Temple signed the Climate Leadership Statement in April 2016, a statement that declared the university’s goal of maintaining carbon neutrality, meaning the university aims to have a net-zero carbon footprint, by 2050.
“For all greenhouse gas emissions, we’re going to offset them someplace else,” said Kathleen Grady, director of sustainability.
I am encouraged that Temple is working to support positive changes like this one, both for Main Campus and the environment as a whole, because climate change is a serious threat to our planet.
This threat is caused in part by the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon, which contributes to global warming and raises global temperatures, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a panel under the umbrella of the United Nations that studies the effects of human-induced climate change on the environment, found that if carbon emissions were to continue unchecked by reduction programs, the temperature of the Earth would rise two to three degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century.
With this short of a timeline, action needs to be taken promptly because such rapid increases in temperature can lead to the extinction of entire species and extreme changes in weather.
Jessica Miller, an assistant professor of geography and urban studies, said rising global temperatures would ultimately cause sea levels to rise as well, which directly affects human civilization.
“We talk about the potential for more desertification or for larger storm systems, different types of storm systems that move in as a result of climate change and warm water off the coast for instance,” Miller said.
These impacts on our planet are impending. And although Temple’s 2050 deadline may seem far away, Grady said it’s actually a pretty ambitious target date.
“I think that’s super soon. It’s a really aggressive date,” Grady said. “We are a massive institution. Our carbon neutrality is a lot more aggressive than some other universities.”
I’m glad administrators recognize the race against time our planet faces and realizes our institution can play a role in preventing further climate change.
Grady also said Temple will consider the environment in more ways than just achieving carbon neutrality, like increasing the use of renewable energy in buildings on Main Campus by retrofitting buildings to run efficiently on sustainable energy and constructing new buildings with highest LEED certifications, a status that determines how environmentally friendly a building is.
Temple’s plan focuses on both the shift to sustainable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions in other ways, like encouraging the use of bicycles and public transportation and limiting waste from water bottles and other trash. And it’s important that students look to contribute individually in these ways as well.
“I think the challenge here is that we need to, in order to make change at the level that we need to make change, we need to make institutional change,” Grady said. “We need to make individual change, and then we need to make change in the way we even think about how we make decisions and how we frame conservations.”
Climate change threatens our everyday life. Temple’s commitments to climate action, and specifically its goal of reducing carbon emissions, are good first steps to limiting our impact on the planet.
And ultimately, it’s up to us to follow through with Temple’s plan and commit to supporting our environment, too.
Zach Kocis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.