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EDITORIAL: Rutgers' climate task force must be transparent

Openness would lead to improved perception of University

The Rutgers Climate Institute held its 14th annual Climate Symposium on Livingston campus on Wednesday, according to The Daily Targum

Climate change and Rutgers have an interesting dynamic. Earlier this month, a group of 11,258 academics declared that we are currently enduring a “climate emergency,” and among those academics were two Rutgers professors, according to the Targum.

Climate change has been a hot topic for a while, with its pertinence growing over the past couple of years. The Green New Deal, which was named after former President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era New Deal policies, has been introduced in the United States Congress as a way to potentially mitigate America’s environmentally harmful outputs. 

Regardless of your personal views on the economic efficiency and effectiveness of the policies outlined in the Green New Deal, the environmental prognosis the bill hopes to cure is a rather undeniable one: The climate is changing, and humans are certainly a major contributor to that change. 

Unrepentant human activities that fuel climate change are an issue for a multitude of reasons, more than can be listed in one article. 

Among the most concerning of these issues is rising sea levels, which arise from melting glacial ice. Southern Vietnam may be inaugurated into the Pacific Ocean, should we continue our current industrial practices, according to The New York Times.

Joining Southern Vietnam in this unfortunate fraternity are the cities — and economic powerhouses — of Shanghai, Mumbai, Alexandria and Basra. More startlingly, these devastating impacts are not centuries nor millennia away, but are projected to occur by 2050 — a mere three decades' time.

Climate change could — and has already begun to — devastate complex ecological communities. There are currently more animals on the endangered species list than ever before, according to Time Magazine. As all ecosystems are connected, liquidating entire swaths of animal species can, will and has led to harmful impacts for humans.

Justin Worland, writer of the Time Magazine piece, explained: “Biodiversity ensures that if one species goes extinct or leaves a particular region, another is there to take its place. Ultimately, the collapse of ecosystems can lead to even bigger problems like the worsening of climate change, due to the increased release of carbon dioxide.”

Worland highlighted that worsening climate change, which leads to more animals dying out due to suddenly uninhabitable climate, is an exponential process. If we kill off more animals, climate change will become worse, eventually wiping out more species. It is a positive feedback loop, and one that we should all be concerned about. 

Rutgers has apparently begun the process of becoming carbon neutral, according to the Targum: “University President Robert L. Barchi announced yesterday the creation of the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Carbon Resilience, which has been charged with the mission of developing a comprehensive climate action plan for the University to consider.”

Carbon neutrality, a self-explanatory term which asserts that the University will have a net-zero carbon footprint, is a crucial concept when fighting climate change. Simply put, carbon dioxide emissions, when released into the atmosphere, trap in heat from the sun. This leads to an overall warming of the atmosphere, which is the catalyst behind climate change — and the unfortunate scenarios highlighted prior.

University President Robert L. Barchi announced in his message announcing the task force: “I expect this task force to develop and recommend a plan for Rutgers to achieve carbon neutrality across our institution. The task force must first define carbon neutrality within the context of the University community. Then, it is tasked with outlining scenarios, timelines, and key benchmarks for achieving this goal on as rapid a timeframe as is possible.”

In that same message, Barchi boasted Rutgers’ prominent research in the field of climate change. 

There is no doubt that this a solid step forward for the University, but Barchi and his task force must take precautions and exercise due diligence when outlining the final product, as well as throughout the duration of the preliminary developmental stages.

Transparency is also key. As Barchi stated, Rutgers is home to renowned climate experts. If we as a school are open and transparent about our intentions, students and other academic institutions will be motivated to undertake climate initiatives as well. Additionally, it will make Rutgers look like an institution that follows the instruction of scientific research, rather than the typical directional agent of economic gain.

Barchi has a chance to leave a lasting legacy at Rutgers with his climate task force, and it is up to us as a University to hold Barchi accountable, and assure that this task force is developed intelligently and transparently.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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