In an op-ed published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD and SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson issue a clarion call for higher education to leverage research, resources and minds to help avert catastrophic climate change.
The op-ed, titled “How to Help Combat Global Warming, Campus by Campus,” sets forth the responsibilities of higher ed institutions in light of sharp increases in extreme weather and climate-related events and the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Solutions to global warming must come from the country’s 334 research universities because, Stanley and Johnson write, “at no other place in the world do cross-disciplinary minds come together more consistently than on university campuses. … To be efficient, experts in myriad fields throughout academe must collaborate to mitigate the destructive effects of climate change.”
The article also highlights the need for universities to commit to their own sustainability efforts, beginning with their physical plants. SUNY’s success in this area is described:
“SUNY is just about there. Even with an increase of our building footprint — From 64 million square feet to 105 million square feet — we reduced our carbon emissions, nearing the state energy-plan goal of a 40-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels.”
While acknowledging the potentially disastrous dangers posed by climate change, Stanley and Johnson find much room for hope.
“The combination of student enthusiasm with professorial insight is a force to be reckoned with, particularly when fueled by the resources and facilities of a research institution,” they write. “Working together, our unique capacity for discovery, development, and transformation will be key to steering us all out of this current catastrophic path.”