Climate Change and UVM

There is a growing political consensus that global climate change is one of the most significant environmental issues facing the world today, and that carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” from the burning of fossil fuels play a key role in changing the global climate. The scientific evidence has solidified to the point that global, national and regional political groups from the United Nations to the City of Burlington have committed to reducing their emissions of carbon dioxide.

Last fall, UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel joined more than 80 college and university presidents in the northeast U.S. by signing a pledge to support the climate goals of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. These goals include reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2010, and reducing the fossil fuel energy used at their campuses by 25% by 2012. The presidents committed to achieving these goals by reducing institutional energy use, educating students about the problem of global climate change and its solutions, and eventually shifting away from carbon intensive fuel sources to clean, renewable energy resources.

The UVM Environmental Council and its Climate Action Committee are now addressing the question “What does reducing greenhouse gas emissions mean at the practical level for UVM?”

The first step is to understand our present emissions. The Council’s 2002 report “Tracking UVM: Environmental Report Card 1990-2000” indicates that UVM’s greenhouse gas impact increased only 2% over the decade, as compared with an 11% increase nationwide. Major emission sources at UVM are heating (about 60%), transportation (20%), and electricity use (18%), The university’s emissions remained almost steady during the 1990s, despite a 23% increase in electricity use, due to cleaner and more efficient fuel on campus and cleaner sources of electricity purchased by the Burlington Electric Department.

The challenge we face at UVM is: Given the aggressive building program and population growth UVM is anticipating over the next several years, how can UVM reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2010?

One important piece of the solution will be the how well energy efficiency concerns are reflected in the design and construction of the new buildings. Another part of the solution will be improved operation and maintenance of our current buildings. Fortunately, the UVM Physical Plant Department has a decade-long record of successful energy conservation efforts.

A third key component of the UVM commitment is individual choice. Managing our daily habits to save energy can go a long way to helping UVM keep its pledge. For example, one of the Council’s current projects is a “No Idling” campaign. Inspired by the City of Burlington’s 10% Challenge campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the “No Idling” effort reminds drivers to turn off the car engines when they are not moving.

The Environmental Council is actively engaged in the regional and local conversation about global climate change. We will continue to work on this issue over the upcoming years, both to track UVM’s success at meeting our goals, and to identify ways to minimize this part of our environmental footprint. If you are interested in getting involved, contact Gioia Thompson, Environmental Coordinator, [email protected]

Resources-International Panel on Climate Change -Tracking UVM: Environmental Report Card 1990-2000 -Energy Efficiency Projects at UVM