What is Climate Change and How Colleges Affect It

01 Sep 2020

Climate change is one of the most discussed topics these days. All the media shout that people should be more attentive to our planet, otherwise it will end up with catastrophic consequences.

Experts believe the industrial revolution was the turning point. It created a new model of production and consumption. Since then, the number of people, the use of resources, the demand for fuel has been increasing. This caused an increase in the global temperature of the planet.

In turn, this endangers the continued existence of the Earth: flora, fauna, and people. Evidence of this can be found around us: severe weather events, fires, extinction of animal and plant species, melting of glaciers, and the sea level rising. Today, it is impossible to say for sure how many years our planet will simply destroy itself. This is why activists are attracting so much attention to climate change issues. 

There is great hope that the new generation will change everything.

Let's look at the major challenges of today and ways to help college students overcome them.

Why Should Everyone Care About Climate Change

There is an opinion that the ongoing changes are not something that should worry us. Many people claim that our planet has been around for millions of years and has the skills of self-regulation.

On the other hand, the forecasts of scientists are disappointing. There is a risk that some continents will simply disappear. The extinction of animals, fish, plants also has an impact on the quality of life. Our generation is already facing abnormal fires and droughts. Our children will have much bigger problems to deal with if we don't slow down the pace of changes, of course.

You need clean water

Have you ever wondered how many people live with severe water shortages? 2 out of 3 people in the world! This is an incredible amount. And once the global temperature rises slightly, the rainfall pattern changes. Soon each of us may feel the lack of clean water. Convincing enough?

You need clean air

The changes we are talking about affect not only water but air as well. Anthropogenic emissions into the atmosphere are one of the reasons for the development of asthma, lung, and heart diseases. Take a look at how people live in Beijing and think about how dirty the air is in your city.

You need animals

Dinosaurs became extinct long before our birth, but right now there are many species of animals that are threatened with extinction. Leopards, polar bears, and turtles are wonderful living things that deserve a comfortable living environment.

You need other people

You can read this text from a developed country that is well protected. So far protected. But some people live in completely different conditions. They fight for survival every day. They cannot access food and water. Hurricanes and floods are destroying their homes. Within a few years, this may happen to your country. Nobody is protected enough these days. 

You need your children

Giving birth to children, we want to provide them with a comfortable and happy life. The next generation will face much greater challenges. And the generation of their children may not be born. There are very pessimistic forecasts regarding this. Caring for the environment and climate action now, you are laying the platform for the people who will live on this planet after you.

Factors that Affect Climate Change 

Several factors have a huge impact on the environment:

  • Strength of the Sun;
  • Changes in the Earth’s orbit;
  • Changes in the orientation of the Earth’s axis of rotation;
  • Quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere;
  • Carbon dioxide content of the oceans;
  • Plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions;
  • Ocean currents;
  • Vegetation coverage on the land;
  • Meteorite impacts.

It is important to understand that all of these factors are hazardous to the climate. But what is even more dangerous is their interaction with each other. For example, when the amount of CO2 increases, the planet's temperature rises. The waters of the world's oceans are warming along with this. And this, in turn, leads to an even greater release of CO2 into the atmosphere. It is a vicious circle where every link in the chain matters.

What Can You Do to Make Life Greener

Use public transport, a bicycle or your feet

Transport means has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. You can opt-out of your private gas car in favor of walking, cycling, or public transportation. You can also vote for a politician who opposes cars that pollute the city. Electrocars are a nice modern alternative option as well.

Save energy

  • Don’t dry your washed laundry with an electric dryer’
  • Set the heating thermostat to a lower switch-on temperature’
  • Install thermal insulation in the attic and under the roof to reduce heat loss during winter;
  • Unplug electrical appliances that you are not using at the time;
  • Consider installing energy-efficient systems such as a solar water heater.

Reduce meat in your diet

Meat production entails significantly larger greenhouse gas emissions than chicken production, vegetables, fruits, and cereals. Reduce your meat intake in favor of fruits and vegetables. If this is difficult to achieve, try to join Meatless Monday or choose another day to change your diet gradually.

It is also worth reducing the consumption of dairy products, the production and transportation of which is accompanied by significant carbon dioxide emissions.

