Climate change is currently one of the biggest threats to the health and well-being of the planet. According to evidence published by the CDC, EPA and other scientific agencies, we are experiencing a rise in global temperature that can be attributed to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Some of the impacts of global warming include melting glaciers, rising sea levels, droughts and changes in wind patterns and rainfall resulting in stronger storms. In addition to the loss of life and property caused by catastrophic storms, climate change poses the threat of widespread famine.
Although climate change is a hot topic in the media and scientific community, it’s not often discussed in politics, including the recent presidential elections. This was most likely because it is still highly controversial. There are climate change skeptics who argue against scientific evidence or economists who worry about the effects from drastic regulations. As members of the academic community, college students are more likely to understand the scientific methods used to identify the causes of climate change and less likely to be climate change skeptics.
Young adults are major stakeholders when it comes to global warming since they will inherit the future impact of climate change. Rather than waiting for our nation’s leaders to address the devastating consequences of climate change, college students are raising their voices to bring the issue to the forefront of the nation’s attention.
According to The New York Times, coal, oil and gas stocks make up a significant portion of the investment portfolios of most university endowments. On many U.S. college campuses students have hoped to force climate change back into the national spotlight by asking their schools to divest their fossil fuel holdings.
Since its inception two years ago, the divestment movement has grown to include more than 200 schools. This isn’t the first time that college students are demanding that their schools use their investments to send a message — in the 1980s, students successfully pressured many colleges to stop investing in companies doing business in South Africa while it was under apartheid. Global economic pressure on South Africa eventually helped defeat the whites-only system of South African government.
Besides lobbying for divestment, college students are also urging administrators to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus. Many schools are cutting energy consumption and investing in solar power and other alternative energy sources as well as instituting measures to reduce waste and increase recycling. In addition to these major initiatives, bikesharing programs and online courses, (both of which reduce students’ dependence on fossil-fuel burning vehicles), are also contributors to the greening of college campuses.
Another important way the college campuses can address climate change is to make it part of the academic curriculum. When students in every discipline know the facts about climate change and sustainability, they are prepared to address the environmental challenges of the future.
Sarah Fudin works as the Inbound Marketing Manager for the George Washington University’s online Masters degree in Public Health program; which provides the opportunity for students to earn their online MPH degree through GW’s new innovative online platform. In her free time, Sarah enjoys running, reading and 16 Handles frozen yogurt. Follow her on twitter @sarahfudin.