Each year higher education produces millions of metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG). As research and study abroad programs span the globe, faculty and staff travel regularly to professional meetings. Colleges compete for prospective students and offer state-of-the-art technology, entertainment, food services, and other high-impact facilities. Universities that market a comfortable, stimulating campus in order to attract and retain talent may resist carbon budgeting, as combustion of dirty fossil fuels currently remains vital to the operation of most campus buildings, sport fields, and labs.
Universities are integral to climate science knowledge production. Nevertheless, policymakers in many academic institutions appear unaware of important contributions from climate scholars, even those within their campus community. Experts have called for rapid and significant reduction in GHGs to mitigate the devastating effects of climate-related food insecurity, war and conflict, forced migration, economic loss, water shortages, biodiversity loss, polar and glacial ice melt, sea level rise, and ocean acidification. Higher education professionals show they are ill-prepared for climate governance when climate change science does not influence policy or action. In particular, transition away from high carbon-emitting energy sources such as coal and oil is essential to limit climate disruption (Hansen et al. 2013). Multiple pathways for energy transition are increasingly part of ongoing debates on college campuses. Paradoxically, scholarly research assessing fossil fuel divestment remains scant, suggesting an urgent need for comprehensive data collection and analysis.
Copyright © 2016 Human Geography. This article first appeared in Human Geography 9:1 (2016), 83-87.
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Finley-Brook, Mary, and Alex Krass. "Higher Ed's Carbon Addiction." Human Geography 9, no. 1 (2016): 83-87.