Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage


9:15 am - June 8th 2011

by Adam Ramsay    


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There is a myth that people in Britain over the last 10 years spontaneously decided to massively increase their consumption of Fairtrade products. The truth is that activist groups pushed universities, schools and churches to change their procurement. Millions of cups of coffee switched in the space of around two years and hundreds of thousands of people began to lift themselves out of poverty.

With a similar aim, the People & Planet Green League of universities, published in yesterday’s Guardian, assessed the environmental and ethical performance of 142 universities. If these institutions are failing to meet carbon reductions their own scientists say are necessary, what hope is there for the rest?

The Climate Change Act requires 34% emissions reductions by 2020. Yet since 2005, university carbon emissions have actually risen.

People & Planet student groups have successfully pushed for dedicated environmental staff at universities across the country. They have secured ambitious policies, often with clear targets.

But these universities are still failing to prioritise. They aren’t considering the impact of everything they do, and many don’t seem to have appreciated the significant changes they will need to make in order to meet the targets that they accept are, quite simply, necessary.

If our university communities – populated by a generation who could live to see the worst nightmares of climatologists unfold – can’t find the time or the resource to make the changes that are needed, then who will?

And there are some institutions genuinely showing the way. Nottingham Trent – who top the league this year – have shown that carbon reduction doesn’t have to be painful. Their state of the art video conferencing facilities mean that academics don’t have to get up at 5am and yawn in the yellow light of East Midlands Airport in order to deliver papers at international conferences.

Their buildings have been designed to make use of natural light. This reduces the need for energy, but also means their academics aren’t so much buried in libraries as basking in them. But this is an exception rather than the rule. The sector as a whole needs to learn.

Similarly, the government need to buck up their ideas. David Willetts needs to do much more to help universities show that our climate targets are achievable. For my generation, carbon cuts are a necessity. And it is the job of politicians to make the necessary possible.


Adam Ramsay is student activism manager at People & Planet

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About the author
Adam is a regular contributor. He also writes more frequently at: Bright Green Scotland.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Education ,Environment

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Reader comments


Are you serious?

I’m pretty sure Universities should be prioritising turning out well educated students rather than worrying about global warming.

http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/04/07/climate-models-go-cold/

Hey look, Tyler’s found a story that suits his agenda.

As soon as I saw the phrase “gravy train”, that merely confirmed it. I shouldn’t have to say this, but clearly the level of ignorance demands it: Universities and other research bodies – the kinds of places where much of the climate change work is done – are not lavishly funded, and their staff don’t get generously compensated.

The idea that there is a “gravy train” involving such places is complete fantasy. The assertion – frequently made by those rubbishing climate change research – that there is some kind of “scam” or even “fraud” being perpetrated is downright malicious, as well as unfounded.

3. Planeshift

@1

In a period of cost cutting, saving money on energy bills is something all organisations should be doing. I suspect even deniers don’t purposely spend more than they have to on electricity.

The use of video-conferencing is great, and can enable a speaker to present their paper in a formal setting. Although it is kind of crap for the more informal academic networking and friendship forming which is essential to the interplay of ideas. It’s quite difficult (at the moment) to buy someone a pint or take them for dinner over the internet.

Tyler:

I’m pretty sure Universities should be prioritising turning out well educated students rather than worrying about global warming.

Really? You don’t think the students might be studying global warming, thinking on what to do about it, and even coming up with solutions? Where better than a university to engage with such a challenge?

That said, Ramsay’s point is that universities, as energy-consuming organisations, could ‘do their bit’ to reduce carbon emissions (which I suspect many do, but which they could de better).

redpesto,

Really? You don’t think the students might be studying global warming, thinking on what to do about it, and even coming up with solutions? Where better than a university to engage with such a challenge?

Or to entirely debunk the theory (another thing they do at universities). The thing with universities is that they do not tend to produce linear outcomes like that – they produce theories, products, students, but not necessarily in expected ways.

