Home » Sections » Opinions » Universities should counter threats of climate change

Universities should counter threats of climate change

By Katarina Weessies

Section: Opinions

April 8, 2016

New England’s recent bizarre weather patterns have sent anxieties about climate change into high gear. These anxieties are especially apparent at colleges and universities, where the bulk of discussions about climate change are taking place. The environmentally conscious population is beginning to seriously wonder how climate change will affect their daily lives in the near future. Unfortunately, it has so far proven impossible to reliably determine the exact effects of climate change.

The role of climate change in the recent shifts in weather is undetermined, and it is difficult to tell if climate change might impact our lives in the very near future. There have been myriad meticulously researched and composed predictions about the exact effects of climate change and the timing with which these effects might manifest. Despite the enormous volume of research, the scientific community has not come to anything resembling a consensus about the exact future of climate change.

However, the mere existence of climate change is inarguable. It is certain that something will happen to the climate as a result of some combination of human intervention and natural shifts in large-scale weather patterns. Our certainty about the existence of climate change, combined with our general uncertainty about its effects, leaves the environmentally conscious community with a sense of ominous unpredictability. We have to prepare for something, but we don’t know what. For universities, it might be especially difficult to effectively prepare for climate change. This is because thousands of people are dependent on universities for housing, food and other basic needs. Universities, which function as the provider of essentials for many students, will have to be especially proactive in developing a strategy for dealing with climate change.

An effective university Climate Change Strategy is two-pronged: It involves some programs that fight climate change and others that cope with its effects. Since the effects of climate change are incredibly difficult to predict, the “coping” aspect of a Climate Change Strategy is difficult to compose. Most likely, universities will have to develop better systems for dealing with unpredictable and harsh weather. In the more distant future (though it’s arguable just how distant this future is), some universities might have to relocate inland or move to more moderate climate zones.

In terms of actually fighting climate change, the task of universities is far less ambiguous. Most universities have introduced sustainability programs in order to slow the progression of climate change. For many universities, these programs include gradual switches to solar or wind power, increased use of recycling and composting and resource demand reduction campaigns.

Brandeis’ sustainability programs are relatively lax. The administration’s sustainability campaign is most obviously manifest in the increased availability of recycling bins and in the “Turn it Off” electricity demand reduction campaign. Both of these programs put the impetus for sustainability on students. Brandeis’s administration is relatively unfocused on sustainability, but many Brandeis students are determined to make sustainability an important goal for the administration.

The Brandeis Campaign to Divest from Fossil Fuels has garnered incredible popularity among Brandeis students and faculty. The Student Union elects a Sustainability Chair. Environmentally conscious Brandeis students work together to function as watchdogs in terms of sustainability on campus. Given the student body’s aggressive campaigning for increased environmental consciousness among administration, it is likely that sustainability will become an important goal for Brandeis in the future.

That being said, it is important that we develop programs not only to fight climate change, but to mitigate the impact of climate change’s effects on the student body. As weather patterns are altered by climate change, universities might have to make changes to the way in which their schools are run. Hopefully, once climate change begins to have a more significant impact on the lives of students, universities will be ready.

Menu Title