Tuesday, November 24, 2015

UC Carbon Neutrality Summit- Bending the Curve

Chrissy Thomure, the Climate Action Manager at the Sustainability Office shares her experience at the UC Carbon Neutrality Summit.
It's not often that UC President Napolitano, Governor Jerry Brown, 50+ faculty and researchers, Nobel laureates, and business leaders get together in one place to focus on a topic.  But on October 26 & 27, these movers and shakers got together at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego to focus on one of the most critical issues facing society; climate change.

The latest science presented at the conference revealed that under the current “business as usual” practices, the planet is on target to exceed a 2 degrees Celsius increase relative to the pre-industrial average by 2050 and a 4 degrees Celsius increase by 2100, triggering serious large-scale problems including droughts, forest fires and sea level rise from 1.5–2 meters by the end of the century. Catastrophic climatic events are becoming more and more common, and are disproportionately affecting the world’s most vulnerable people.

Despite the stark facts that were presented, there was a sense of excitement and optimism in the air as we heard from the leaders of a committee of 50 academics and researchers from across UC’s 10 campuses who worked over the summer to develop a report recommending a set of actionable solutions for curbing climate change using existing technologies.  The report, called Bending the Curve, pulled together experts from a broad spectrum of fields ranging from climate science to ethics, economics, ecology, energy, environmental justice, political science and religion.  The Chair of the Committee, Veerabhadran "Ram" Ramanathan- who in 1975 discovered the greenhouse effect of chlorofluorocarbons in the Earth’s atmosphere- insists, “there is still time to mitigate the most disastrous of the predicted changes.”  Governor Brown iterated this point by saying, “The challenge for us is to imagine the likely extreme outcomes of climate change and take actions now to prevent it.”

Yes, this is a monumental challenge.  The encouraging thing is that it was apparent at this Summit that these leaders are not just “talking the talk” but are also “walking the walk.”  With the Carbon Neutrality Initiative announced by President Napolitano in 2013, the University of California pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025.  The state of California has its own ambitious climate targets: Reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels, shift California’s electricity production to at least 50 percent renewable sources, and increase building energy efficiency by 50 percent – all by 2030.  To learn more about UCSC’s commitment to climate action, click here

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