Rutgers professors co-sign 'climate emergency' report

<p>University President Robert L. Barchi announced the formation of the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience in September, which will research environmental solutions that could be implemented at Rutgers.</p>

University President Robert L. Barchi announced the formation of the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience in September, which will research environmental solutions that could be implemented at Rutgers.


A “climate emergency” has been declared in a new report signed by 11,258 academics from around the world, including two professors from Rutgers University, according to an article in The Washington Post

Michael Lahr, a research professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Judith Weis, professor emerita of biological sciences at Rutgers—Newark, signed the report, which stated that human activity is resulting in rising atmospheric and oceanic temperatures. 

The report cited increases in population and greenhouse gas emissions as well as deforestation, economic trends and the meat industry as factors contributing to climate change, according to the article.

Climate activists have been using the term “climate emergency” for a while, but large institutions, such as the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have refrained from using such strong language, according to the article. The report is the first scientific document to use this label and stated that the world must address climate change with more urgency. 

“Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament,” the report stated, according to the article. 

The report cited six policy goals to combat climate change, including the end of fossil fuel extraction in favor of renewable energy, minimizing emissions from short-lived pollutants like methane and focusing on carbon-absorbing agricultural practices. The other goals focus on reducing inequality, conserving biodiversity and implementing human rights measures to help stabilize the increasing global population, according to the article. 

Lahr said that the University should focus on educating students about climate change, which could result in research and technological advancements that would facilitate these goals.

“One thing that could happen at (Rutgers) that would affect both faculty and students would be an upswell of demand (for) courses pertaining to the subject matter,” Lahr said. “This would enhance the body of knowledge on the subject among New Jersey citizens as well as develop a new generation of prime researchers.”

New Jersey has already announced legislation to move away from fossil fuel usage, and Lahr said Rutgers students could capitalize on this by developing technological improvements for renewable energy sources. 

Weis said Rutgers has opportunities for improving its approach to climate change, since the University does not place in the Sierra Club’s top 20 environmentally-conscious schools.

“I am pleased about the solar panels around many of the (Rutgers University一New Brunswick) parking lots — that's great — but they must do more,” Weis said. “Any new buildings should meet (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and use minimal energy. Existing buildings need more efficient and ‘green’ energy.” 

University President Robert L. Barchi announced the formation of the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience in September, which will research environmental solutions that could be implemented at Rutgers.

“The committee will be responsible for recommendations across the scope of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, including carbon emissions, sources of energy, institutional practices, facilities, transportation and behavioral change. Its work will consider greenhouse gas emission reductions at all university locations,” Barchi said in a statement

The committee is expected to report its findings to Barchi in the Spring 2020 semester. 

Although they mainly called for large changes at the institutional level, both Lahr and Weis said students should modify their own habits as well. They said reducing energy consumption or using public transport are small changes that individuals can easily implement.

“I hope (the report) wakes up all the students, faculty and administrators to the urgency of the problem,” Weis said. “It's not something coming in 50 years — it's here now and it's vital to slow it down or stop it if possible before the planet becomes inhospitable to life.”


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