Energy is a complex issue that touches every aspect of campus operations. One of society's most pressing issues is directly connected to energy -- human-induced global warming, which is the result of enriching the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO
2). Born of concern for planetary health and campuses' obligation to address matters of social concern, university leaders have been called to action.
UMFK is one of more than 650 American colleges and universities to have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC, or Climate Commitment). The Climate Commitment carries with it an obligation to lead society in combating human-induced global warming through action and education that will result in the campus achieving "climate neutrality" by the middle of this century or sooner and educating citizens to take similar actions.
Motivated by abundant scientific evidence over decades of research from disciplines across the Academy, the ACUPCC Steering Committee offers the following questions and statements to guide institutional thinking on the scope of the climate commitment:
Why climate neutrality and why act now?
Re-stabilization of earth's climate is the defining challenge of the 21st century. The unprecedented scale and speed of global warming and its potential for large-scale, adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects threatens the viability of civilization. The scientific consensus is that society must reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 80% by mid-century at the latest to avert the worst impacts of global warming. [www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/about/commitment/faqs#1]
What is climate neutrality?
Operating with zero net fossil greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which may be achieved by minimizing GHG emissions as much as possible and by using carbon offsets or other measures to mitigate the remaining emissions. [www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/about/commitment/faqs#5]
What emissions sources are included?
Emissions produced through on-site combustion of fossil fuels; purchased electricity derived from fossil fuels; fossil fuel emissions generated through student, faculty, and staff commuting to and from the university; fossil fuel emissions generated through institution-related travel; and non-CO
2GHGs treated as CO
2e). As inventory methodologies develop and to the extent practical, participating institutions should also endeavor to evaluate GHGs embodied in purchased goods and services and generated through wastes. [www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/about/commitment/faqs#6]
As a signatory of the Climate Commitment, UMFK has agreed to submit periodic progress reports and to begin an action course. To date, UMFK has complied with the reporting requirements having submitted its first GHG emissions report. [http://acupcc.aashe.org/index.php?q=fort+kent&class=&state]
The next reporting due date is January 15, 2010, and includes the 2008/2009 emissions report and a Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP will serve as a roadmap to steer UMFK on the climate neutrality path. The immediate task is to provide scenarios that involve a combination of strategies that will: 1) reduce energy consumption; 2) maximize the percentage of renewable energy consumed; and 3) offset remaining GHGs. The CAP also will explore possible funding options, relevant education strategies, and timelines for meeting goals.
Reducing consumption involves conservation through behavior modification and efficiency improvements. Maximizing renewable energy use may involve buying energy directly from green sources and/or equipping the campus with green energy generation capabilities (e.g., biomass boilers or wind turbines). Carbon offsetting is encouraged as a last resort option and includes carbon capture measures, carbon trading, and purchasing green energy credits. Implementing the CAP may require innovative funding solutions such as the use of Power Purchase Agreements and government incentives.
Additional resources for understanding the Climate Commitment
- American College and University and Presidents Climate Commitment homepage
- Education for Climate Neutrality and Sustainability: Academic Guidance for ACUPCC Institutions
- Climate Planning for Campuses: A How To Guide
- Clean Air-Cool Planet on-line Campus Climate Action Toolkit
- Bookhart, Davis. 2008. "Strategies for Carbon Neutrality." Sustainability: The Journal of Record 1(1):34-40.
Resources for understanding human-induced global warming
- The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer Weart, originally published by Harvard University Press in 2003.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists Global Warming page.
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
- Global Warming Basics from the Pew Center and Recent Scientific Developments (in PDF).
- Top 10 things you should know about global warming.
Information resources on renewable energy
- "A Solar Grand Plan: By 2050 Solar Power Could End U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil and Slash Greenhouse Gas Emissions" by Ken Zweibel, James Mason, and Vasilis Fthenakis, 2008, Scientific American January.
- The importance of improving efficiencies by Sven Teske, Arthouros Zervos, and Oliver Schäfer. 2007. Energy [r]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook. Greenpeace International, European Renewable Energy Council, Stuttgart, Germany.