Let’s Talk about Climate Change

Posted on: November 6th, 2013

By Aaron Durnbaugh
Director of Sustainability

Human-induced warming of the earth’s climate is the first time that a single species has changed this terrific blue marble in the Milky Way so absolutely that no part of the planet (except maybe some deep sea thermal vents) will go unscarred.  We have entered a new phase of geologic history.  Called the Anthropocene because it is a human-impacted epoch, it is both a crushing, suffocating, horrifying responsibility, but it’s also the ultimate test of what we can do.  We swell with pride when we think of the best a society can be (e.g. Apollo 11, sporting excellence at the Olympics or other movie plot line) and this might be our big script.

So what does this have to do with Social Justice?  Well, it is basically a choice between two futures; one where the climate warms, wealthy communities adapt and protect themselves from the dire-est impacts while countless others suffer the impacts of climate change including flooding, crop failure, starvation and thirst.  OR we could imagine another future, one where developing countries are supported through information exchanges and direct investments to make populations and their supporting natural and built infrastructure resilient and ready for climate change.  These are the climate adaptation paths in front of us.

But they’re not the only ones.  We need to also be walking on the climate mitigation path, too.  We need to be reducing our addition of carbon pollution to the atmosphere.   Loyola has been doing a great job in this regard.  With strategic infrastructure projects, modified operations and personal and institutional commitment to reducing carbon pollution, we have reduced the campuses’ climate footprint by over 13% since 2008.  When you consider this per student or per square foot it is closer to 20% reduction.  This is huge! But it’s not nearly enough.  We need to get serious about getting closer to zero carbon emissions.  We have lots of energy efficiency projects still to do.  We can generate clean energy on our campuses and signify our leadership on climate.  We can purchase energy from clean sources.  This is the test of how individuals, institutions and global humanity will respond to this challenge.

Either we address this as one of the social justice issues of our time, or we can pretend that we didn’t understand the importance and move on.  We will struggle and weigh the costs of action versus the impacts of inaction but isn’t that the conversation and debate we should be having?  Shouldn’t the debate be how to act in the most equitable and respectful manner in the face of limited resources?  Our carbon pollution, generated here in the United States but added to the global atmosphere, is what is causing this change in climate, the local impacts felt by the global poor.  As a community of conscience, we know our impact and we must accept our role.

If you’re interested in joining Loyola in this conversation, visit luc.edu/sustainability.

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