
Dr. Judith Curry, professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology; Alexander Durand, cultural attache, Consulate General of France in Atlanta; Jeremy Kobus, director, Millennium Gate Museum; Nino Teissier, cultural services assistant, Consulate General of France in Atlanta; Helene Toure, director, Alliance Francaise of Atlanta; Solene Vilhien, deputy cultural attached, Consulate General of France in Atlanta and Dr. Peter J. Webster, professor, Earth an Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Tech.