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MIGA Intern Nebiyu Ayele Zooms in on D.C. Emissions

Nebiyu Ayele, 16, came to the U.S. from Ethiopia with his family in July 2020 and enrolled at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C., where he will soon be entering his senior year. This summer, he was an intern at MIGA, researching climate change and the carbon footprint of his new hometown with mentor Rohit Bangera, who works in MIGA’s evaluation unit. Ayele’s report on the subject was so good that he got to present it to a very high-level audience: MIGA’s Economics and Sustainability Unit (MIGES). We sat down and talked with the pair about their experience working together.

 

Nebiyu, what was it like presenting to MIGES Director Merli Baroudi and 40 of her team members?

I was nervous because there were a lot of people watching me, and they have so much knowledge on this subject. But it was interesting and exciting because I hadn’t had a chance to speak in front of a big group of people. So, it was great!

 

What is the most surprising thing you learned about climate change?

I learned that producing meat creates a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. About 70 billion farm animals are raised around the world every year to feed eight billion people. I didn’t know that before I did this research.

Nebiyu and Rohit
Nebiyu Ayele (left) and Rohit Bangera

Rohit, what was it like having Nebiyu as an intern?

It was a blessing, to be honest. He’s so full of energy and he’s so enthusiastic. My job was just to guide him in the right direction. The fact that he’s so receptive and wants to learn made it easy for me. He did all the hard work and brought a lot to the table. He reminds me of myself at that age. It’s been a privilege. That’s all I can say.

 

What was your schedule together?

We met almost every day to work towards a weekly deliverable. We met with Merli, the head of our department, every Friday to present the deliverables to her. We focused on Nebiyu’s greenhouse gas presentation and talked about the summer class he was taking through the United Nations.

 

How did you decide to focus on Washington, D.C. for your presentation?

Climate change is just so huge, and there are so many elements. Merli suggested that we focus on D.C. and how residents can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was very specific and to the point. Nebiyu looked at it through his lens, which was refreshing.

 

Nebiyu, where do D.C.’s emissions come from?

Energy used to heat and cool buildings, and to run the stoves and electronics we use in them, account for about 70 percent of D.C.’s emissions. Of that amount, about 71 percent is from commercial buildings and the rest is residential. Transportation is about 24 percent. There are a lot of things that we can do as individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We can start in our homes and offices by buying more efficient light bulbs and by driving electric cars.

 

Rohit, how did the presentation to Merli and the department come about?

Nebiyu originally gave his PowerPoint to Merli, and she liked it so much that she asked him to present it to the whole MIGES department, which was pretty great because this was a new topic for him. Originally, we were supposed to have the presentation on a Friday, but fewer people may have been available then, so we moved it to Wednesday morning. That gave him peak exposure. There were about 40 people.

 

Nebiyu, how did the internship shape your plans for school and career?

I have a real interest in computer science, and Rohit, my mentor is an I.T. guy. I want to go to around the world and see the problems we face and see how we can solve them. I was at the World Bank just for a short time, and I have a lot more to learn.