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Podcasting for the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

20 July 2023

Photographs of two young men. Lucas Zazzi Carbone on the left and Piers O’Connor on the right.
Lucas (L) and Piers (R) graduated with degrees in Environmental Geography (BSc) as part of the class of 2023.

Two Cardiff University graduates have shared their experiences of an exchange programme which saw them create climate change podcasts listened to by the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

Lucas Zazzi Carbone and Piers O’Connor, who are graduating today as part of Cardiff University’s Class of 2023, participated in a Fulbright teaching exchange programme in their final year at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The virtual programme was led by climate scientist and glaciologist Dr Samantha Buzzard from Cardiff University and Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice from Shenandoah University in the US Professor Staci Strobl.

Part of a Global Challenges Teaching Award from the US-UK Fulbright Commission and the American Council on Education, the programme saw students engage in key climate change issues across disciplines, work together with their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic and draw on the expertise of both faculty members.

Their final assessment saw the pair create a podcast on the effects of climate change in Western Australia with their classmates in Cardiff and counterparts in Shenandoah.

Little did they know that a few months later John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, would listen to the podcasts at an event in London hosted by Fulbright.

Piers, who is from Wicklow in Ireland, said: “When I heard the news, I was ecstatic. Did I ever think our podcast would be listened to by anyone other than our teachers? No. Then lo and behold, John Kerry has a listen and my mind is blown. Obviously, the first person I told was me Mam and what a proud Mam she was!

“I think it’s important that decisionmakers give their ear to students from time to time as I genuinely believe we have quite a substantial contribution to make. Albeit students are naïve and inexperienced, but I think this innocence actually gives us a unique perspective that hasn’t been diluted by the realities of working life yet. This could be essential for belief and positive action regarding climate change mitigation.”

Piers O'Connor

The experience of having the American attorney, politician and diplomat who lost out to George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential election meant a lot to Piers’ classmate too.

Lucas, who is from Cheltenham, said: “I think it’s great that an environmental leader like John Kerry is showing proactiveness because, at the end of the day, all the information is readily available and provided by climate scientists.

“But it is the multi-sector approach of governments to cooperate with climate scientists that improves our ability to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change, that will really lead to positive change!

“Decisionmakers like John Kerry listening to our podcast demonstrates that they are after positive change, as well as showing that different countries are collaborating on the same issue, offering a more diverse way of thinking when looking at climate change.”

Lucas Zazzi Carbone

Both Lucas and Piers agree the programme was a highlight of their Environmental Geography degrees, offering them opportunities to collaborate with peers overseas, learn new skills and reflect on the cultural, political and legislative aspects of climate change.

After graduating Lucas plans on travelling before pursuing a career in environmental consultancy or another climate-related field.

Piers will miss his in-person ceremony while on a summer work placement in Vancouver but intends on joining the celebrations online. He wants to continue studying and plans to join a Master’s programme in the field of environmental sciences.

He added: “I would absolutely recommend the programme to other students. To me, it’s a no brainer.

“It was motivating and not just another assignment that no one will ever read. It was an international task that was shared with your peers and students in another university and, if you’re lucky, the Climate Envoy of the United States of America!”

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