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February 26th, 2020

By Jhasua Scicchitano

Contributor, The Observer

Climate change has become an urgent issue around the world, marking February, the second month in the year of 2020, as a new record breaking high in temperature, leaving it on track to be one of the hottest years ever recorded in climatology. While this has been a call for concern amongst many groups worldwide, universities have taken initiative to rebuild their schools to better help the environment. Such schools include, the University of British Columbia and Rutgers University. Most of these schools have climate action plans in place to reduce the effects of green house gas emissions affecting our environment. In 2010, the University of British Columbia established their plan and called it , Climate Action 2020, which aims to reduce green house gas emissions by 100 percent by 2050. Similarly, and more recently, Rutgers University President, Robert Barchi, established a Climate Action Plan Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience in 2019

 In an event yesterday hosted by the Climate Task Force at the Rutgers University-Newark campus, Kevin Lyons, co-chair and speaker, discussed an in depth plan to action on what the university must do to attribute to a change in the environment. These ideas ranged from changing on campus residence halls to solar energy, to converting Rutgers bus system from gas to electric. In an interview, Lyons noted, “All three Rutgers campuses ranging from Newark, Camden, and New Brunswick add up to New Brunswick add up to create the  create the seventh largest city in New Jersey, birthing one of the largest bus fleets and mass producers of carbon emissions amongst universities world wide.” This seems to be a big issue, especially given that the campuses in which the schools are located, are all densely populated cities, with the majority of its students being commuters. In a study done in 2012 by the Rutgers University-New Brunswick campus, it was found that 17,663 undergraduates commuted to that campus alone, representing more than 56 % of the undergraduate population.

 While the Climate Task Force of Rutgers has well developed plans for its bus system, a question of what it planned to do in regards to its students was asked after learning this. In an interview with Angela Oberg, head organizer of the event yesterday evening, she noted, “the next step is to get the students involved.” Climate change stems from people, as much as the machines that produce these emissions. “ So getting students involved, arguably, is the most important step,” she said. In a study done by the National Geographic, it was found that 72 % of Americans found climate change important, 1 of 4 of that percentage being students that are worried, leaving the other 3 to be uninterested. While interviewing, Jailine Tenemea, a Rutgers University-Newark student who commutes, she noted, “I was unaware that such a large portion of students commute to New-Brunswick alone. So I can’t imagine what it must be like for here — yet I don’t really feel obligated to change my way of getting  early stages and has some work to do with getting more students involved.

 However, there are some students who have taken initiative. At yesterdays event, multiple students raised the issue of pesticides being used on plants by the university after being taught that these toxins are released into drainage systems once it floods. Global warming is responsible for 70 % of tidal flooding in New Jersey alone, according to Rutgers’ Pre-Planning Report of the Presidents Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience. Moreover, while the issue is imminent, there is still hope for the future, and Rutgers is one of the universities taking charge.