Universities aren’t doing enough for climate.
University leaders should be asking what actual climate action looks like
My university just announced that it has “begun the collaborative and consultative work to create [its] first institutional Sustainability and Climate Action Plan!” (Exclamatory emphasis theirs). If all goes according to plan, in 20 years we’ll have reduced our scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions by 166 kilotons. That’s about 0.2 percent of our state’s emissions, and 0.003 percent of the country’s.
It is 2023. You probably know the stats. CO2 in our air is at 421 ppm, up 50 percent since we started treating the atmosphere like a sewer. The planet has warmed at least 1.1 °C (1.9 °F).
But do you know the trends? In the last 30 years we have emitted more CO2 into the atmosphere than in the rest of human history. In 2022 alone, CO2 emissions from burning oil and coal increased 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, while annual government subsidies to fossil fuel corporations doubled, to $1.1 trillion. The trajectory of our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and their warming effects are indistinguishable from the no-policy, business-as-usual, avoid-at-all-costs, of-course-this-is-ridiculous-we-would-never worst-case scenario trends imagined for decades. The long-predicted effects of anthropogenic climate change are emerging with the dread of knowing we could have avoided them and the fear that we may fail to avoid much worse to come.