3 colleges join climate crusade
June 10, 2007
Deseret Morning News
By Wendy Leonard
Utah State University, Weber State University and Westminster College are joining forces with 270 other schools across the nation in an unprecedented move to set a goal of going climate neutral.
Presidents at the three institutions have added their signatures to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which will be released Tuesday. With their signatures, they have pledged their schools to a renewed dedication to the critical research and education needed to end global warming, which Westminster's President Michael S. Bassis calls "one of the defining challenges of the 21st century."
"Climate change has become a crisis that threatens our entire planet," he said. "In recognizing the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring at an alarming rate, I agree with the college and university presidents who have also signed the pledge that as higher-education leaders, we have a unique responsibility."
The commitment petition started circulating last year and is the largest such campaign by university presidents since World War II. Within the next year, the colleges and universities that signed the document have agreed to develop a plan of how they can help decrease emissions and create a better environment, as well as work on research initiatives to combat global warming.
"One of the things that was most appealing to us about this commitment is that many of the recommendations are consistent with how we already currently operate," said John Kowalewski, spokesman for Weber State University. He said that new buildings are always built in ways to reduce energy costs, and renovations are done to make existing buildings more energy-efficient.
Westminster College is working on its plan to achieve climate neutrality and has created a center for the environment on campus where students can participate in workshops and extracurricular activities that promote a healthy environment.
Laura Murphy, Westminster's spokeswoman, said the college encourages faculty and staff members to use alternative methods of transportation, and last year, the college signed an agreement with a local power company to use renewable energy sources. Solar panels are in the works for several buildings on campus to provide alternative power sources, and the grass on the college's playing field is artificial turf and requires no watering or pesticides.
In Logan, Utah State University has long taken part in the study of energy and land use as it relates to the environment. Students and faculty at the university have studied bio-fuels and the composition of pollution, which is closely related to the new focus on global warming, said spokesman John DeVilbiss.
"Most certainly our land-grant status as a university and our research endeavors pertaining to land, space and water places us in a natural role as stewards of the environment," he said. The university's president, Stan Albrecht, "is committed to marshaling university resources, ingenuity and creativity in helping to address the enormous issues and challenges associated with global climate change."
The school has formed a sustainability council which will address a plan for the future, and later this year, the university will be examined to determine what needs to be done to proceed toward climate-neutral status. Other goals the campus is looking at include recycling initiatives, air-quality concerns in the Cache Valley and protecting water as a critical resource.
The higher-education institutions' effort is modeled after the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. More information can be found at www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org.