SU Takes Steps to Reduce Carbon Footprint
U.S. Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton made famous the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” If we apply that same rationale to environmental sustainability, many scientists, scholars and activists would say it’s going to take every village, in every nation, to save planet Earth as we know it.
Susquehanna University is just a small part of the global solution, but within the last two years, the university’s sustainability efforts have grown from infancy into adolescence with such projects as the Center for Environmental Education and Research, located on the former Yoder farm, and the LEED-certified science building and West Village housing complex. And in May, Susquehanna took a giant step toward environmentally conscious maturity with the adoption of a new strategic plan that makes sustainability one of the institution’s key priorities over the next five years. It was followed in September by the adoption of the Susquehanna University Climate Commitment, which outlines the steps the university will take to lower its total carbon emissions and reduce its release of other greenhouse gases (GHG).
Naysayers might question the reason for taking such steps. A simple Google search on the topic returns 1.4 million websites referencing the “global warming myth.” Skeptics included the late Frederick Seitz, president emeritus of Rockefeller University and former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Seitz, a recipient of the National Medal of Science and NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Award, endorsed—and even wrote the cover letter for—the Global Warming Petition Project. The initiative was started in 1997 by GOP congressional candidate Arthur B. Robinson, a controversial scientist who cofounded the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a nonprofit research institute. The petition, which resurfaced after the 2006 release of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, touts more than 31,000 signatories and urges the United States government to reject the Kyoto Protocol and similar proposals. It contends that “the proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.”
It goes on to say, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”
These contentions are flatly denied by a substantial portion of the science community. Some critics have even questioned the scientific qualifications and authenticity of the petition’s signatories. When the petition first emerged, the Council of the National Academy of Sciences adamantly denied any association with the petition and reaffirmed its position that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere poses a threat sufficient enough to prompt action. Since then, the academy has concluded that there is strong evidence of climate change, underscoring the need to reduce emissions and prepare for the impact of global warming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading body for climate change assessment, established by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization, has conducted four studies on global warming. In its most recent study, the panel concludes that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global sea level.” It further concludes that “most of the observed increase in temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human-caused) GHG concentrations.”