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Making the right climate decisions

- Wits University

Coleen Vogel is a Distinguished Professor at the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute (GCSRI).

Understanding how citizens (including governments) make decisions at a time when we are facing the severe implications and effects of climate change is the domain of climate scientist, Distinguished Professor Coleen Vogel.

In January 2015 Vogel returned to Wits, where she was an academic for over 30 years, to take up her Distinguished Professorship in the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute (GCSRI) and the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences (APES).

“I am interested in the human side of climate change – how we can adapt and make ourselves more resilient in the face of climate change,” says Vogel.

“Globally and locally we are confronted by environmental thresholds. We need to be aware that our water and food security systems are at risk and that this has vast implications for the wellbeing of people and the planet.”

A world leader in climate science, Vogel is one of the key authors of a series of global assessments for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

She has chaired a range of international committees and serves on a number of international boards, including the African science committee of Future Earth.

“I have been fortunate that my research and position have enabled me to assist and collaborate with various actors, including governments and organisations worldwide, to grapple with making the decisions required for a sustainable future.

“This has also enabled me to do trans-disciplinary research at an international level, not only between the physical and social sciences, but also to better understand how we can engage the wider public, society and business to make decisions around climate change.”

As a Distinguished Professor, Vogel will be focusing on Africa, including creating a cohort of young academics who can best work on climate change themes.

Vogel has developed a considerable number of PhD students who are now sitting in positions of authority in government and a wide range of sectors in South Africa and internationally.

“I hope that I have enabled them to be critical in their positions and to make critical decisions,” she says. “In my current position I want to continue developing the next generation of scholars, particularly women, to take their place in the climate change field,” she says.