Interim Chancellor Hexter, UC leaders sign letter to urge action against climate change

NICKI PADAR / AGGIE
NICKI PADAR / AGGIE

250 institutions ask new administration to address challenges of climate change

Last month, Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter and other University of California (UC) leaders signed a letter urging President-elect Donald Trump and Congress to take action against climate change.

The letter, compiled by Boston-based nonprofit Second Nature, focuses on three main proposals. The first proposal asks for participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change, the second proposal asks for support for research in academic institutions and federal agencies and the third proposal asks for investments in the low carbon economy to help adapt to changing climate hazards.

The letter also emphasizes the importance of the government’s actions to influence current and future generations. It has been signed by 250 institutions and was sent to the incoming presidential administration on Jan. 13.

Timothy Carter, the president of Second Nature, explained that the group worked with a group of approximately 30 schools to craft and refine the letter in November. Several other institutions’ presidents and chancellors voluntarily submitted additional statements of support.

The intention of the letter was to provide a strong signal from the higher education sector that the sector values the Paris Agreement, thinks continued climate research is critical for informed decision-making and recognizes the importance of investments in a clean energy economy,” Carter said via e-mail.

Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, climate programs director for Second Nature, added that the higher education climate community voices its support for the three proposals as well as introduce the new administration and Congress to ongoing efforts.

“We have worked with the previous administration, so it’s important to introduce this […] during a time of transition,” Cohen-Rosenthal said via e-mail.

Carter and Cohen-Rosenthal expressed the importance of having a reference point for future policy conversations at all levels of government local, state and federal as well as providing the higher education community opportunities to partner with governments both nationally and internationally.

At UC Davis, students and faculty have been supportive of efforts to protect the environment and improve sustainability through education, research and initiatives. Professor Arnold Bloom, from the Department of Plant Sciences, expressed his approval of the effort to help influence policies of the new administration.

“Climate change is likely to become one of the most disruptive issues in the coming decades, and the steps outlined in the letter are critical for mitigating or adapting to such change,” Bloom said via e-mail.

According to Bloom, the campus offers courses about climate change, such as introductory course SAS 25. Bloom teaches a free online course as well. The environmental policy analysis and planning major recently initiated a climate change policy track where students can learn about climate policy, environmental economics and climate science.

Michael Bancroft, a fourth-year environmental science and management major, supports the UC leaders signing the letter.

It is very important that the UC system supports government action on climate change not only as representatives of leading environmental research institutions, but also partially as representatives of California, the state with the most legislative action on climate change in the U.S.,” Bancroft said via e-mail.

Similarly, Mayra Pelagio, a fourth-year environmental science and management major, said that it was important for the UC system to show support for the letter considering many of its campuses were leaders in research in green energy.

Pelagio and Bancroft feel that UC Davis offers many opportunities for its students to get involved in research and in environmental science more generally. There are on-campus clubs, the Green Initiative Fund and several professors who conduct research on climate change.

Both Pelagio and Bancroft also think that there is room for improvement, especially with regard to increasing environmental awareness. Bancroft believes that, while classes can provide a holistic view, it may be necessary to engage with the general population more frequently concerning current events and environmental policy.

“There are some students, for instance, that graduate without having an understanding of concepts such as climate change,” Pelagio said. “These issues should be taught to everyone, for us to be aware of our impact in the environment.”

 

Written by: Jayashri Padmanabhan — campus@theaggie.org