Roop Singh ’14 is a climate risk advisor for the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. The Red Cross Red Crescent is frequently the first to respond to natural disasters, operating in over 190 countries worldwide. The Climate Centre works in concert with its disaster response teams to understand and mitigate the impacts of climate change and the more-frequent extreme weather it causes. Singh, who majored in earth and atmospheric sciences at CALS, leads the center’s work on heat risk and hosts the “Can’t Take the Heat” podcasts. Her work as a climate risk advisor involves serving as an interlocutor among scientists, policymakers and disaster risk management practitioners.
Here, she talks about her climate work and shares how her time in CALS laid the foundation for her career and helped her reconnect with family roots.
You launched the “Can’t Take the Heat” podcast in June 2020. What was your impetus?
I think a lot of people don’t realize that the humanitarian sector is on the front line of climate change. We often hear about climate change from politicians and scientists, but we don’t hear from this whole sector of people who are working daily with people affected by disasters; they’re really seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand. They’re seeing that these disasters are happening back to back to back, and they’re not able to continually respond, as the next disaster starts before the last one has even finished. So I started the podcast to share some of that perspective, whether it’s about heat risk, health and climate change, conflict and climate change – we’re working across so many different areas.
How do you choose which issues to highlight in the podcast?
I think we try to highlight issues that are underappreciated. We haven’t done an episode on flooding, for example, because flooding already gets a lot of attention. Whereas extreme temperature is not as visual: You can only understand the impacts of heat if you read into the statistics after a disaster has ended. And when you do, you realize that hundreds of thousands of people die during heat waves – in fact, the number of people who die during heat waves is much larger than the number who die in floods. I’m trying to shine a light on issues that people don’t realize are having such a big impact.
Were there any courses or teachers at CALS who were especially impactful for you?
My first meteorology class with Mark Wysocki, senior lecturer in earth and atmospheric sciences, was very impactful, and he became my advisor. He was this larger-than-life person who made meteorology so accessible, and he helped us see that the science itself was fascinating and that it also has an impact on people’s lives. And that was exactly what I was looking for. I grew up in New York City, but my parents are from India – my dad was a farmer there – and climate has a huge impact on farming. My family roots in agriculture and my interest in science all came together when I got to Cornell. I joined Alpha Zeta, the agriculture honor fraternity. One of the biggest things I learned at Cornell is how to communicate science in a way that’s clear to other people, while being honest about what you know and what you don’t know. That’s something I work on every day: how to communicate and engage with people to help them understand climate change and how it affects them.
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