UConn is driving global climate change. Can they also drive resilience? 

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On Monday, Oct. 24, University of Connecticut engineers led by President Radenka Maric met with a conference of industry leaders, policymakers and officials discussing improving New England energy grid resilience, or long-term functionality, against climate change and geopolitical instability. Photo by Christopher LaRosa/UConn Engineering.

On Monday, Oct. 24, University of Connecticut engineers led by President Radenka Maric met with a conference of industry leaders, policymakers and officials discussing improving New England energy grid resilience, or long-term functionality, against climate change and geopolitical instability.  

At this conference, UConn argued its research expertise would be critical to meeting the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection goals of grid resilience including implementing hydrogen energy, greater power electronics and a “circular grid” which allows the recycling of batteries, fuel cells and other grid components. By decreasing input and labor operating costs, such improvements would protect our grid from global supply fluctuations and local energy infrastructure failures caused by extreme weather events, political instabilities or “cybercrime” as noted in the UConn Today article.  

Many of the “renewable energies” potentially implemented to improve “resilience” are created using corrosive, environmentally destructive industrial practices and global supply chains which are nowhere near zero-carbon. Further, the research and education which UConn contributes to grid “resiliency” currently strongly depend on fossil fuel emissions on our campuses. Perhaps more importantly, UConn’s major industrial partners, the most important of whom contract for the United States military, are not on track to decarbonize.  

In a recent email to the UConn community, President Radenka Maric claimed she will “work with the state, the federal government, donors, industry and global partners to reduce UConn’s carbon footprint to carbon neutral by 2030.”  There is no accountability associated with one email from an administrator, and this is the best UConn has regarding a commitment to decarbonize. UConn is desperately in need of a publicly accountable, democratically elected commission committed to decarbonization through control over university expenditures and influence over the board of trustees. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nation’s highest scientific body assessing the risk of climate change. The “Summary For Policymakers” of the IPCC’s Working Group 2, Assessment Report Six concludes that “climate resilient development prospects are increasingly limited if current greenhouse gas emissions do not rapidly decline, especially if 1.5°C global warming is exceeded in the near-term.” A study released by the United Nations five days ago, Oct. 27 2022, finds that the earth is actually on track to reach 3°C global warming by the end of the century.  

A leaked draft of the IPCC AR6 Working Group Report, scrubbed of inflammatory language by the United Nations before final publication, in addition to demanding a global reorganization of production and consumption, also claimed that “life on earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems. Humans cannot.” 

Three degrees of global warming is a world without the possibility of resilience. It is a world with billions of climate refugees, global food and medicine runs and increasing military conflicts on every continent as a result of resource shortages. Spending time and resources augmenting fossil fuel grids with more batteries and recycling programs — while simultaneously contributing to this future of uncertain human survival — is either futile or deceptive.  

By driving global climate change, UConn and their partners create the demand for resilience technology which they may then conveniently provide. Rather than genuinely decarbonizing, UConn joins a policy status quo in the United States of maintaining lucrative and environmentally catastrophic industrial relationships, thereby focusing resources on short term solutions at the expense of long term survival.  

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