The Truth is Powerful

Preparing for a Crisis

Colleges have made progress on building climate sustainability. Now they’re looking to build climate resilience. Philip Pacheco/Getty Images

Across the country, many universities are taking a close look at sustainability on their campuses. They are recycling, cutting emissions and changing their purchases.

But fewer institutions are choosing to prepare for the real oncoming effects of climate change, even though some degree of warming is — at this point — irreversible.

“Even if we were to stop emissions tomorrow completely around the world — every coal power plant and every petrol car stops running — the latent warming in the system will already keep ticking along for a significant period of time. Ice caps will keep melting for hundreds of years,” said Alexei Trundle, a research fellow in sustainable urban development at the University of Melbourne. “And the reality is we’re not going to stop right now.”

In 2018, Trundle and his then-colleagues at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia surveyed 45 higher education institutions globally, finding that work around climate adaptation was much less popular than work around climate mitigation. The work that was being done toward resilience was still in the beginning stages at most institutions.

“Even for long-standing institutions, it’s […]

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