Forty-two percent. That’s the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since preindustrial times. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced 2016 was the hottest year on record, among 16 of the 17 warmest years on record since 2001. The science is clear as to the reason: carbon emissions due to human activity. Despite the scientific consensus, many prominent politicians deny man-made climate change. Under President Donald Trump, the future of our environmental policy and global cooperation on climate change is in danger.
Rice students are in a unique position to protect our environment. We are part of one of the nation’s premier research institutions in the energy capital of the world, home to both fossil fuel and renewable energy companies. We must use our position to ensure our country takes immediate action to avert the impending disaster.
To facilitate climate change activism at Rice, we formed Texans for Climate Change Action. As a new nonprofit, we have over 50 students and 15 faculty. For our first action, we circulated a petition urging the administration to purchase more renewable energy. The petition received overwhelming support with over 700 student and alumni signatures, eight residential college endorsements and 14 student group signatories. Rice students care about this issue, so what can we do?
We have the most influence at the local level. Rice’s yearly electricity consumption of 112,065 megawatt-hours could power thousands of homes. The resulting carbon footprint is over 100,000 metric tons. The Administrative Center for Sustainability and Energy Management made progress sourcing a growing portion of Rice’s energy needs from renewable sources. Additionally, the administration agreed to partner with us at TFCCA to explore potential renewable energy plans. However, we still have serious work to do. Students are responsible for speaking to administration, whether it’s advocating for more solar investment, for electric vehicle charging spots or for other innovative solutions.
Rice should follow its peer institutions that have invested directly in off-campus renewables projects. Stanford University invested in off-campus solar farming due to student activism, and established a panel to continue evaluating opportunities to lessen its carbon footprint. It’s time for Rice to truly be a green leader in Houston. Without immediate and decisive action, we risk our reputation as a responsible and engaged academic institution.
The scientific debate is over. The devastating impacts of climate change are a reality, and we must take immediate action to save our planet from catastrophe. We founded TFCCA as two pre-meds with shared concern about our environment’s future. As we prepare to move on from Rice, we call on students to continue engaging in dialogue at Rice to tackle this urgent situation affecting us all. We know our environment is in danger and we are the leaders of tomorrow. It is our responsibility to act, not only for our generation but for the many generations coming after us.