2008-09 Diplomacy Fellow at the U.S. Department of State
Although Ben Zaitchik had fellowship placement offers elsewhere, he chose the Office of Global Change at the Department of State because of the global importance of climate issues today. “It has been a very exciting year. I believe climate is the most urgent and pressing issue we face—one where we need to make progress.”
Because of the current high profile status of climate change, Ben, who has a PhD in climate science from Yale University, had opportunities to use his expertise to prepare climate science briefing materials. He also served as a primary negotiator on other topics including biofuels and bioenergy. “I worked on issues such as verifying compliance,” he explains.
“And I negotiated on agendas that require scientific expertise. People were very receptive to the ideas and insights I provided.”
He attended the climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, in preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009. “On climate, the U.S. is not the greenest player in the room,” says Ben. “But I am more sympathetic to differences in national circumstances. We are more carbon intensive and so we have different proposals.” Ben returned to academia in 2010, as an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. “The fellowship will inform my teaching and research,” says Ben. “As a teacher and mentor it will be invaluable.”