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Climate Task Force Town Hall Op-Ed : Why Participation is Crucial

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

The name “climate town hall” is not particularly illustrative or inspiring. It may not conjure in you a feeling of righteous hope and determined presence - but it should. The upcoming climate town halls are an opportunity for students to engage with the President's Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience. An opportunity to hear about and voice your thoughts on major changes that are going to be happening at Rutgers - to protect your education, and do our part in mitigating the global climate crisis.

We are rapidly heading toward a tipping point at which climate change will be irreversible. We know we’ve been heading toward this point for years, and yet only last September did Rutgers President Robert Barchi announce the formation of the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience, whose goal is to create a Climate Action Plan for Rutgers to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Rutgers is running the risk of falling behind a global initiative to invest in climate change. Seven other universities have already gone carbon neutral, and New Jersey has released a plan to be carbon neutral by 2050. Even Wall Street banks understand the impending level of risk in oil and gas investments and are adjusting their actions accordingly. The path to carbon neutrality will be difficult, but ignoring the physical and fiscal hazards posed by climate change would be disastrous. In the absence of global sea-level rise, Hurricane Sandy would have flooded 38,000 fewer New Jerseyans, and our campus has been seeing increasing impacts from extreme weather events. This results in your tuition being used to pay the costs of damages and closures.

Climate change also poses a direct risk to the value of your education. You are investing in a degree from a prominent research university. In turn, Rutgers owes it to you, a shareholder, to ensure that your degree means something. This means that Rutgers cannot risk hurting its reputation as a leading research university by falling behind other universities who have already made financial investments into climate action. Right now, Rutgers still has the opportunity to be among the leaders of this movement. The president’s task force is only just beginning to work toward this goal.

The series of town halls; February 12th at the Cook Student Center, February 17th at the Busch Student Center, February 15th at the Camden Campus Center, and February 25th at the Newark Paul Robeson Campus Center, all from 4-6 PM, present students with the unique opportunity to take control of their education by engaging directly with representatives from the task force. Attendees can ask questions, voice concerns, and gain an intimate understanding of what is happening behind the scenes. Student members of integral climate action related organizations at Rutgers, such as those who organized the September climate strike, will also be there, so attendees will get a chance to get connected with the climate conscious movement on campus.

The existence of the task force is a promising start. However, it should be noted that the task force and the university administration are two separate entities. Thus far, the task force has been concerned with data collection and forming a plan of action. To execute their plan of action, they will require financial assistance from the university. As of now, there is no financial commitment from the administration to implement any course of action. This is why undergraduate attendance at the series of town halls in the upcoming weeks is imperative: the administration must be acutely aware of the students’ commitment to their right to an education unthreatened by climate change. By taking advantage of this opportunity to engage with university representatives in a town hall setting, we can express a sense of urgency and communicate to the administration that climate change is not something to be taken lightly

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