St. Ignatius
Laura West Fischer ’09 - Studying Climate Change Through a Jesuit Lens

For her Master of Science with Distinction in Environmental Change and Management from Oxford University, Laura West Fischer ’09 wrote her dissertation on extreme weather event attribution and disaster risk reduction. Today, she is a recognized climate expert and was recently selected to the Adaptation chapter author team for the Fifth National Climate Assessment, a federally-mandated report on how global changes are affecting the United States, and scheduled to be published in the fall of 2023.

"After I graduated from Georgetown University, I had an opportunity to serve as a Jesuit Volunteer, working for the American Red Cross of Alaska," she said. "I'd been interested in climate science before, but that experience talking with communities in Alaska about how to prepare for disasters and listening to their experiences of disasters inspired me to study more. At Oxford, my work became about understanding the ways in which climate change affects extreme weather events, the ways it is changing weather patterns, what that means for different communities experiencing those impacts, and what we need to be prepared for in the future."

Fischer said that, after her experiences at SI and Georgetown, she consciously approaches her work through a framework of Jesuit values.

"How I think about these issues is intimately connected to my Catholic faith. The Church teaches about the importance of caring for the environment and stewardship of the planet and Pope Francis has used the term 'throwaway culture' to talk about cultures of consumption and waste. I feel that can be applied not only to our relationships with other people, but also our relationship with the environment. If you're an SI graduate, you know about the Jesuit tradition of social justice; in many ways, social justice is inextricable from ecological justice, and we ought to think about how our actions affect the environment, which in turn affects the most vulnerable among us."


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