Higher Education Climate Adaptation Committee


Committee Members | Overview | The Project

Areas of Exploration | Climate Adaptation Resources | Staff Support

Committee Members

Jim Buizer, Director for Climate Adaptation & International Development, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona

Julian Agyeman, Chair, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University

John M. Anderson, President, Alfred State College

Peter Bardaglio, Director, Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, former Provost Ithaca College

Sylvia Carey-Butler, Director, UNCF Enrollment Management Program

Lynne Carter, Associate Director, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program and Coastal Sustainability Studio, Louisiana State University

David A. Caruso, President, Antioch University New England

Tony Cortese, President, Second Nature

Elisabeth Hamin, Associate Professor of Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Nilda Mesa, Assistant Vice President for Environmental Stewardship, Columbia University

John Mills, President, Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences

John R. Nordgren, Senior Program Officer, Environment, The Kresge Foundation

Jonathan Overpeck, Co-Director, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona

John J. Sbrega, President, Bristol Community College

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Overview

With more and more evidence that the impacts of climate change are disrupting human and natural systems more quickly than suggested by early predictions, it has become clear that in addition to maintaining efforts to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions (“mitigation”), our society must develop strategies for adapting to those impacts of climate disruption that are now unavoidable (“adaptation”).

To date there has not been a concerted, collective effort to evaluate the role of the higher education sector in climate adaptation. Colleges and universities are often major institutions in their communities and have the potential to serve as climate adaptation hubs, developing the teaching, research, knowledge and skills needed to create resilient communities that will be able to thrive in an uncertain climate. In this way, addressing climate adaptation opens up significant opportunities for colleges and universities, including:

  1. Engage with their local communities and strengthen positive “town-gown” relationships
  2. Evaluate and address the direct risks to their operations, infrastructure and supply chains that climate disruption pose
  3. Serve as impartial, credible, legitimate sources of information about climate disruption (without the real or perceived economic or political motivations that corporations or politicians may bring to the issue)

The higher education sector has taken the lead on climate change mitigation, as evidenced through the more than 650 institutions that have signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), pledging to reduce, and eventually eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and provide the education, research and community engagement to enable the rest of society to do the same.

There is now a need and opportunity to work with ACUPCC institutions and other colleges and universities, as well as representatives from other sectors, to evaluate higher education’s role in adapting to climate disruption in ways that support and reinforce these necessary mitigation efforts.

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The Project

Second Nature will convene a Higher Education Climate Change Adaptation Committee to evaluate higher education’s role in climate adaptation. The Committee will be made up of 6-12 experts and leading thinkers on adaptation and/or higher education.

Second Nature will coordinate a series of conference calls of the Committee, and an in-person meeting at the ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit at George Washington University in Washington DC, on June 24, 2011. Through this process, the group will develop and publish a White Paper (PDF) that identifies the trends, challenges and opportunities associated with higher education’s role in climate adaptation; captures the conclusions of the evaluation; provides examples of activities and best practices currently taking place on college and university campuses in the areas of education, research, operations and community engagement; and determines next steps for these efforts.

Areas of Exploration

The Committee will determine the areas of focus for this process and the resulting White Paper (PDF) based on their expertise and experience. Some initial areas of focus that will explored include:

  • Review of the major climate adaptation research efforts currently underway at colleges and universities
  • Review of existing efforts by colleges and universities to adapt to climate disruption
  • Successful activities that serve as both climate mitigation and climate adaptation strategies
  • Special focus on minority-serving institutions and communities of color that often have fewer resources and are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate disruption
  • Evaluation of the broad categories of risks that climate change poses to colleges and universities (in campus operations and infrastructure, prices and availability of goods and services in the supply chain, food supply, transportation costs, etc.)
  • Role colleges and universities as ‘climate adaptation hubs’ for their local communities — developing and showcasing solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create more resilient communities

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Climate Adaptation Resources

Staff Support

Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
Jennifer Andrews, Director of Program Planning and Coordination, Clean Air - Cool Planet

For more information, contact:

Sarah Brylinsky, Program Associate, Second Nature
617-722-0036, sbrylinsky@secondnature.org

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—David W. Orr, Sears Professor, Oberlin College
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