Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, November 14, 2018

If the government won’t lead on climate change, AU can

AU pushes for greater divestment in fossil fuels and an environmentally friendly campus

If the government won’t lead on climate change, AU can

In the past year, we have seen hurricanes and earthquakes take the lives of people from all over the world. What significant change in policy has the U.S. made regarding these ever increasing concerns? The answer: pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, defunding federal programs for climate regulations and claiming science is fake.

The United States government needs to become directly involved on climate change. It should allow other countries like Norway and Switzerland to lead the way. To reiterate some of my previous articles, coastal cities in a few years could become completely submerged in water. It is in the best interest of the U.S. to tackle this very urgent threat.

If the U.S. won’t make climate change a priority, it is even more important and immediate for our university to invest in the environment. It’s also crucial that we understand how our small activities affect the overall picture.

AU has a goal of becoming completely carbon neutral by 2020, according to its website. For example, the University produces some of its own energy with a solar photovoltaic array on top of the School of International Service building. Investing in technology like this is also a great way to advertise domestically and internationally that the University -- despite the government’s wishes -- wants to lead on climate change.

However, the University’s goal of carbon neutrality is unrealistic and a complete facade because even if the university becomes carbon neutral they can buy carbon credits to still emit carbon into the air. How this works is the school is allowed to emit a certain amount of carbon and then offsets it by paying for a set amount of credits giving them permission to pollute the environment because they paid for it. Despite claiming such a heavy goal, the school doesn’t intend to act on this unless something important forces it to.

“If something affects its public image, then AU will react,” said Lauren Peressini, a senior in Fossil Free AU, a group that encourages the University to divest from fossil fuels. “But, not for the benefit of the students.”

With our previous presidents, the school has had a more reactionary response to climate change versus a proactive response to climate change, according to Peressini.

President Burwell has allowed for a new wave of hope for climate change policy to flow through our school. In 2014, Fossil Free AU ran a student referendum where students voted in favor of divestment from fossil fuels. This policy was then presented to the Board of Trustees who completely rejected it.

However, with a new and more progressive president, Peressini remains optimistic about the goals of a more environmentally friendly campus.

Think Progress recently released an article that showed that investing in fossil fuels is no longer more profitable than investing in green energy. So, any financial excuses -- not having the funds to support divestment and not profiting from divestment- the school has about not divesting in fossil fuels are false.

“Investing in fossil fuels is irresponsible,” Peressini said.

Change is scary, However, we, as a species, are in desperate need for change as we move into a scary age with climate change becoming a daily fear. Let’s strive for a better and environmentally friendlier campus that fosters positive growth and development. The benefits outweigh the costs because our planet will be healthier and live longer.

Arushi Gupta is a freshman in the School of International Service. She is a staff columnist at The Eagle.

agupta@theeagleonline.com


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