Submitted on January 15, 2010; last updated on February 4, 2010
The University of Montanas Climate Action Plan (CAP) outlines strategies for achieving climate neutrality by 2020. Not all of the emission reduction strategies in the diverse portfolio identified are within the funding ability of the University. Overall success of the plan is dependent on obtaining external funding for a few strategies with large emissions reduction potential. Even with this uncertainty, the campus community advocated for the aggressive carbon neutrality date of 2020 to spur deep cuts in emissions quickly.
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All emissions will be reduced by energy efficiency and conservation projects in existing buildings, LEED for New Construction in new buildings, alternative transportation such as busing, biking, and walking, wind power scaled to replace purchased electricity, biomass energy generation scaled to replace natural gas, and carbon offsets purchased annually or obtained from projects to offset remaining emissions.
In addition to maintaining ongoing programs like the Climate Change Studies minor available to all UM students and the Green Thread Faculty Workshop that teaches faculty how to infuse sustainability in their courses, UM established the following goals to expand sustainability as part of the curriculum:
Goal: Establish Sustainability and Climate Change as recognized, emphasized, and common themes across the University curriculum. In order to achieve this goal, UM may:
Offer Green Thread Faculty Workshop or other initiatives on a regular basis to help faculty integrate sustainability into existing courses
Develop a plan for all students to encounter sustainability education
Develop a network of faculty (at least one per department) to promote sustainability pedagogy across campus
Increase number of relevant courses to create a sustainability track in General Education
Create a Sustainability Literacy Assessment similar to Writing Proficiency Assessment
Goal: Make Sustainability and Climate Change a center of academic excellence for the University. In order to advance this goal, UM may:
Establish new faculty lines to support Sustainability areas in EVST and Climate Change Studies minor
Engage in strategic hiring in other departments and programs to strengthen Sustainability and Climate Change
Facilitate opportunities for innovative research and teaching across departments, with College of Technology, and with other sectors of the University
With the development of UM's Climate Change Studies minor, faculty and students engaged in climate change research and activism are working collaboratively. Following are examples of this work which will continue and be expanded in the future.
Following is a sampling of research projects pursued in various disciplines during 2008-2010:
Communication Studies: public discourse surrounding climate change; rhetorical strategies used to shape public perception of climate change
Economics: International environmental economics and climate change policy
Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences: Forest ecophysiology; soil carbon cycles; field measurements of how wildlife responds to climate change
Energy and Business Technology: Renewable energy technology
Environmental Studies: Conservation biology; climate change policy; energy efficient building construction; greenhouse gas inventory
Ethics: Ethical and philosophical issues arising from climate change, public deliberations over geoengineering
Geography: Arctic and alpine climatology, long-term climate analysis, permafrost variability, climate/ground interactions, and urban effects on climate.
Geosciences: Physical processes in snow and ice in Alaska and Greenland to understand connections and feedbacks between the cryosphere and the climate system
Political Science: Sustainable climate policy: China and the USA
Society and Conservation: Drought Impacts and Responses in Montana
A student-driven example that was recently implemented is UM's Renewable Energy Loan Fund (RELF). The Renewable Energy Loan Fund (RELF) is a student fee to help pay for energy efficiency and waste reduction projects. The revolving loan will be repaid with the cost savings and then recirculated. The RELF committee began meeting in the fall of 2009 and is setting up a process for student involvement in researching and implementing energy saving projects on campus.
In addition to ongoing community outreach programs such as Climate Change Studies internships, UM's Farm to College program, and Sustainable Business course work, following goal were developed to expand community outreach:
Goal: Supplement formal education on Sustainability and Climate Change with informal, practical, and career-oriented education that enhances relationships between UM and community partners. In order to advance this goal, UM may:
Support service-learning and project-oriented pedagogy that makes UM a more sustainable member of the community
Make sustainability and climate change prominent features of Orientation, residence hall programming
Make sustainability and climate change prominent features of UM events and programs that attract off-campus participants (public lectures, extracurricular activities, alumni events, etc.)
Strengthen relationships with external organizations for internships and work-based learning
Develop new funding streams to support expanding Energy Technology program
One student-driven example of ongoing community outreach is The Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology (FLAT). The FLAT is an experiential live-in resource (house) for UM students to demonstrate the practicality of sustainable living. By experimenting with and educating others about the social, ethical, and environmental benefits of appropriate technology, the FLAT helps to establish the University of Montana as a model for exhibiting efficient building practices. The ultimate goal of the UM FLAT is to encourage the development of efficient and affordable homes for a sustainable society. By retro-fitting an existing home the utility of the UM FLAT demonstration resources could be easily applied to the Missoula community. Currently, the UM FLAT is retro-fitting its garage to be more energy efficient in order to act as a classroom. Further ideas include turning the existing neighborhood block into an eco-village for educational purposes and to model sustainable living.
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