With the recent IPCC report release came worldwide shock and anxiety. The report acknowledges and accepts the long-standing scientific consensus that climate change is real and humans are causing it. It builds upon this conclusion. The report states that we most likely only have until 2030 to completely change our consumption, production and emissions in order to avoid climate disaster. Harmful effects of climate change are already happening around the world, and in as little as 12 years, we will exceed global temperature warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. As this threshold is passed, these effects will increase and intensify if we carry on with “business as usual.” Even half a degree of warming will put hundreds of millions of people at risk of intense drought, floods and heat. These environmental crises will create social, political and humanitarian crises if we don’t act now.
The radical changes necessary for avoiding climate disaster will take cooperation of nations across the world and political will from their citizens. However, in the U.S., one of the climate’s worst offenders, political will is severely lacking as our current administration under President Trump is dismantling many environmental regulations and laws, the EPA, and has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was an international agreement to mitigate climate change and emissions. As students and citizens of the U.S., we must hold our government accountable at all levels: local, state and federal. We can start by holding our university accountable for climate action while also taking our own individual steps.
Currently, Appalachian State University’s renewable energy systems make up only 0.5 percent of our energy resources. The other 99.5 percent comes from New River Light and Power, and is mostly through coal and nuclear power. As a university that prides itself and continuously markets itself as a “green” and “sustainable” campus, this is nothing short of unacceptable and downright embarrassing. This is insulting to the excessive amounts of ratings and awards we have won for this “sustainability” label. If we truly want to live out our sustainable identity, Appalachian State’s administration must admit this hypocrisy and divest from fossil fuels. Heavy investments in renewables must be made in the coming years. Although the university has taken steps and installed some renewable sources, they are not enough. The report demands that action is time sensitive and must be radical. Our university must listen to this and completely separate itself from the regional energy grid and become 100 percent renewable in the coming decade. We simply do not have time to waste and must make these drastic changes now. We have the perfect opportunity to make all new construction projects completely renewable, and we can work within our existing infrastructure to change their energy sources.
Currently, Appalachian State sources almost 30 percent of its food locally. We applaud the university for prioritizing and recognizing the importance of local food systems. However, should it be possible, we encourage the university to increase its local food supply to at least 50 percent in the next 5 years. Local food systems are some of the most sustainable, earth-friendly practices and also boost the local economy. The university can and should continue to be a model for localizing food systems. We must increase our imports of local food into the dining systems.
As students of Appalachian State, it can be very hard to come out of our Boone bubble and participate in action. However, we have compiled a list of things students can do right away to address the climate crisis.
Until the U.S. and the university take action against climate change, here’s what you can do as a student:
1. Join the ASU Climate Movement, which was formed in response to this report.
2. Join other on-campus efforts like the Renewable Energy Initiative, Office of Sustainability and even take courses in sustainability.
3. Hold the university accountable: Demand climate action from the administration: confront them through letters, petitions, protest, and demonstrations. Encourage divestment from fossil fuels and investment into renewables.
4. Hold your elected officials accountable. Canvass, make phone calls, write letters and VOTE for climate-friendly representatives policies/regulations/etc. Be an active participant in the political system.
5. Be conscious of all of your consumption, and how you are participating in the economy, and how that is contributing to climate change; think about your actions. For example, reduce your consumption of meat, especially beef. Studies show that the meat industry is highly polluting, highly resource-intensive and environmentally harmful. It is one of the leading causes for greenhouse gas emissions as well as other pollutants in the atmosphere. Start with Meatless Mondays, and go from there.
Although the brunt of climate change is not put on the individual, and we are not responsible for climate change fully, it is people’s actions, consumptive patterns and the way our society is shaped that must be assessed and changed. Do your part to lessen the damage. If we all take an individual action, it becomes a collective action, which is what has an impact and is what we need for change. Complacency is not an option. The climate crisis is avoidable, but only if we make radical change in our societies and governments, as well as our individual lives.
Written by: Emma Start & LuAnn Nesbitt, junior sustainable development majors