And Adam’s rather simplified view of universities cutting costs by odd ideas such as videoconferencing to international conferences (where the actual interaction is at least as important as the paper – if it was only about papers there would be no conferences as papres can be written down!) seems to miss a key point, which is that there is a substantial market impereritive to reduce energy costs (which run in the millions of pounds for every university), at least on unnecessary or avoidable fronts. Since energy costs, and universities are looking to save money, they will (and do) seek to cut energy usage.

But my prediction is that the actual usage will rise (increasingly more and more tasks are computerised – they can create three dimensional models of archaeolgoical; more and more labs use more and more machines; computers are used to access contents of books etc) due to technology. However much Adam likes to think universities should be concerned with reducing energy use (please note, that is not the same as reducing emissions, although it is related) it would be a very odd university that allows this to override providing state-of-the-art research and teaching equipment.

My point was really that Adam Ramsey, in the gist of this article, seems to think that cutting emmissions is more important than teaching (“environmental staff” anyone?).

As for the article, I just saw it the other day and thought it interesting that a former warmist is now debunking it. I realyl don’t want to get into the argument all over again, but global warning is ahrdly settled or even reproducible science.

Watchman:

The thing with universities is that they do not tend to produce linear outcomes like that – they produce theories, products, students, but not necessarily in expected ways.

Yes, I agree – all, some or none of which might address global warming…even if it is through the means of interpretative dance 😉

Ha – planeshift uses the word ”deniers” at the drop a hat to tar anyone who dares take a different view. There’s nothing that a couple of dozen universities in the UK do that is going to make any difference to a polar bear.
But ”the fundies” have even produced a video of polar bears falling from the sky, and it was hosted on this website with approval for pete’s sake.
This one.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLt0myO8XsA

The interesting issue to me is how ‘off the wall’ the climate change campaigners have become. See ”Ministers face climate ‘dawn raid’ by activists” thread on LC today for a good example.

10. Planeshift

“planeshift uses the word ”deniers” at the drop a hat to tar anyone who dares take a different view. ”

Damn…foiled again.

Ha – planeshift uses the word ”deniers” at the drop a hat to tar anyone who dares take a different view.

gotta call a spade a spade huh? Deniers are deniers. No point being all politically correct about it.

12. Charlieman

Adam fails to mention that most UK universities are required to participate in the UK Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme. They are already required to measure energy consumption (in its various forms) and to reduce CO2 emissions in the future. Failure to reduce emissions will require universities and the other large organisations covered by CRC to purchase carbon credits.

So what is the point of Adam’s post and the fuss made by People & Planet? Universities are trying to sort out their energy use now and will be penalised in future if they fail to do so. What’s this post all about, other than raising the profile of People & Planet?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage http://bit.ly/mQXYBf

  2. Andrew Tindall

    Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage http://bit.ly/mQXYBf

  3. Giant Bassstacks

    http://goo.gl/7ESH4 @eeymsmo has stopped plugging in his straighteners at work so why can't @WiteWulf ? 😎

  4. AdamRamsay

    Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage: http://t.co/QzWP90O via @libcon << me on the @peopleandplanet #greenleague

  5. Richard Hall

    Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage http://bit.ly/iuKiaS #greenict

  6. Stephen Bowes-Phipps

    We are! http://bit.ly/crSjSA RT @HallyMk1: Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage http://bit.ly/iuKiaS #greenict

  7. Dave Shoreham

    Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage http://dlvr.it/VVzCV

  8. Bethan Tichborne

    RT @libcon: Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage http://t.co/0LjfzOo

  9. Martin Hughes

    RT @HallyMk1: Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage http://bit.ly/iuKiaS #greenict

  10. Paul Richardson

    RT @universityboy: RT @HallyMk1: Universities should now take the lead on reducing energy usage http://bit.ly/iuKiaS #greenict

  11. Roxanne Ellis

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/06/08/universities-should-now-take-the-lead-on-reducing-energy-usage/ mor… (cont) http://deck.ly/~Ei1Pc

  12. The politics of educational technology | Richard Hall's Space

    […] in Madagascar, to the problems of energy policy and climate change objectives. So we focus upon green league tables or Masters degrees in the Economics of Transition, and do not consider them within a deeper […]





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