15 universities sign on to fight global warming

In 2017, global carbon dioxide levels reached record highs, according to the latest "State of the Climate" report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That same year also saw record-high sea levels and surface ocean temperatures. The United States alone suffered 16 "billion-dollar disasters"—weather and climate-related events that result in losses of over $1 billion. And these extreme events would not have happened without the rise in greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, finds the American Meteorological Society.

These findings, in combination with the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, have driven 15 research universities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico to come together to lead the fight against climate change.

The coalition of universities, known as the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), will work in tandem with the Climate Leadership Network to both reduce the carbon footprint of their own campuses and help their communities achieve climate goals in line with the Paris accord. Here are UC3's founding members:

  • Arizona State University*
  • Boston University*
  • California Institute of Technology*
  • Tecnológico de Monterrey
  • La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • Ohio State University*
  • State University of New York*
  • University of British Columbia*
  • University of California*
  • University of Colorado, Boulder*
  • University of Maryland, College Park*
  • University of New Mexico*
  • University of Toronto*
  • University of Washington*
  • Washington University in St. Louis*

*Editor's note: EAB recognizes our member institutions who have joined UC3. Member institutions listed above are marked with an asterisk.

This college wants to have the first 100% renewable campus

Kristina Johnson, chancellor of the State University of New York system (SUNY), and Samuel Stanley Jr., president of Stony Brook University, explain that the formation of UC3 is the logical next step in fighting climate change, and they urge other colleges and universities to commit to their own sustainability efforts.

"At no other place in the world do... cross-disciplinary minds come together more consistently than on university campuses. Climate scientists can predict long-range changes in weather patterns, but forecasting the social, economic, and other impacts of climate instability is harder... To be efficient, therefore, experts in myriad fields throughout academe must collaborate to mitigate the destructive effects of climate change," they write.

And the UC3 universities have already taken dramatic steps. For example, SUNY was able to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 40% despite growing its building footprint by 41 million square feet. Johnson and Stanley explain that while construction costs were roughly 4% higher to meet this goal, the university will see a quick payback in a reduction of maintenance, operations, and electricity costs.

But there are ways for schools to start small. Making climate-friendly investments can be as simple as offering bike-sharing on campus, recycling batteries, and operating electricity-powered buses, they note (Javorsky, CityLab, 8/8; Johnson/Stanley, Chronicle of Higher Education, 8/7; Second Nature site, accessed 8/9). 

Keep reading: Colleges find millions in savings from going green

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