Belmont Students Organize N.H. Climate Change Science Summit | New Hampshire Public Radio

Belmont Students Organize N.H. Climate Change Science Summit

May 26, 2021

Climate change-driven sea level rise threatens parts of New Hampshire like Hampton Beach.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public/New England News Collaborative

Students at Belmont High School will lead a virtual summit on climate change science with state experts Thursday.

Sophomore William Riley and junior Chris Pare, co-presidents of the Lakes Region school’s outdoors club, say they’ve learned a fair amount in school and online about climate change globally -- but they've heard less about how New Hampshire is changing.

“How is that going to impact, say, the ski season in New Hampshire and your everyday life?” Pare said. “Rather than it being something that’s kind of just there and you’re not really personally seeing those impacts.”

That shift is the focus of the summit he and Riley organized, on their own time – not for a class or grade. The virtual event will include New Hampshire state climatologist Mary Stampone and other researchers from Plymouth State and the University of New Hampshire who are focused on lakes, soil, snow and adaptation issues.

“It’s really just diving in much deeper than we’ve ever had the chance to and looking at it in all different ways at the same time,” Riley said.

The summit is one of the first youth-led climate events in the state that’s focused mostly on science. Riley and Pare said it's been energizing to see it take shape, and they hope it inspires more students to take action to try and reverse the crisis.

“I really want to make a change, and I really want to help people also feel that same way and have the facts as to why,” Riley said. “Every single time we got an email back from someone at a school who was interested, it just felt so good because it felt like what we were doing here had an effect and was reaching someone.”  

Belmont science teacher Adrian Deshaies, who works with the outdoors club, says the summit is a rare chance for students to talk directly with top scientists on a difficult, important topic.  

“It’s exciting to see students want to engage in science in this type of manner, especially around climate change,” Deshaies said. “It’s so hard to get students to a point, in high school alone, just to truly understand what climate change is … and understand that it’s more complex than what most of the general public will view it as.”

The virtual event is geared toward students but open to the public via Zoom. Riley and Perry said they're considering trying to make the summit annual, with a rotating line-up of researchers.