GPP Climate Change


Sponsor: WPI Global Projects Program
Sponsor Liaison: Professor Ingrid Shockey
Student Team: Raul Arias-Philippi, Ryan Carnemolla, Aidan Mayer, Cameron Williams
Abstract: In studying climate change, the focus is often placed solely on scientific data, yet this is not necessarily correlated to how the public perceives the topic. People understand the world through the lens of their own experiences and, therefore, experiences provide a strong insight into the perceptions of an individual or community. This project captures on video Londoners’ climate change experiences through personal interviews with the general population, climate experts, and activists. Storytelling has long been an effective method of communicating personal experiences and through combining this with real experiences, this project communicates London’s climate change story to the world.
Link: Storying Climate Change London Report
Storying Climate Change London Presentation

Executive Summary

In the world today, there are few issues that are as widely problematic as climate change. There are also few issues that are as misunderstood. To address such a global issue, humanity needs to reach a common understanding. While climate science has provided a plethora of evidence to prove the threat that climate change poses, this has not necessarily translated into understanding or action. Climate scientists have identified an “action gap”, which refers to the disparity between recommendations climate scientists give to curb emissions, and the general public’s perception and desire for response (Bushell, 2017). The Global Projects Program (GPP) at WPI, and by extension this project, has sought to address this disparity. By collecting and presenting personal experiences of climate change we hope to create a more empathetic connection between people and the effect we all have on our planet. To do so, we traveled to London, England, the capital of the United Kingdom and a city with a high level of climate awareness (Cecil, 2019). We researched and represented the experiences of London residents and how they help to shape the climate change perception of the community by interviewing members of the public.

Climate change is a global threat to humanity. As the planet grows increasingly hotter as a result of uncurbed human activity, the environment and mankind’s experiences with the natural world change. Although the Earth’s average temperature fluctuates naturally, the sudden increase in humanity’s industrial activity beginning in the 19th century has drastically increased the amount of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere (greenhouse gasses), leading to a variety of previously unseen and dangerous phenomena observed around the world (severe storms, shorter winters, hotter summers, forest fires, etc.).  

In the U.K. particularly, these effects have been manifested as record high temperatures, frequent flooding, and increasingly severe storms. London particularly has experienced high temperatures, highlighted by high average temperatures during the winter and a record heatwave in 2019. The citizens of London have a reputation of being politically minded and unafraid to participate in their parliamentary democracy both directly (voting) and indirectly (political activism). In 2019, 100,000 residents participated in the organized climate strike, raising alarm over the climate’s vulnerability and future effects on humanity. Locally, the organized climate activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) has played a key part in both raising awareness in the public consciousness and pressuring local government to adopt environmentally sustainable legislation. By gathering the stories and opinions of members of the general public, activist groups, and climate experts, the clearer picture of climate change’s societal impact can be discerned.

Storytelling is one of the oldest parts of human civilization. Sharing personal experiences with others serves several purposes from education to entertainment. Stories, and media conveying stories, is often categorized into different genres (adventure, non-fiction, etc.). For sharing the stories of climate change, the preferred format has often been informative documentaries which focus on the science behind climate change, and highlighting ways individuals, governments, and corporations must play their part to reduce carbon emissions to protect our environment. Not all documentaries, however, are purely scientific, as often times they can focus on societal events such as political movements. These documentaries can oftentimes focus on the narratives of individuals, which are intrinsically more relatable than scientific data. Documentaries are a powerful tool for both recording and presenting important events (such as climate change), making them relatable to the audience, and in some cases, inciting the audience to take action.

The goal of this project is to develop a series of stories detailing the impact of climate change on residents of London that will assist the WPI Global Projects Program and address the disparity between scientific climate data and how the public perceives climate change through their own experiences. To do this, we followed three major objectives. First, we identified different individuals that would allow us to collect a wide range of data for potential interviews. Second, we conducted and recorded interviews with the selected individuals. Third, we edited and refined the footage to create a narrative that fit the goal. This process provided a path we could follow to ensure that this project succeeded. Targeting these groups allowed us to identify a wider variety of topics, stories, and viewpoints due to their differing backgrounds on climate change. After we identified the target demographics, we had to find individuals to interview. Our group relied heavily on snowball sampling and a list of contacts provided by the site director, Professor Golding, in order to find individuals. Once we found contacts we had to record their stories. We accomplished this by filming open-ended interviews. The open-ended interviews allowed the interviewee to tell their story without interruption. When possible we established multiple camera angles with tripods and used lapel microphones to keep the production quality high. After the interviews were recorded, they were edited down into two deliverables: short ‘highlight reels’ for each interview, and a short documentary synthesizing the interviews into a single narrative. The editing was done using Adobe Premiere Pro.

Upon the end of our three objectives, we were able to analyze the data we had found to set the groundwork for the trends we would explore in our documentary. Some trends had become apparent to us during the recording phase and others became clear afterwards when we began editing and organizing the footage. To begin, we noticed early on that many people noticed that recent winters, particularly the winter of 2019 – 2020, had diverted from the norm. This included generally warmer temperatures, less frost, and more rain than years prior. These changes were observed by both the general population and the climate experts we talked to, demonstrating the high level of awareness in London. Another trend we discovered among all three major groups was that many Londoners believed the government could be doing more to combat climate change. This idea was held not only by activists, but by others as well. We did not speak with or find a single person who did not believe climate change was having an effect on the environment. Lastly, throughout each and every conversation we had, the interviewees all referenced climate change being most dangerous to people in the future, especially if we don’t act now. Though some were pessimistic about the climate’s prospects, most people held a sincere hope that we, as humans, have time to fix our mistakes and keep the future from being so bleak.

The climate change stories initiative is much more than our single IQP experience in London. Past projects have acted as guide books, creating a standard of how to complete our very own project. We would like to leave recommendations that will both better the GPP and Professor Shockey as well as the students who will continue storying climate change. These recommendations are:

  1. Future London teams should explore into the lesser known boroughs of London to find more diverse stories.
  2. Utilize the weeks prior to the start of your time on site to reach out and schedule possible interviews (if possible).
  3. Work with the Global Lab and ATC in ID 2050 to ensure you have the correct equipment.
  4. Work with Professor Shockey in ID 2050 on the scheduling of your time on site in order to avoid wasted opportunities.


Climate change affects every person on the planet indiscriminately. Over the course of our time in London, we were able to connect with several residents and learn more about their experiences and perspectives. For our deliverable, we were able to compile a diverse, concise, and refined short film documenting the experiences of some of London’s many residents. London is a melting pot of cultures, perspectives, and people. We set out to document and present the experiences of three distinct types of Londoners: the general population, climate change experts, and climate change activists. By gathering their stories, we were able to paint a picture of how climate change is impacting the day to day life of Londoners. 

Climate change affects every facet of human civilization. While mountains of empirical data scientifically prove the existence and urgency of the climate crisis, the connection between this data and actual human people is severely lacking. This project, and others like it, are critical to exposing the human connection with climate change. We can all relate to each others’ everyday experiences and through this, climate change stories increase our connection with effet we have had on our environment. Ultimately, this empathy will help to spur the necessary action to resolve this crisis and secure our future.