Universities Need to Work to Reduce Climate Change

WSN Editorial Board

A report published by The New York Times Wednesday found that spring has come well before March 20 — the expected first day of the season in the 2017 calendar year. In a similar report released in early January, The Times announced that the Earth reached record high temperatures in 2016 after three consecutive years of record-breaking temperatures. Yet in the wake of these clear indications of global climate change, Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, denied Thursday that the primary contributor to global warming is carbon dioxide emissions. By doing so he has slandered the substantial evidence of the scientific community and diverted attention away from crucial efforts needed to alleviate the effects of this alarming issue. In light of such governmental negligence, it has become increasingly important for the fight against climate change to continue in local communities like college campuses.

New York City had an average increase in temperature of 2.2°F during 2016. While the NYU community has acknowledged the need for action against climate change in New York and on a global scale through NYU Divest — a student organization that has called upon the board of trustees to divest from fossil fuel companies — the university itself has yet to announce any action for climate change efforts. Instead, the university has encouraged discussion with its upcoming Climate Action Conference, which is a step in the right direction but not enough to combat increasing temperatures and public denial.

In a Los Angeles Times editorial, Stanford University professor Frank Wolak proposed an alternative plan for universities to reduce campus greenhouse-gas emissions. Wolak claims that rather than requesting for divestment from fossil fuel companies, it is more effective to impose a campus carbon tax. Through similar efforts, Harvard University announced the successful outcome of its emission reduction endeavors by installing renewable energy technology on campus. In doing so, it saw a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2016.

Scott Pruitt’s claim that “we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis” undermines the scientific consensus that modern climate change is a man-made phenomenon. Just as it is untrue to insinuate that the jury is still out on vaccinations, it is criminally irresponsible for the man in charge of protecting the environment to come out with such a wishy-washy, misleading statement. What the proposals from other universities illustrate is that there is no short supply of viable energy alternatives. Sustainable energy alternatives are, in this day and age, no longer optional for major institutions; they are an obligation if we hope to mitigate the effects of global climate change.

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