On Saturday 24 June 2023 from 2pm to 5pm, twelve female scientists will give talks on their scientific research during Soapbox Science Brussels, on the Europakruispunt at Central Station. VUB PhD student Rosa Pietroiusti is one of the chosen researchers. In her interactive talk, she reflects on whether climate change violates children's rights. Her project bridges the gap between climate science and law. “In my Soapbox science speech I hope to inspire young people who might not consider a career in science, in particular young girls and women, to show how fun and exciting it can be”, says Pietroiusti. “I also want people to reflect on the intergenerational implications of climate change.”
Rosa Pietroiusti has a background in geography and environmental sciences and started at VUB in 2022 as a PhD researcher in the Department of Hydrology. "Through interdisciplinary research, between climate science and law, I want to investigate extreme events under climate change", says Pietroiusti. "In particular, understanding how climate science can support child and youth-led climate litigation around the world."
That is also what Pietroiusti's talk on the Europakruispunt is about. ‘Can young people sue governments and companies for climate change?’ is the big question she’ll ask on Saturday. “The goal of my research is to understand what scientific evidence is being used, or is not being used, in child and youth-led climate cases around the world”, says Pietroiusti. “I want to analyse the wealth of climate science data we have available to study whether, when and where climate change can be understood to violate children and young people’s rights. They are affected both today, due to their specific vulnerability, and in the future, since they will live in a hotter world, with generally more and more intense losses and damages from climate change.”
“I carried out my master’s in Geography at the VUB and KU Leuven between 2019 and 2022”, says Pietroiusti. “During this time, I specialized in climate science, extreme weather and climate events, and attribution science, which is used to link specific extreme events to anthropogenic, man-made, climate change. I’m passionate about what science can do to make us understand and combat climate change. Climate lawsuits are increasingly emerging as an avenue to push for climate action. Some well-known examples are the Urgenda case and the Shell case in the Netherlands, two big victories, and the Klimaatzaak here in Belgium, which is still pending.”
Currently, Pietroiusti is a PhD researcher at VUB, supervised by climatologist prof. Wim Thiery. “I have very interdisciplinary interests, so I wanted to create a project bridging climate science and law, by focusing on the scientific evidence used in these climate lawsuits. My supervisor prof. Wim Thiery published a paper in 2021, showing that young people will live through many more extreme events like droughts, heatwaves and floods during their lifetime, compared to older people. That is why we decided to focus on child and youth-led climate lawsuits. I love my PhD project because it raises questions that are both scientific and quantitative, but also theoretical and ethical.”
“During my PhD I will carry out climate science data analysis”, says Pietroiusti. “My research will be based on climate models, impact models, and observations. I will use these models to study extreme events, their impacts and their attributability to human emissions, and how these are specifically affecting children and young people. In a next stage, I will sift through child and youth-led climate cases, understand what harms these cases are claiming and how they are being or can be supported by scientific evidence. I am collaborating with legal experts, climate experts, and NGO’s like Save the Children, since this work cannot be done alone. I hope my research will help bridge the gap between climate science and law. I want to translate key concepts that can shed light on the pressing issue of the intergenerational inequity that is inherent in climate change. Past and older generations have caused the problem that younger and future generations will most bear the brunt of.”
About Soapbox Science
Soapbox Science is a scientific outreach initiative that aims to promote the visibility of women and non-binary people in science and their research. Soapbox Science seeks to reach people through speeches in public spaces. Female researchers talk to passers-by about their research from their "soapboxes". During the event, four soapboxes will be placed on Brussels' Europakruispunt. On each soapbox, a speaker will talk for an hour about her research and interact with the passing public. The talks will be in French, Dutch and English.