Try to get local and seasonal foods and cut down on the amount of food you waste.

Recycle, use recyclable materials

You hear constantly about the importance of collecting household waste. But the transportation and processing of such waste are accompanied by the release of large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Recycling of waste leads to a reduction in energy consumption, but it would be even better to reuse products or reduce consumption.

Inform and teach

There is a need to spread the widest possible knowledge of climate change and what it brings with it. If you have useful information, share it with other people. No need to impose your point of view and get angry if someone does not share your position yet. Be the example.

What do We Know about Students Green Activism

Most people learn about green student activism from the news. Greta Turnberg has made a splash around the world by drawing attention to environmental issues and the responsibilities of each of us.

Behind these loud strikes, there is a daily work of a huge number of people who are not so famous. Students and youth organizations, scientists, researchers are constantly working to save the planet. 

Green Students Organizations

International Student Environmental Coalition

Student Environmental Coalition or SEC is an international network helping students fight for climate justice. The organization seeks to unite youth to fight for a common goal. It mobilizes students to work with the misconception that change is entirely up to governments. Representatives of more than 30 countries support various projects aimed at developing a sustainable future.

Green Schools Project

The mission of Project Green Schools is the development of young environmental leaders. The creators of the project believe that knowledge about STEM, energy, the environment will help students get more opportunities for a meaningful life and a successful career. Community members, whether they are individuals, classes, or clubs, run fundraising events, organize projects, work in teams. They participate in webinars and national events, receiving awards for activism and the opportunity to continue their activities through scholarships and grants.

EcoReps

EcoReps is an organization affiliated with the University of Washington. It implements green ideas and projects such as:

  • Green Husky Market;
  • Clothing Swap;
  • Sustainability in the Arts;
  • 3D Bin Displays;
  • Fundraising.

The organization has partnered with the UW Environment Program to earn credits for project work. Students develop their leadership skills working in different teams for 1-5 hours per week. 

UChicago Climate Action Network

UChicago Climate Action Network is a youth coalition that fights political decisions about fossil fuel consumption, environmental, and climate injustice. Students join political campaigns to pressure community leaders and elected officials.

Sustainable UMD

The University of Maryland has several student organizations such as Sustainable Ocean Alliance, Pollinaterps, etc. University students have developed a Climate Change Action Plan and have already achieved many goals. For example, they created an additional course to educate minors on sustainable development, minimize solid waste emissions, and increase passengers' proportion using alternative modes of transport. The university also hosts the Food Recovery Network, a community that campaigns against hunger and food waste in America.

What Colleges Do to Prevent Climate Change

It cannot be denied that the greatest harm to our planet is caused by large corporations, as well as by political decisions. For example, the share of the light industry in CO2 emissions is higher than that of aviation and shipping combined. Because of this, environmental skeptics have little faith in student projects aimed at developing a conscious society.

However, Greta Turnberg and her friends seem to know what they are doing. Small steps even at local levels are gradually changing the world for the better. Here's what colleges and students can do to prevent climate change:

Recycle

Recycling is the easiest way to contribute to the fight against climate change. There are a lot of information materials today to help you create your one and inform people. Your community can organize a college-based recycling club, as well as take care of surrounding areas.

Such institutions as Valencia College, College of the Atlantic, Kalamazoo College, and many others don’t pass up many opportunities to recycle. For example, the Georgia Institute of Technology even has the Game Day Recycling that involves a lot of football fans.


Housing

Penn State architecture and engineering students help create affordable and sustainable housing. It goes about the construction of greenhouses for college families. They also have more than 100 water refilling stations around campus. 

Living in Harvard University Housing, students can expect green and clean laundry, temperature comfort, tap water, a large assortment of good food choices, etc. 

And the University of Louisville’s Garden Commons has its campus garden, with the harvest available to all students and staff members.


Environmental degrees

Lack of knowledge is what prevents humanity from making significant progress. Fortunately, there are more and more amazing educational programs about ecology, agriculture, and conservation of natural resources today. With funding from the state and private investors, colleges attract applicants dreaming about bright and useful career. You can pursue a degree at the Stanford University, Rice University, Middlebury College, Bowdoin College, etc.


