Editorial: UConn and other universities coalesce to combat climate change

If it wasn’t already the case, now UConn’s reputation as both an outspoken environmental advocate and a prestigious research university should be indisputable (Julie Spillane/The Daily Campus)

On September 11, 2018, Second Nature, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization oriented around climate action and awareness, announced UConn’s induction into the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3). As one of eighteen North American research universities in UC3 (nearby members include Boston University, The State University of New York (SUNY) and University of Maryland, College Park), The University of Connecticut further establishes itself as a leader for environmentally friendly initiatives.

According to Second Nature, UC3 aims “to foster a robust exchange of best practices and lessons learned in pursuit of accelerating local climate solutions that reduce greenhouse emissions and build community resilience.” Supplementing over a decade’s worth of progress, these universities will collaborate with their respective cities, states and nearby businesses, along with Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network (which UConn has joined also), to ensure proper action against climate change.

As UConn president Susan Herbst astutely notes, “research universities are uniquely qualified to address the myriad challenges of a problem as urgent and complex as climate change. We can lead not only by developing research, technology and policy to effectively curb carbon emissions and ameliorate the effects of climate change on our communities, but also by making sustainability a core component of our mission and identity”.

UConn faculty have expressed overwhelming support for this recent development. Dr. Anji Seth, geography professor and director of UConn’s Atmospheric Sciences Group, praises the merging of coalition members’ diverse focal points, acknowledging that their “expertise spans many disciplines, ranging from atmospheric and marine sciences, to biology, public health, engineering, political science, economics, and human rights.” Jim O’Donnell, marine sciences professor and executive director of UConn’s Connecticut Institute for Climate Resilience and Adaptation (CIRCA), claims that “dozens of faculty from four different colleges are working on CIRCA-sponsored projects, and UConn’s membership in UC3 will accelerate progress by further broadening interdisciplinary partnerships.” Students also have lauded UConn’s progressive mindset regarding environmental sustainability and avidly await UC3’s impact nationwide.

Although UC3 was formed merely seven months ago, the university-driven coalition can make significant headway locally and nationally and perhaps even reverse the negative precedent set last year by the United States’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. If it wasn’t already the case, now UConn’s reputation as both an outspoken environmental advocate and a prestigious research university should be indisputable.