Events

Such events like Meatless Monday at the Franklin&Marshal College or Climate Week at the University of Buffalo are a great idea to engage more students. Institutions organize local events, share information, and implement new habits using a bit of humor.


Alternative transportation

Another important step that your college can take is the emphasis on alternative transportation. The transport sector is responsible for a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Why not take care of a university campus with space for bicycles and walking only? Or at least car sharing. Such opportunities are common for the North Central College, Merrimack College, Wenatchee Valley College, etc.


Going green

It is a good idea to start with recycling or find a grant for the students. But there are a few colleges that show a good example by choosing the eco-approach. For example, you can apply for an environment-related degree at Sterling College in Vermont. But that’s not all. They divested its endowment from fossil fuel extractors, set solar trackers, and provided their students with sustainable and humane food. There is no way the local youth will have other options except green activism. 

Top 10 USA Greenest Universities 

Sierra Club,  an American environmental organization with over 500,000 members, has developed a list of the greenest universities in the US. Working on the ranking, analysts took into account a number of sustainable practices, research, and programs offered by universities. They also considered total emissions, energy consumption, nutritional options, water resources, opportunities for cyclists, etc.

Top 10 greenest universities in the U.S.:

  1. The University of California, Irvine is working on climate protection, energy management, construction of green buildings, and other aspects to create and maintain the sustainable campus.
  2. The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has a student club that is implementing and managing green initiatives. Students reduce waste, while teachers provide hands-on training and learning opportunities on sustainability.
  3. The University of New Hampshire is located in the state that is famous for conservation and environmental awareness. That’s why the University is home to the nation’s oldest endowed sustainability major, and it is only one of plenty of green directions it follows.  
  4. The University of California, Merced is a leader in green building, the practice of designing, constructing and operating buildings to minimize resource use and environmental impact;
  5. Colby College has a comprehensive set of green building and landscape standards for all new construction and renovation projects. It takes care of transportation, green purchasing, and cleaning, water, and wastewater, etc.
  6. Middlebury College has announced a plan of activities against climate change. They implement campus action, endowment management, and educational initiatives;
  7. Colorado State University is going to power its campus on 100% renewable energy by 2030. It also runs different sustainability initiatives.
  8. Arizona State University expands its on-campus solar arrays and wind turbines to increase its ability to create its own energy that is about 25% right now. 
  9. Sterling College has an environmentally focused curriculum, that’s why everything here is ecological-friendly. Students eat, breathe and study green thinking and activities;
  10. Dickinson College’s green efforts earn consistent national recognition. For example, it has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% in the next 10 years. They also aim for a minimum of LEED Silver certification, spend half of the food budget at local items, offer free bikes, and so on. 

5 Resources to Find More Information on Climate Change

  1. Nature Climate Change Journal is a monthly publication containing the latest news on climate change. Here you will find opinions, analytical, and review articles from leading experts in ecology, as well as new developments and scientific research.
  2. Skeptical Science. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about climate change. This website helps to understand which of them are senseless and which are worth considering. 
  3. Hot Mess is a platform with a web series about the most common environmental issues. It is produced by PBS Digital Studios to provide people with useful advice on how they can address each aspect of climate change.
  4. Climate Interactive Blog is focused on learning from experience. Here you will find news from international projects, analysis of various eco ideas, expert analytics, and practical actionable advice.
  5. Green Choices. It is an amazing website for people who want to change their life approach. It is impossible to imagine the more content-rich platform because the authors have covered all the topics: waste&recycling, transportation, shopping, DIY, and even green funerals. If you still have some questions on how you can contribute, you’ll definitely find your answers here.

So What?

An indifferent attitude is the simplest approach one can choose. You can always say that you don't care and go about your business exclusively. But look around you: all these natural changes that you are suffering from are the work of humanity. We harm our planet every day.

In fact, it is not difficult to contribute. It could be a day without meat or a car, sorting out trash, or avoiding plastic. Every step you take is a small contribution to stopping climate change. To the future of our planet and our children. If you need more information, go for it: there are a lot of organizations that appreciate newbies and are always ready to help. Make the step and save the planet!